Virtual Worlds and Their Challenge to Philosophy: Understanding the “Intravirtual” and the “Extravirtual”


Department of Philosophy

University of Twente

Postbox 21

7500 AE Enschede

The Netherlands


The Web, in particular real-time interactions in three-dimensional virtual environments (virtual worlds), comes with a set of unique characteristics that leave our traditional frameworks inapplicable. The present article illustrates this by arguing that the notion of “technology relations,” as put forward by Ihde and Verbeek, becomes inapplicable when it comes to the Internet, and this inapplicability shows why these phenomena require new philosophical frameworks. Against this background, and more constructively, the article proposes a fundamental distinction between “intravirtual” and “extravirtual” consequences—a distinction that allows us to understand and conceptualize real-time interactions online more accurately. By relating this distinction to Searle's notion of “condition of satisfaction,” the article also shows its implications for judging real-time, online interactions in virtual worlds as irrational and/or immoral. The ultimate purpose is to illustrate how new philosophical concepts and frameworks can allow us to better account for the unique characteristics of the Internet.