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Teaching with Reality+

Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy is designed to be usable in a number of different courses at different levels.

Introduction to Philosophy: The book is explicitly designed to be used as a textbook in an introduction to philosophy. It divides into modules on knowledge, reality, mind, and value, much as a fairly traditional introductory course does. It approaches these topics through the lens of technology to some extent, but the core chapters use that lens to focus on traditional issues. For a course focusing on these issues, it’s fine to leave out chapters more directly focused on technology and those especially developing my own views.

The core chapters might be:


  • Chapter 1: Introduction to philosophical questions and traditions.


  • Chapter 3: Knowledge and Cartesian skepticism.
  • Chapter 4: Responses to skepticism.


  • Chapter 7: The existence of god.
  • Chapter 8: The nature of reality


  • Chapter 14: The mind-body problem
  • Chapter 15: The problem of consciousness


  • Chapter 17: Value: the experience machine.
  • Chapter 18: Ethics: the trolley problem and moral status.

From there, you could also add any of chapters 2 and 5 (on the simulation hypothesis), chapters 6 and 9 (on my view of reality), chapters 10-13 (on real virtual reality technology), chapters 16 (the extended mind), 19 (political philosophy), 20 (philosophy of language), 21 (computation), 22 (philosophy of science), 23 (manifest and scientific image), and 24 (Boltzmann brains and other skeptical scenarios). But that’s up to you and the core chapters alone should work pretty well.

The book is grounded especially in the Western analytic philosophical tradition, but I’ve tried to include some reference to other traditions along the way. These include Chinese philosophy (Zhuangzi, Confucius, Mozi), Indian philosophy (the Buddha, Vasubandhu, Hindu traditions), Islamic philosophy (al-Ghazālī), African philosophy (Ubuntu), continental philosophy (Arendt, Baudrillard, Hegel, Heidegger, Žižek), as well as other historical figures from Plato, Aristotle, and Hypatia, through Descartes, Elisabeth, Leibniz, and Kant, to Carnap, Langer, and Russell. Plus a lot of science fiction.

Topical classes: the book could work pretty well in a class on philosophy of technology (intro, upper-level, or graduate), focusing perhaps especially on chapters 10-21 or so, perhaps along with chapters 1, 2, 8, and others. For philosophy of AI specifically, chapters 13-16, 18, and 21 might be especially relevant. For a graduate class on the simulation hypothesis, chapters 1-9 and 20-24 are relevant. A lot of the meatiest material in the book is on skepticism, where chapters 3-6 and 24 (perhaps along with 9, 13, and 22) are especially relevant, and on virtual realism, where chapters 6 and 8-11 (perhaps along with 7, 12, and 20-22) are at the heart of things.

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