The Brain in a Jar

There is a rather nutty theory in Science and Philosophy known as the Brain in a Vat or the Brain in a Jar theory. In this thought experiment, we imagine a mad scientist creating a machine into which he can place a human brain. This machine is called a β€œbrain vat”. The brain vat keeps the brain alive, and it also allows the scientist to create virtual stimuli and feed these into the brain. Hence, the brain kept inside can experience these stimuli in the same way in which a normal human sensory system does. Doing this, the scientist can create an entirely fictitious world that feels completely normal to the brain held captive. This sounds eminently creepy to me!

But the idea of the Brain in a Vat (or the Brain in a Jar) theory is that no brain could ever know whether it is affixed inside a skull, or kept inside a vat. Therefore theoretically, it could never know whether everything it experiences is real or simply an illusion. It tells us that we cannot confirm the existence of anything except for our own consciousness. This theory may sound familiar since it is the basic plot of the movie β€œThe Matrix” (which also includes some elements of Plato’s β€œAllegory of the Cave” theory).

This thought experiment was proposed by RenΓ© Descartes, a French philosopher, back in 1641. (You may find it interesting how his experiment initially used an evil demon instead of a vat – that’s scary!) The vat was only proposed later by Gilbert Harlan, in 1973 to update the experiment.

This experiment puzzled philosophers ever since, it definitely puzzles me too. On that note, have a lovely week ahead- even if it’s all an illusion!

– SaaniaSparkle πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈ

212 thoughts on “The Brain in a Jar

  1. Well… I agree with this kind of theory…
    When we’re dreaming we feel the things real! Only when we wake up we realise we were dreaming but while we dream we don’t know that we’re dreaming!
    Our sub conscious mind can’t distinguish between what’s real and what we are imagining… That’s why sometimes we feel that we’ve been in some situation before because at some point of our life we’d imagined that situation…
    You’ve got really interesting theories here..πŸ˜ƒ

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  2. Such an interesting question, and certainly the cognitive & emotive consciousness of a brain can itself and also vary tremendously within β€œgrown” human beings, lol! In terms of inside a jar, w/wires or such, I think until the enclosing apparatus can be as fine tuned and reception as a human’s, with equal capacity for comprehension, sensations, and compassion, I’d say, no. Wouldn’t be the same experience. Just my guess 😊

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  3. I once had a very spooky experience with some kind of demon (and I am really secular). As part of this gruesome attack I (or my mind) left my body and I could see me lying in the bed shivering while floating under the ceiling of the room. Many would call this an illusion, but till today it makes me freezing when thinking of it what does not happen often fortunately. It is very real and no theory. Cheers.

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