Does the external world exist?

So state your position.

In the very post where you claim I wasn’t wasting my time you are engaging in guessing games about your position. So I don’t the scare quotes are necessary.

I’m not getting it either, and I’m pretty sure that neither of us is stupid.

I don’t mind a modicum of playfulness in a philosophy post, but being mysterious for the sake of being mysterious is not the behavior of a wise guru.

That said, I’ve tried to follow lectures that were, in fact, made as simple as possible, for the purposes of widespread intelligibility…and still wandered away completely at sea. The Transcendental Meditation guys, especially, lose me every time.

Once, a TM group sponsored a free lecture at my old college. I was the only one who showed up. An audience of one! So I had the lecturer completely to myself. He came down from the stage and sat by my side, and chatted with me, and did everything he possibly could to make his explanation plain.

And… When the hour was up, I went away, without having comprehended a single syllable of the fellow’s wisdom.

I have long felt that anyone who is not explicitly dualist must hold one of the following two positions: 1) that only the external world exists, there is no inner life or mental world; or, 2) only the internal world exists, there is no external world which is mind-independent. I suppose one could posit further that reality is in fact dependent—dependent on god for instance—which could subdivide both the previous two—I’d guess Berkeley would be in the latter camp while maybe Leibniz would be in the former. I personally lean towards the idealism side, though really not much, as if both sides agree there is just this one substance, it doesn’t really seem to matter whether we call it “mind” or “matter.”

Well, no one is responding to me here, which I suppose is appropriate in a thread like this. But you and Tomndebb have both brought up the ‘denial of the world’ thing as what I take as a reductio ad absurdum kind of argument. I don’t even know why I am trying to explain this stance, but the same source I’ve been quoting doesn’t think it is necessary to starve yourself &etc:
(btw, all the previous quotes were about the ‘enquiry’ method of realisation. Here he has switched to the ‘surrender’ or religious method, which he claims leads to the same result)

And at that point you will ostensibly lose your ego and you’ll see things in non-dualistic terms, at which point it will be clear that there is no internal/external world. Not solipsism at all- I don’t really know what to make of this guy.

What about an in-between notion: the external world exists, and the internal world is an imperfect model of it.

I’m driving around, using a map, because I can’t truly know the territory. But the map is good enough. It is built up, over time, from many observations of the real territory. I know it isn’t real, but it works to get me around.

I can never know you; but I can relate, fairly well, to the picture of you that I carry in my mind. It is at least good enough for us to have a conversation in a philosophy thread in a debate forum…

Sure, you (or I) might be just a really sophisticated “Eliza” program. The Turing Test will always be, like Occam’s Razor, a guideline for argument, not a proof…

The map is not the territory.

I don’t know my position. As mentioned in the OP -

The Hamster King posted this:

And I replied with this:

That is the closest I can get, at least as of now, to stating my position.

Yes, I don’t believe that the external world exists.

Yes. Yes. That’s the spirit!

Precisely. But the map makes useful predictions about the territory. It says “Here you’ll find a mountain.” And lo, when I look, there is indeed a mountain there! It’s true that the map leaves out some details and muddles others, but an incomplete, fuzzy picture of reality is better than no picture at all.

If all that exists are minds, and the external world exists only in our imaginations, then why do our fantasies agree in so many details? Why does everyone agree that there’s only one sun in the sky? Why don’t some people imagine two or none?

Still not working…

I think it is important to make a distinction between the two different kinds of claim here.

I also have no belief that the external world exists*, but it still makes sense for me to live my life as though it does. Because for one thing, that helps me make predictions about my subjective reality: whether or not the hot stove is “real”, I know that if I reach my hand out and touch it, I will experience very real pain.
Furthermore, even if I knew for sure that this reality is not real, that information in itself would tell me nothing of what action (or inaction) to take. I may as well play by the rules of this game because I know of no other rules.


I can elaborate on this a little.

