An argument for solipsism

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Jackwhitlocke_005
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An argument for solipsism

Post by Jackwhitlocke_005 » May 6th, 2012, 3:57 am

1. We experience all things through the mind 2.Other people are experienced only through the mind 3.Other being cannot be known to exist outside the mind

Any criticism/ counter arguments are welcome. Just please don't respond with "If you are a solipsist then you don't believe I exist, so why are you asking this?" I am not a solipsist. This is simply a discussion of an argument for solipsism.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by A Poster He or I » May 6th, 2012, 10:56 am

The conditions you identify support other situations besides solipsism. They may be necessary arguments but they are not sufficient arguments.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by H M » May 6th, 2012, 12:13 pm

Solipsism pertains to an individual mind, distinct consciousness, stream of experience, phenomenal continuum, etc. The philosophical community is a group -- not a single, private entity or process. Solipsism is not a possibility for the philosophical community or any social institution that examines, proposes, evaluates, tests, and regulates knowledge or related affairs. A group enterprise accordingly rejects solipsism by default, because it is not applicable to it. But it hangs around as a recreational discourse (a notch above bland street fare like "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?").

Just as the ceaseless and orderly patterns of some fractals are generated by the autonomic rule of their algorithms rather than the heteronomic influence of a transcendent fractal world, so there may as yet be an unknown complexity of principles (inherent in a dreaming being) that would yield the experienced regularities of a natural universe exhibited in perception and thought. Thus, solipsism or some form of "subjective oneirocosmism" may remain a personal possibility, but its target has no companionship but itself when it comes to seriously advocating or believing it.
Last edited by H M on May 6th, 2012, 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Spectrum » May 6th, 2012, 12:19 pm

Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote:1. We experience all things through the mind
2.Other people are experienced only through the mind
3.Other being cannot be known to exist outside the mind

Any criticism/ counter arguments are welcome. Just please don't respond with "If you are a solipsist then you don't believe I exist, so why are you asking this?" I am not a solipsist. This is simply a discussion of an argument for solipsism.
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist.
Solipsism is an incoherent theory.

"1. We experience all things through the mind "
The above presupposed 'philosophical realism'.
Philosophical realism asserts that reality is absolutely independent of mind.
Since reality (all things) are independent of mind, the only means of knowing the 'real' thing is through the mind.
This knowing is based on the correspondence theory of truth.

But philosophical realism is not tenable.
Rather reality is always inter-dependent with many minds. (many = collective minds, not just the individual mind). Note Kant's theory.

The collective* mind implied one knows other minds exist, not just one's own mind.
Therefore solipsism is incoherent.

*For example, when one is aware of teamwork and team results, each team-members are aware there are other team members.

In anycase, here is another view why solipsism is incoherent.
http://www.iep.utm.edu/solipsis/#H7
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Fhbradley » May 6th, 2012, 1:05 pm

Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote:1. We experience all things through the mind 2.Other people are experienced only through the mind 3.Other being cannot be known to exist outside the mind

Any criticism/ counter arguments are welcome. Just please don't respond with "If you are a solipsist then you don't believe I exist, so why are you asking this?" I am not a solipsist. This is simply a discussion of an argument for solipsism.
There are two things. First, you assume that knowing requires sense experience. Secondly, (3) doesn't entails solipsism like you want it to. The reason why is that just because beings cannot be known to exist outside the mind, it doesn't follow that they don't. That is, just because you don't know p, it doesn't mean p is false.
Last edited by Fhbradley on May 6th, 2012, 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Prismatic » May 6th, 2012, 1:39 pm

Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote:1. We experience all things through the mind 2.Other people are experienced only through the mind 3.Other being cannot be known to exist outside the mind

Any criticism/ counter arguments are welcome. Just please don't respond with "If you are a solipsist then you don't believe I exist, so why are you asking this?" I am not a solipsist. This is simply a discussion of an argument for solipsism.
There is no logical refutation of solipsism—it's watertight. Naturally that does not prove it just as the lack of disproof of the existence of gods does not establish their existence.

