I am writing an epistemology essay on whether a particular theory solves the 'problem of skepticism'. I am familiar with the skeptical paradox, but I am not sure exactly how to define what a solution would be. Would it be to prove that I do know that I have hands, or that I can know that I have hands, given that I actually have hands?
How do I define the problem of skepticism and the criteria for its solution?
This is what I take to be the question asked here: how do we know that all around us is not a simulation?
In the Wachowskis’ 1999 film, The Matrix, Morpheus asks Neo: “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”
From Van Cleve, “The Problem of External World Skepticism,” Introduction to Philosophy (University of Central Florida).
Ideally, this would be the falsifiable statement: If the world is real, and not a simulation, then every observation about the world is consistent with every other. Thus there would be no example of water running uphill. The heat generated by the stars would behave the same way as the heat generated by rubbing one’s hands together.
As for the question of whether one even has hands, the answer is the same: the observer would look for examples where people tried to pick something up, for example, and the object simply passed through the nonexistent hands.
As soon as the inconsistent event appears, and it cannot be adequately explained, the game is given away. The observer knows that the observed is not real.
But what if the simulation is Everything? What if the Great Simulator designed a computer program so advanced and thorough that every event occurring today and during the past billions of years were consistent with every other?
First, one would have to assume that a Great Simulator, bounded by finite time and resources, still had the ability to design and build an infinite and consistent universe. This assumption is quite a stretch, and perhaps the difficulty in working with it opens a road to challenging the possibility of a stimulation.
That said, if one makes the assumption of a successful Great Simulator, I do not see a method for challenging the notion that we are, and live in, a simulation.
Yours is a very frequent question on this site. Do let me know your thoughts about this.