Petrus Hispanus Lectures 2016 – David Chalmers

June 9, 2016 12:00am

David Chalmers
New York University

David Chalmers is a philosopher at New York University and the Australian National University. His main interests have been in the Philosophy of Mind as well as in Metaphysics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Language. He is connecting his philosophical work with some scientific areas, whenever this is seen as relevant or necessary (for instance, with the cognitive sciences). He is known for persuasively arguing against the nowadays dominant physicalist thesis about consciousness, and for defending that the hard problem of consciousness is unavoidable as well as a genuine one. The first of his books on this topic,The Conscious Mind (1996), is highly influential over the subsequent discussion of these issues. Chalmers is also known in the Philosophy of Language for elaborating a certain form of two dimensional semantics, thereby being able to retain the main intuitions of a Fregean and of Kripkean semantics.


Lecture I
The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Virtual Reality
8 June 2016, 11:00, Anf. III
Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon

Abstract: Are virtual realities truly real? The most common view is that virtual realities are fictional realms, and that what goes on in virtual realities is not truly real. I will defend the opposite view: virtual reality is a sort of genuine reality, and what goes on in virtual realities is truly real.  The issue manifests itself in a number of questions. Are virtual objects, such as the avatars and tools found in a typical virtual world, real or fictional? Do virtual events, such as a trek through a virtual world, really take place?  And are experiences in a virtual world as valuable as experiences in a nonvirtual world?  I will argue for a virtual realism, which gives a positive answer to all of these questions, and a virtual digitalism, on which virtual realities are real digital realities.  The overall conclusion is that virtual reality is not a second-class reality.


Lecture II
Perception and Illusion in Virtual Reality
9 June 2016, 11:00, Anf. III
Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon

Abstract: Do virtual reality devices produce the illusion of an external reality? Or do they produce non-illusory experiences of a virtual reality? I address this question by starting with an analogous question about mirrors. When one looks in a mirror, does one undergo the illusion that there is someone on the other side of the mirror, or does one have a non-illusory experience of someone on this side of the mirror? I will argue that at least for familiar users of mirrors, there is no illusion. Knowledge of mirrors provides a sort of cognitive orientation (a variety of cognitive penetration) that affects the content of visual experience and renders it non-illusory. I will suggest that familiar users of virtual reality devices have a similar sort of cognitive orientation that renders their experience non-illusory.  All this can be associated with a phenomenology of virtuality in the conscious experience of expert users of virtual reality.  I conclude by drawing connections to issues about structuralism and skepticism.