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’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.
on preview: DT No. Solipsism does not require any such assumptions.
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.
“I see a world outside myself”
“one I don’t control”
“one that surprises me”
“one that is consistent”
These are all your assumptions. None of them are required to support the position of solipsism.