First of all, while “Does the external world exist?” is a common phrasing of the question, I don’t think the question is as unambiguous as it seems.
I think we run into trouble with exist and external. If I experience a qualia, then already it exists at one level. And what exactly do we mean by external?

I prefer to talk about interpretations. The best interpretation I currently have for my experiences is that I am one conscious mind among many in a space-time universe of matter and energy. Now it may be that this universe is, say, a simulation running on a computer. But there’s no evidence to support this hypothesis and it falls to Occam’s.

I take the question to be asking “Do you positively assert that the interpretation of your mind being one of many in a space time universe is correct?”. To which my answer is: No, I have no reason to make that assumption.

How, exactly, would you “live your life” differently if you started living “as though the external world exists”? What, in particular, would change for you? Would you eat more? Drink less? Paint a BEWARE OF DOG sign, to protect your property? Step aside, when it looks like you’re about to be hit by a bus? What?

So far we’ve hit both the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and (at least implied by Beware of Doug) Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” on this handy list of 7 Phrases That Are Great Signs It’s Time To Stop Talking (see #5). We only need Occam’s Razor and Schoedinger’s Cat to get a Stoner Philosopher’s Bingo.

I mentioned Occam’s.
However, it was in the context of making a specific point, rather than vague “makes you think” talk about how we don’t know anything.

In fact…I don’t really associate Occam’s with stoners. But people do boil it down differently. IMO the most accurate concise description is: remove any entities/concepts from a hypothesis that have no explanatory power.

Schoedinger, WTF? Schrödinger.

It worked on The Simpsons. :smiley:

I have no belief that the external world exists, but it still makes sense for me to live my life as though other minds* live their lives as though it does.


I have beliefs about other minds, but it does not make sense for me to live my life as though other minds live their lives as though I* exist.


Other minds don’t believe in you. So why should you believe in other minds?

Seems somewhat fallacious to suggest a thread is moribund because people are using technical jargon in it, especially jargon appropriate to the thread. The concepts listed are relevant to the subject.

Go and discuss baseball…and don’t use any terms like “innings” or “shortstop.”

You no doubt live your life as though the external world is real. Yes?
I don’t understand why you insist on beginning at a couple levels of indirection and won’t face up to that more direct and important point.

And have you not seen footnotes before? I used a single one in a single post – I hardly abused the device.

Using is to actually get somewhere is fine, of course, but Beware of Doug simply sending a drive-by shout out to Plato (keepin’ it old school!) and Kozmik awarding him a high-five is as about meaningful as Radar O’Reilly stroking his chin and sighing “ah, Bach!” And if you don’t get what I mean, I’m-a bash you with Wittgenstein’s poker, yo!

If you crumple up this map and throw it on the ground, some point will map itself to itself. So you will be forced to resolve: is the map different then the territory (how?), or is it the same (how?). Imperfection implies a measure of perfection—what is the measure? Some point will be the metaphor for what it is. How?

Pick the red pill Neo.

Which is…

Forget footnotes. Just consider my three points:

I have no belief that the external world exists, but it still makes sense for me to live my life as though other minds live their lives as though it does.

I have beliefs about other minds, but it does not make sense for me to live my life as though other minds live their lives as though I exist.

Other minds don’t believe in you. So why should you believe in other minds?
The second point is a very important point. It goes without saying that *some *other minds live their lives as though I exist. For example, family members and co-workers. However, it does not follow that all other minds live their lives as though I exist. For example, a billion people in China and a billion people in India. The third point may be even more important and it has an intriguing question. Other minds believe in the external world. As Beware of Doug wrote, “Fuck them and the reality they rode in on.” What would it mean if other minds did not believe in the external world and instead believed in you? The first point is no less important. However, it is written out in a way that seems complicated. Simply put, other minds live their lives as though the external world exists and, therefore, even though I do not believe in the external world, the external world makes sense.