How Can Brains in Vats Experience a Spatial World? A Puzzle for Internalists

In Blockheads! (2019)
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In this chapter, Pautz raises a puzzle about spatial experience for phenomenal internalists like Ned Block. If an accidental, lifelong brain-in-the-void (BIV) should have all the same experiences as you, it would have an experience as of items having various shapes, and be able to acquire concepts of those shapes, despite being cut off from real things with the shapes. Internalists cannot explain this by saying that BIV is presented with Peacocke-style visual field regions having various shapes, because these would have to be non-physical sense data. They might instead explain this by saying that BIV “phenomenally represents” various shape properties. But since BIV lacks any interesting physical relations to shapes, this would imply that phenomenally representation is an irreducible relation.

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Adam Pautz
Brown University


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