Overcoming Solipsism

I’ve struggled with this ever since I came across it. The notion that all you can really be sure of is that you exist. It’s an idea that can’t be proven without refuting itself, but there is also no way to disprove it.

I’ve been in a sort of grey area over this for the past few years and whenever this flares up I get this great divide between me and the rest of the world. It’s only myself that feels real and it’s hard to be “there” when around other people because I doubt whether they really exist or not.

I’m not keen on the idea that the way out is to “believe”, since to me that sounds like a fairy tale. Like believing that other people exist and are real i sounds like I “lost the fight to it”. Sometimes I am overcome with terrible fear about the prospect of being alone in the universe and never having any meaningful relationships with another person.

Even this is an act of faith, posting on here. But I feel like I am losing the fight here and I’m not sure how else to deal with this.

See, when I think of solipsism, I’m more inclined to think of the saying “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” That is, there’s some sort of “reality” out there, outside of you, which is being filtered by you. You’ll never be able to master that reality, but you can focus on, and learn to understand, that filter which constitutes your own impressions of reality.

From my perspective, solipsism isn’t something to overcome. Instead, it’s a perspective by which you can better understand your perspective of the world - which is a mere guess that your brain is making based on the clues your senses are picking up.

I guess YMMV.

That’s not what solipsism is saying at all though.

You’re right - it’s saying that I’m not real, and you are the only thing that exists. Forgive me.

If the sollipsistic worldview is false, what do you lose if you proceed as if it’s real but are wrong?

If the sollipsistic worldview is real, what do you lose if you proceed as if it’s false but are wrong?

When you interact with what seem to be other people, do they routinely say things that you didn’t expect them to say? Do they ever tell you jokes, only to (a) pause before the punchline just long enough for you to wonder where they’re going, and then (b) surprise you with a quip that makes you laugh? Do they mention stuff that you’d never realized before — and then, while you try to figure out what would follow from that insight, do they wait a bit to see if you’ll get it, only to patiently explain the rest when it becomes clear that, no, Part Two isn’t occurring to you either?

Ah, good point.

I worked with an old guy who had a strong belief in Christian Science*. Ol’ Vince had bought into the worldview that everything in our lives is just our imagination: “That guy over there? He only exists in your mind. This hot, dirty factory? Your imagination at work. Me? I don’t exist in the real world… only in your mind.”

To which I almost replied that if any of that were true, I wouldn’t be sweating away my youth in that factory. Instead I laughed and said “Vince, if you were a product of my mind, you’d be younger, thinner, and more female.”

*Luckily, he had a sense of humor and liked the old joke:
“Christian Scientists are like Grape-Nuts. You open the box… no grapes, no nuts.”

Forget the universe. Forget the world. Forget your city. Forget your college.

Just think upon the Dope. Look inside your mind. Is it capable of imagining all of us and everything we say and all the experiences we’ve had that you haven’t and all the knowledge and wisdom and cultural events and crappy computer games and stupid sci-fi movies that we’re intimately familiar with, much of which from before you were born (which presumably you were although if you’re imagining the universe, you weren’t), and all the politics and commentary on COVID-19 and more philosophy than you have dreamt of? Is your brain truly omnipotent and omnipresent and all-encompassing, yet without any power whatsoever over all the figments of your own imagination?

Solipsism is the silliest of all philosophical stances, and that’s really saying something. It’s also the easiest to disprove. Just walk outside. You didn’t do that. You didn’t do any of that. You couldn’t do any of that.

Besides, since you think life is meaningless and you’re a little particle of worthless nothing, how do you square that with creating the entire universe including the notion of god (which you must be in a solipsistic universe)?

Nuts. Repeat that the next time you hear the word solipsism. Loudly. It will do you a world of good.

Oh, that’s a good one; It’s incongruous to think that a mind would be able to imagine so much yet not exert much control over its own imaginings. When dreaming, you can sometimes wake yourself up within the dream and take control over your dream in a way that would constitute magical or supernatural powers.

