Brain in a vat

Our desire is pleasure.

If it were possible, we would love nothing more than to have our brain electronically stimulated with pleasurable sensations forever, the brain having being removed from the rest of the body and placed in a vat. The only moral objection to this course of action is really an aesthetic one, concerning the removal of the brain prior to being placed in the vat. The image engendered by the required excision might make one nauseous, as does the sight of blood or the smell of internal organs for many people. We seek bliss, but it is the means of obtaining bliss that we have issue with.

The Christian seeks an eternal brain-in-a-vat experience in Heaven. A brain excision is not an aesthestically pleasing means of obtaining this bliss for the Christian. He would prefer to act out a fictional life of piety in order to earn himself the merit of God.

The Buddhist seeks Nirvana, but desires to avoid all pain and unsatisfactoriness in the process of obtaining it. If we could assure the Buddhist that he would be under anaesthetic and feel no pain during the brain excision operation, he would no longer have any need of the Buddha’s teachings.

But isn’t seeking any form of the brain-in-a-vat experience selfish? Yes and no.

It is certainly selfish to seek the brain-in-a-vat experience for yourself exclusively. However, where did the thought of this desire come from? The origin was both nativistic and social, which means the source of the desire is common to many, perhaps all, humans. So the desire is not exclusively selfish, all people have it. The difference between those who admit the desire and those who don’t is only a measure of honesty.


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