1984 & solipsism (spoilers inside)

I have just finished reading 1984 by George Orwell. Near the end O’Brien tells Smith that basically (and I’m sure I’m butchering this) that reality only exists in the mind. Therefore, if he wants he could, for all intents and purposes turn into a soap bubble and float away. This feeds into the Party’s evil plan to control the minds and therefore reality. He describes this as “collective solipsism.” My question is obvious: I, as Winston was, am fairly sure that this is not the case, however, how can this actually be disproven?

It’s been a while since I read the book, but I thought that “collective solipsism” wasn’t a result of individual solipsism controlled from without (which is a contradictory notion), but that the lack of a reference for truth and knowledge outside of the community of consensus means that collective solipsism is especially dangerous, since it’s absolute. Orwell’s point was political, insofar as one of the virtues of democracy is a seeking after truth, rather than the control of it. His other point was that totalitarian regimes, both left (communism) and right (fascism) are the same in that they are about nothing but control.

Winston could disprove the particular form of collective solipsism in which he is trapped by forming his own community of consensus. To do so, however, he’d have to escape the power of the state, which is omnipresent.

Or as one wag put it: “Reality is whatever the person who can beat the shit out of you says it is.”

“I refute it thus.” (How many can put context to that quote?)

Winston disproves this by winning. The Party can only enforce this kind of mind control by remaining in power; this “consensus reality” fails at the first fist in O’Brien’s nose. Such intellectual meanderings tend to shatter when confronted with true reality; if the Party says that O’Brien is eating and gives him no food, he still starves. If the Party says he is still alive, O’Brien is not around to believe it.

As Mel Brooks would say, speak to them in another language: Rock. It tends to be unmistakably real.

Um… Winston loses though.

Johnson to Boswell, while kicking a rock to refute the non-existence of matter.


And who did he refute, you may ask? Why, none other than Bishop Berkley.

Oh, and here’s a web reference for those of you who don’t know what this is about.