#249: Robots… from Mars!!
November 6th, 2014

#249: Robots… from Mars!!

That’s right, it’s another amazing new thought experiment, in comic form, that will change Philosophy forever! Yeah!!

In case you don’t get the references (this one may be pretty obscure for those of you who for some reason haven’t subjected yourself to graduate philosophy courses), today’s thought experiment is a fusion of two classics: Schrödinger’s Cat, and Putnam’s Martian Robots. I was reminded of the latter thought experiment while listening to SpaceTimeMind recently (which all of you, especially you Philosophy types, should be listening to if you aren’t already).

For those of you not familiar with Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment, you need go no further than this classic comic of mine.

For those not familiar with the Martian Robot thought experiment, the rough idea is this: Suppose we learn that every cat that exists (and has ever existed) on Earth is actually a robot planted here by Martian scientists to spy on us and record our activities. There have never been any biological felines as we think of them; every single cute furry little feline creature on the planet, including our beloved pets, are and have always been Martian robots.

Given that, should we say that there are no cats? Or should we say that cats do exist, they just aren’t the sort of thing we thought they were? In other words, in this scenario, would the natural kind term “cats” refer to anything?

(for a pretty good brief discussion of what Putnam says about reference in this and other cases, see here)

So that’s the two classic thought experiments. When you combine them, you get an incredibly powerful new thought experiment that… does something. Exactly what it does I leave to you, my dear readers.

That’s all for now, more soon!