The Simulation Hypothesis, Social Knowledge, and a Meaningful Life

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind (forthcoming)
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(Draft of Feb 2023, see upcoming issue for Chalmers' reply) In Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy, David Chalmers argues, among other things, that: if we are living in a full-scale simulation, we would still enjoy broad swathes of knowledge about non-psychological entities, such as atoms and shrubs; and, our lives might still be deeply meaningful. Chalmers views these claims as at least weakly connected: The former claim helps forestall a concern that if objects in the simulation are not genuine (and so not knowable), then life in the simulation is illusory and therefore, not as valuable as a non-simulated life. Taking up these questions, I argue that in general, the value of social knowledge for a meaningful life dramatically swamps the value of non-social knowledge for a meaningful life. Along the way, I propose a non-additive model of the meaningfulness of life, according to which the overall effect of some potential contributor of value to a life depends in part on what is already in a life. One upshot is that the vindication of non-social knowledge, absent a correlative vindication of social knowledge, contributes either not at all or scarcely at all to the claim that our lives in the simulation might be deeply meaningful. This is so even though the vindication of non-social knowledge does forestall the concern that in the simulation, our lives might be wholly meaningless.

Author's Profile

Grace Helton
Princeton University


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