The Problem of the External World.
How can you know that the physical world you perceive around you is real and not an illusion, a dream, or a holodeck simulation? In this episode of Meta Treks, hosts Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling debate the philosophical problem of the external world through the lens of Star Trek. Mike and Zachary discuss whether it is possible for characters in Star Trek to know for sure that they are not stuck in a holodeck, in a telepathic projection, or in an illusion created by a member of the Q Continuum.
Mike and Zachary consider several possible responses to the the problem of the external world from the history of philosophy, including Rene Descartes's response to his own radical Cartesian skepticism, Hilary Putnam's linguistic response to the "Brain in a Vat" argument, the pragmatic response of rejecting the problem outright, and George Berkeley's theory of idealism as a middle ground between skepticism and empirical knowledge of the external world.
Finally, Mike and Zachary re-imagine these classic philosophical arguments in Star Trek terms, including what Descartes's Meditations might have been like if written by the soft glow of the holodeck grid instead of by candlelight, considering Q as the omnipotent "evil genius" in Descartes's "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore, I am") argument, and re-framing Berkeley's argument for idealism to rely on all-perceiving beings from Star Trek, such as the Q or the Bajoran prophets.
Welcome to Episode 10 (00:01:20)
Introduction to the Problem of the External World (00:02:58)
Examples of the Problem in Star Trek (00:12:42)
Cartesian Skepticism (00:27:45)
Hilary Putnam on "Brain in a Vat" (00:48:22)
George Berkeley and Idealism (00:50:56)
The Q Continuum and Skepticism (00:53:46)
Final Thoughts (01:05:59)