Summer School Reality+


The 2023 Summer School on Reality+ will be held in Lugano, Switzerland, from Friday June 9 to Tuesday June 13, 2023. It is open to graduate students and early career researchers. It deals with issues in the Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind of Virtual and Augmented Reality. Participants are kindly invited to read in advance the relevant parts of the book Reality+ by David Chalmers.

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) devices have a range of applications, from transporting users to wholly virtual environments, to incorporating virtual objects and overlays into the real world, and even faciliating trans-continental telepresence. And it is clear that this technology behind is quickly becoming integrated into our everyday lives.

Yet AR/VR raises a number of striking philosophical questions. Are the virtual worlds we seem to experience in VR real? Is our experience of these worlds verdicial, or perhaps something more akin to an illusion? Can we learn from virtual experiences? Is a life lived within a virtual world less valuable than one lived outside it?

The aim of this summer school is to discuss these and related questions. In so doing, we will focus on how this emergent techonology impacts debates in metaphysics, philosophy of perception, epistemology, and philosophy of mind. The main outcome of the school will be a better understanding of the philosophical import of AR/VR

Please feel free to reach us at [email protected] with any questions. 

Brendan Balcerak Jackson

Brendan Balcerak Jackson is a philosopher and linguist whose research focuses on natural language semantics and pragmatics, as well as on language understanding and reasoning, both in humans and in artificial systems. He is interested in how our conception of intelligent human agency informs and is informed by technology, and especially by developments in virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence. He is a member of the Semantic Computing Research Group at the Center for Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at the University of Bielefeld.

David Chalmers

David Chalmers is University Professor of Philosophy and Neural Science and co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at New York University. He is the author of The Conscious Mind (1996), Constructing the World (2012), and Reality+ (2022). He is current president of the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division). He co-founded the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and the PhilPapers Foundation.  He has given the John Locke Lectures and has been awarded the Jean Nicod Prize.  He is known for formulating the “hard problem” of consciousness, which inspired Tom Stoppard’s play The Hard Problem, and for the idea of the “extended mind,” which says that the tools we use can become parts of our minds.

Nathan Wildman

Nathan Wildman is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Tilburg University, and a member of the Tilburg Center for Moral Philosophy, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS). His research focuses on the foundations of modality, the nature of fiction & fictional truth, and the aesthetics of interactive fictions. He has published in a number of venues, including Analysis, Philosophical Studies, Synthese, and the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Currently, he is preparing monographs on voyeur gaming and the limits of fictionality

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  • Schedule of the Summer School

    The following is a provisional schedule still subject to changes.

    FRIDAY 9


    3.30pm-4pm Welcome
    4pm-5.30pm Introduction. Why should a philosopher be interested in AR and VR?
    6pm Drink


    Virtual Metaphysics.


    Coffee break

    10am-11am Virtual Reality: The Ontological Options. The primary aim of the first class is to set out the options – i.e., to briefly introduce participants to virtual realism and irrealism – allowing both to be explored in greater depth over the course of the day. A second aim is to clarify/discuss the general notion of ‘realism’. What does it mean to say something is (not) real? Possible additional points to discuss here might be whether/why we should prefer ontological ‘desert landscapes'?

    Virtual Realism. This class is focused on virtual realism (Chalmers 2019, 2022). Herein, we will spell out the details of the position, as well as consider arguments for and against it.

    12pm-2pm Lunch break

    Virtual irrealism. Building on the previous, this class concentrates on irrealist approaches for virtual ontology. Several forms of irrealism will be discussed and critically evaluated.

    Alexander Murphy Virtual objects: what you see is what you get.

    4pm-8pm Experience in VR

    SUNDAY 11

    Virtual Perception & Epistemology.

    9.30am-10.30am Virtual Perception. Veridicial, illusory, hallucinatory? In this meeting, we will discuss different approaches we might take to perception in AR/VR. Topics might include whether we might have different answers in VR and AR, whether the title trio exhaust the options, how the answers we give depend on out ontology.
    10.30am-11am Coffee break
    11am-1pm Virtually Learning. Epistemology in/of VR. One obvious application of AR/VR is as a teaching tool – would-be surgeons can perfect their skills without risking patients’ live by stepping into virtual operating rooms, mechanics can get better at repairing machines via virtual garages, and pilots can be trained through VR simulators. But how is it that we can gain knowledge about the real-world by engaging with virtual worlds? Are there reasons to think we can’t? Similarly, we seem to be able to gain knowledge about virtual worlds themselves (e.g., I know that if I move like this, my avatar will throw the virtual frisbee). How does this work? Is it the same process as gaining knowledge about the real world? The aim of this meeting is to discuss these and related topics.
    1pm-3pm Lunch break

    Yen Tung Lee Virtual Veridicalism, Cognitive Orientation, and Fregean Representationalism.

    Luca Marchetti VR's Pictorial Experiences. Seeing-in, Seeing-as and the Transparency Effect.


    Giulia Andreini The Oneiric Embodiment of VR: a Phenomenological Approach.

    Twan Stiekel Metaphysical Realism and the Lifelong Dream Hypothesis.

    5pm Sport Activity

    MONDAY 12

    Virtual Minds & Lives

    9.30am-10.30am Minds in VR. The first sessions concerns issues about the mind in virtual spaces. Questions to be discussed include how the mind and body interact in virtual worlds, how consciousness might manifest itself in digitial spaces, and whether AR/VR extends the mind.
    10.30am-11am Coffee break

    Simulated Lives & Digital Immortality. This meeting is about various questions concering our living in virtual worlds. Topics here can include: (i) can you lead a good/valuable life in a virtual world? (ii) Do simulated lives matter (or matter as much as “real” lives)? (iii) Is a form of digital immortality possible? (iv) Do familiar moral and social problems arise in virtual worlds?

    VR as Empathy Machines? One can VR deliver on this promise, or is this just blue sky thinking? And, even if it can, are there limitations about how good an empathy machine VR could be? This meeting will discuss these and related questions.

    1pm-3pm Lunch break

    Alex Fisher Virtual Reality, Depiction, and Imagination.

    Zuzana Rucinska Enactive imagination and virtual affordances.


    Sandra-Catalina Branzaru Virtual reality systems as empathy machines.

    Niccolò Nanni Real Emotions for Virtual Characters.

    TUESDAY 13

    Virtual Beauty

    9.30am-10.30am Virtual Aesthetics. AR and VR are genuinely fascinating medial developments, ones which promise much in the way of novel aesthetic possibilities. Yet little has been said about the aesthetics of these two media forms. To that end, this meeting focuses on how AR/VR is being used by artists to produce grounding breaking works that push the boundaries of art and art criticism. Particular focus will be placed on the notions of interactivity and immersiveness, and the impact they can have on aesthetic experiences.
    10.30am-11am Coffee Break
    11am-1pm Wrap-Up. In the final class, we will discuss how the various points we’ve covered fit together. Do we end up with a holistic, coherent account of AR/VR? What, if any, loose threads are there? How might we make the picture sharper/neater?