It seems that infants are solipsistic and must learn through experience that there are (or to continue the solipsistic viewpoint, there appear to be) other minds with different thoughts. Solipsism doesn't fit well with the notion that as the human character matures it becomes less self-centered and grows more concerned with other people and otherness in general. Some never get beyond their own concerns despite the teachings of religion, but most people grow to have concern for others not like themselves and that is one measure of maturity.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by ciceronianus » May 6th, 2012, 3:21 pm

Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote: Any criticism/ counter arguments are welcome. Just please don't respond with "If you are a solipsist then you don't believe I exist, so why are you asking this?" I am not a solipsist. This is simply a discussion of an argument for solipsism.
But that response is an entirely legitimate one, I think. Solipsism is silly; it merits a silly, though telling, response. Nobody is a solipsist as by any reasonable measure we all act just "as if" there are other people and an "external world." The simple fact is there is no reason to believe the universe is something we dreamed up or a show put on for us. Those who argue in favor of solipsism have the burden of establishing it.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Fhbradley » May 6th, 2012, 5:25 pm

ciceronianus wrote:
Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote: Any criticism/ counter arguments are welcome. Just please don't respond with "If you are a solipsist then you don't believe I exist, so why are you asking this?" I am not a solipsist. This is simply a discussion of an argument for solipsism.
But that response is an entirely legitimate one, I think. Solipsism is silly; it merits a silly, though telling, response. Nobody is a solipsist as by any reasonable measure we all act just "as if" there are other people and an "external world." The simple fact is there is no reason to believe the universe is something we dreamed up or a show put on for us. Those who argue in favor of solipsism have the burden of establishing it.
Of course I'm not a solipsist, but you didn't really put up an argument against it here. All you did was say it is silly and claim there is no reason to believe it. Secondly, you say solipsists have the burden of proof, but everyone in philosophy has the burden of proof. So, if you claim there is a "world outside yourself" you better have good reasons for believing so. The thing is, no one has been able to do it.

-- Updated May 6th, 2012, 4:33 pm to add the following --
Prismatic wrote:
Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote:1. We experience all things through the mind 2.Other people are experienced only through the mind 3.Other being cannot be known to exist outside the mind

Any criticism/ counter arguments are welcome. Just please don't respond with "If you are a solipsist then you don't believe I exist, so why are you asking this?" I am not a solipsist. This is simply a discussion of an argument for solipsism.
There is no logical refutation of solipsism—it's watertight. Naturally that does not prove it just as the lack of disproof of the existence of gods does not establish their existence.

It seems that infants are solipsistic and must learn through experience that there are (or to continue the solipsistic viewpoint, there appear to be) other minds with different thoughts. Solipsism doesn't fit well with the notion that as the human character matures it becomes less self-centered and grows more concerned with other people and otherness in general. Some never get beyond their own concerns despite the teachings of religion, but most people grow to have concern for others not like themselves and that is one measure of maturity.
I've tried making a case against solipsism in one particular argument, but it rests on the assumption that the sole existent being would be God. That is,

If solipsism were true, I would be God. But God is a perfect being, and my unknowing whether anything else but myself exists is an imperfection. Therefore, I am not God, and solipsism is not true. (of course this doesn't solve the other mind problem, just that what exists is not dependent on me).


I'm not quite sure if people would be willing to grant that solipsism entails that person being God, though. But characteristically, they seem almost identical. For example, being a necessarily existent conscious being that is the source of all existence.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Scott » May 6th, 2012, 5:46 pm

Like a tree falling in a forest without a sound or the proposition that we all live in The Matrix or that there is a teapot floating around in outer space, we really cannot know in the most absolute sense whether these things are the case or not. Indeed, this kind of reliance on absolute knowledge does not just lead to solipsism but rather epistemological nihilism. We can't know anything in the most absolute, impractical sense of the word know. For the same reason we do not behave as complete nihilists, one is wise to not behave as a solipsist. To the degree we can know anything beyond an unreasonable doubt in that we have some degree of empirical evidence for it -- accepting the inherent infallibility of all empirical evidence for anything -- we can accept reasonably that other minds exist besides our own.