Unless, one presumes that what is creating what one perceives is external to us, like a futuristic VR peripheral that someone would have existed their whole life in.
And now we’re in the brain-in-a-vat problem. Has Machina done that one yet?

This is how it is:

You don’t overcome it. You live with it.

You proceed forward choosing to treat as “real” the things that seem most real to you, the things that you have the best evidence for and/or which click into place and resonate with the rest of what you believe to be true — like, if you’ve decided you believe that gravity is real and behaves a certain way, an explanation of something else that is consistent with what you believe about gravity is going to resonate as most likely true if the alternative would seem to require that what we believe about gravity is wrong.

But you remind yourself, often and seriously, that you might actually be wrong because you don’t have absolute certainty at any level. And occasionally you find that your structure of beliefs has sort of painted you into a corner and you have to really go back and question stuff until you find an assumption that isn’t, in fact, correct.

And then you have to rebuild with better assumptions in that area, assumpions that you’ve tested more thoroughly.

The good news is that most of the assumption-rebuilding involves elaborating, replacing an oversimplification with something that’s at least partially consistent with what you used to believe. Take the gravity thing, for instance. It turns out that it doesn’t behave according to Newtonian assumptions after all, not quite. A guy named Einstein realized that.

When The Matrix came out, one reviewer referred to its central thesis as “Dorm Room Metaphysics”.

I love that.

I mean, who doesn’t have fond memories of sitting around with fellow teenagers playing “Dude, what if the world is really like thiiiiisss…?” At our school, it always seemed to be about 2am, and the room was full of smoke. And wild conjectures.

But at some point we all matured, picked a rational world view, traded the dorm room for an apartment… and the smoke for tasty beverages.
(Oh, except for Chucko. He’s still playing Dude, What If… makes it hard for him to deal with real people.)

If we’re just artifacts of your fevered imagination, write a post quoting what I’m thinking right now. If you’re right, a)I won’t be able to disagree with you, and, b) be quite impressed.






I’ve been browsing for an answer to this issue but overall I seem to get mixed responses to it. You can’t disprove it but you can’t prove it either

Just to be clear: you think that, if it’s false, then there are other minds who can do things you don’t expect, and who present you with stuff you’re not creative enough to come up with; and, if it’s true, then you only seeeeeeeem to be interacting with other minds who do things you don’t expect, and you only seeeeeeeeem to lack the creativity they seeeeeeeeem to display.

And you say it can’t be proven or disproven, because the difference between those two is indistinguishable.

Is that right?

I mean I can’t be sure, that’s the whole point of solipsism. I don’t want to buy into it because it would mean I am alone, and ignoring it isn’t working.

I’ve tried browsing for answer but as I posted above I end up nowhere really: https://www.quora.com/What-is-your-review-of-Solipsism

Right, but, in one case, you’re not alone — where Not Being Alone means there are other minds who can do stuff you don’t expect, and who present you with ideas that you fail to come up with. And, in the other case, you’re alone — which means that what seem to be other minds, but aren’t, are busily doing stuff you don’t expect, and keep on presenting you with ideas that you fail to come up with; and that, to you, is what Being Alone means: a situation so strikingly similar to Not Being Alone that you honestly can’t tell the difference.

Is that what you’re saying?

“Ignoring it” does work for almost everyone. If you can’t, you need to fix yourself.*

You will never be happy (or be a functioning human being) until you can learn to ignore all the… *stuff *floating around out there that isn’t helping you. Solipsism, Nihilism, Fundamentalism, Orthodox Anything… you need to ignore all the negative, paralyzing aspects of all the philosophies in the world.
*Sorry, rereading this, I should add that there’s no shame in saying “I can’t do this myself. I’ll get some help.”

But haven’t we been telling you that for thread after thread that you’ve started?

Relevant Dark Star scene [SPOILER].

Based strictly on your previous experiences with obsessive thoughts and beliefs with respect to extraordinary ideas, have they generally proven to be true or false?

What is the one constant across all those dilemmas?

Given previous outcomes, which of the two possibilities is it most likely to be on this occasion?

Personally, I think the problem with solipsism is simply, what evidence do I have that I exist. Or you, as the case may not be.