Brain in a vat

Brain in a vat is a story in Philosophy county. Philosophers use the story to discuss some points.
It is about brains, living in a vat. Born in the vat. The brains are fed by a machine. The feeding with information is done by the machine. The brains have no ears, eyes. And the writing of the things the brains want to say is done by the machine. (Hilary Putnam tells the story better than I do).
The philosophical questions are about the information the machine is feeding. Is it just empty words the machines do feed into the brains in the vat? If words do not have any connection (referent) to the “world” around us do they mean anything? Is the talk of the brains in the vat just word play without any meaning at all? Putnam thinks it is just words.
Maybe this “information feeding” is a useful theme for teachers too.

Words without connection to life and experience are just empty and without meaning.

The idea of affordances comes from psychologist James J. Gibson. In his 1979 book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, he says that what we perceive, in everyday life, is not pure objects of the sort a disinterested observer would perceive, but affordances: what the environment “offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill.

Another question to teachers. Do students perceive our words as affordances or as play of words.

Think of the way little children learn words and meaning. They experience the world and try to add words to their experiences. They do need time and practical experiences for learning to use the right words.



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