Why should anyone take solipsism seriously?

Suggested by this post in an otherwise irrelevant Pit thread.

Solipsism, of course, is the philosophical–well, I don’t want to call it a theory– the philosophical proposition that one’s own mind is all that exists. It has a long history dating back to Gorgias of Leontini, but I first became aware of the idea when I was all of twelve years old and thinking about the sorts of silly things that twelve-year-olds thing about. I was briefly interested in the idea, but when it became clear to me that I could not reshape reality to suit my whim as one might expect if life were but a dream I lost interest.

But maybe I’m being arrogant. Maybe there is some merit to the idea. Maybe it’s not as stupid as it seems on first, second, third, and ninety-second blushes. Anybody care to defend the proposition?

Also, if you are defending the proposition, who, exactly, are you talking to, and why?

Solipsism is like Zeno’s Paradox: You know it’s wrongheaded, but if you can’t explain why it’s wrongheaded, then you’re not doing philosophy. Superficially, it’s a very compelling challenge, and takes real work to dismiss.

I don’t think any philosophers actually take solipsism seriously. What they take seriously is its challenge to epistemology. If your epistemology can’t explain why solipsism is a mistaken view, then it can’t really explain how we know anything about the external world.

It doesn’t matter if you take it seriously, because you’re just a figment of my imagination. Also, why would you think you should be able to reshape my dream? Silly figment.

You shouldn’t. It’s mental masturbation that achieves nothing.

Because it’s irrelevant. Even if it were true, what difference would it make? The universe behaves as if it were real.

How can you say that without a real universe for comparison?

How so? That is, aside from the fact that this thread didn’t exist until I read it. :wink:

This post is written in Spanish when you’re not looking.

Because if I punch you in the nose, it’ll hurt. You can prove that I don’t exist, that you don’t exist, that you’re nose doesn’t exist… but your nose will still hurt.

It’s not the position that you mind is the only thing that exists, but that your mind is the only thing you can prove exists. It makes sense to me, but, as has been said already, I’m going to live my life assuming that the rest of the world is real because I’m more likely to increase my happiness in that way. I don’t dismiss the position, but it’s just not very useful.

I’d invert the question; not ask “how do I prove that anything is real?”, but instead ask “how could I prove that nothing is real?”. The thing is, even if everything I had ever experienced was an illusion that existed nowhere outside of my mind, that still wouldn’t prove that nothing exists elsewhere. After all, even if I assumed the solipsistic position, I would have still come up with the concept of an objective universe. How could I know whether there were realities I’m cut off from?

Gaarg. Xeno’s paradox isn’t a paradox. An infinitely-large number of infinitely-small fractions can resolve to a non-infinite number. Xeno’s Paradox preys on the fact that we can more easily imagine infinitely large numbers of things than infinitely-small things.

It’s useless, it’s arrogant, and it makes massive assumptions rather than minimizing them likes it claims. It assumes that we are capable of creating a seamless illusion of a universe in our own minds without conscious awareness. Which also makes it somewhat contradictory, since assuming that there IS an unconscious part of you assumes there is something beyond your immediate awareness.

That’s why Solipsism usually doesn’t even try to address the question of whether there is any real world or not. Rather the focus is on the fact that nothing outside the mind can be justifiably said to exist, because it cannot be known.
See: Brain in a vat.
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DT No. Solipsism does not require any such assumptions.

So, Xeno would be an alien philosopher, correct?

Zeno’s Paradox is a great inducement to the infinitesimal calculus, which provides a (mostly) self-consistent language for dealing with such things. Zeno, having the bad taste to exist long before either Newton or Leibniz, lacked such a language. Oddly enough, however, he did understand how to use epsilons and deltas. There is a poser for you.

Yes, it does. I see a world outside myself; one I don’t control, one that surprises me, one that is consistent. That requires the assumptions in question.

I see a world outside myself
one assumption
one I don’t control
two assumptions
one that surprises me
three assumptions
one that is consistent
four assumptions.
These are all your assumptions. None of them are required to support the position of solipsism.

No, it’s what I see, illusion or not.

Not an assumption; the obvious truth. I can’t make the world do what I want; therefore I don’t control it.

No, the simple truth.

No, an observation.

No, they are all what I, and I expect everyone else experiences.

Correction, it’s what you think you see.

Ever had a scary dream you couldn’t wake up from? Hear about someone having a bad acid trip?
Answer me this. How would you test the world around you for “realness” in a way that couldn’t be fooled?