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Lecture

Vogel Notes


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHL105Y5
Professor
Jonathan Peterson

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Vogel Notes
Descartes notes that none of our beliefs can be true, since there are always reasons to doubt.
However, in every day life, we apply the common-sense view and inference to best explanation. Is
there any good reason why we do so?
To answer this question, we apply 4 principles:
1No ad hoc explanations. (No silly explanations that cannot be falsified.)
2A simpler explanation is a better explanation.
3An explanation that explains more, all other things being equal, is better.
4No need to talk about scientific beliefs.
We call our current common-sense explanation of the world the real world hypothesis (RWH)
According to skeptical hypothesis, the world is filled with alternatives of beliefs that we have no
reason to reject. But there IS reason to reject many of them! Many alternative explanations are ad
hoc, silly, complex, and far-fetched. The skeptic holds no power until he can find a satisfactory
alternative, and not one that is burdened with ad hoc explanations.
So to find something to argue about, we must find a good explanation that explains the world's
pattern of properties, relations, and generalizations just as well as the RWH. It would explain the
sensations and perceptions that RWH gives us. An example of this is the Computer Skeptical
Hypothesis (CSH), a theory of the “brain in a vat”. Our tactile experience of the wind is really a
compute program that simulates the wind.
Suspecting the CSH: Yeah, but where does the computer come from? Or what is its goal?
Response: Ok, fair questions, but RWH doesn't do a good job of answering them either.
RWH supporter: CSH is more complicated. It has to account for not only the items in the
simulated world, but also the items of the computer and the vat itself. Since there are more items to
be accountable for, it is more complex, and therefore a worse explanation.
Response: Yea, but the truth is that the CSH only has two real things – the computer and the brain
in the vat, and everything else is virtual! Also, less is not always better. Finally, we can argue that
the computer did not intentionally make the virtual world, but the virtual world was simply
“caused” through the computer parts acting on each other.
So Why RHW is really the better explanation:
1In RHW, round objects roll. In CSH, “rolling” has to be a specified characteristic.
2In RHW, it is an intrinsic property of matter that no two things can occupy the same space at the
same time. However, in CSH, has to be programmed to not let two things occupy same pseudo-
locations at the same time. This makes CSH more complicated.
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