I think this why in criminal court they often use the phrase proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by ciceronianus » May 6th, 2012, 7:13 pm

Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote:So, if you claim there is a "world outside yourself" you better have good reasons for believing so. The thing is, no one has been able to do it.
God's teeth. You make my point (regarding silliness) for me, I think. Define "good reasons" for believing there is a world outside myself. I assume these cannot include the fact that you are communicating with me.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Prismatic » May 6th, 2012, 7:27 pm

Scott wrote:Like a tree falling in a forest without a sound or the proposition that we all live in The Matrix or that there is a teapot floating around in outer space, we really cannot know in the most absolute sense whether these things are the case or not. Indeed, this kind of reliance on absolute knowledge does not just lead to solipsism but rather epistemological nihilism. We can't know anything in the most absolute, impractical sense of the word know. For the same reason we do not behave as complete nihilists, one is wise to not behave as a solipsist. To the degree we can know anything beyond an unreasonable doubt in that we have some degree of empirical evidence for it -- accepting the inherent infallibility of all empirical evidence for anything -- we can accept reasonably that other minds exist besides our own.

I think this why in criminal court they often use the phrase proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are some reasons to argue against solipsism. Although we have no direct apprehension of the minds of others, we do have the ability to understand and empathize with other minds through indirect apprehension and that is what makes social living possible for us as a species. In other words our belief in the reality of other minds is an important characteristic of the species, probably responsible for and enhanced by language. It may have the unfortunate byproduct of inclining humans to believe in spirits and demons and an afterlife.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Jackwhitlocke_005 » May 6th, 2012, 7:58 pm

Thank you all for your replies!

Poster- What are the other conditions? Solipsism is simply a lack of belief in other minds. Those who believe in other minds have the burden, not the solipsist. Even if it indicates those other conditions, what does that say about other minds?

HM-I've heard that age-old response a million times and it does nothing to the argument. Please give me something that attacks one of the points of my argument ex: indicates that an "outside" world exists. Thank you for your response though!

FH Bradley- That's true, but there is also no way of disproving the existence of God, or of fairies for that matter. Remember that the burden of proof rests on the person who believes in the existence of other minds. Also, is there any knowledge that does not come from sense experience? Without the 5 senses we would know nothing. Regarding your second post: do you believe in an "outside" world? If so, what indicates the existence of it?

Scott- Interesting response. If you can give me good reason to believe in an "outside world", then I'd say that my argument for solipsism does not hold.

Prismatic- This response only holds true if an outside world is assumed to exist. What you're forgetting is that my argument hinges on the fact that everything that is known is known only through the mind. Therefore, nothing can be known to exist independently of the mind.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Fhbradley » May 6th, 2012, 8:24 pm

Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote:Thank you all for your replies!

Poster- What are the other conditions? Solipsism is simply a lack of belief in other minds. Those who believe in other minds have the burden, not the solipsist. Even if it indicates those other conditions, what does that say about other minds?

HM-I've heard that age-old response a million times and it does nothing to the argument. Please give me something that attacks one of the points of my argument ex: indicates that an "outside" world exists. Thank you for your response though!

FH Bradley- That's true, but there is also no way of disproving the existence of God, or of fairies for that matter. Remember that the burden of proof rests on the person who believes in the existence of other minds. Also, is there any knowledge that does not come from sense experience? Without the 5 senses we would know nothing. Regarding your second post: do you believe in an "outside" world? If so, what indicates the existence of it?

Scott- Interesting response. If you can give me good reason to believe in an "outside world", then I'd say that my argument for solipsism does not hold.

Prismatic- This response only holds true if an outside world is assumed to exist. What you're forgetting is that my argument hinges on the fact that everything that is known is known only through the mind. Therefore, nothing can be known to exist independently of the mind.
The burden of proof rests on both the person who says there are other minds and the person who says there aren't. So don't think you're off the hook. Solipsism is a hypothesis, just as the external world is a hypothesis. If you believe in either, you must give a sufficient reason for doing so.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Scott » May 6th, 2012, 11:48 pm

Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote:Scott- Interesting response. If you can give me good reason to believe in an "outside world", then I'd say that my argument for solipsism does not hold.
Why don't you accept this proposition of near nihilism yourself? I'm not sure how to give you a reason to believe what you already do as I cannot be sure what constitutes evidence under feigned nihilism. What qualifies as a a reason to believe something let alone a good reason to believe something is relative to one's epistemological philosophy. If one genuinely chose nihilism -- or nihilism minus cogito ergo sum -- then I certainly have nothing that would qualify as good reason to believe relative to the meaning of good reason to believe in that epistemological philosophy. However, no such nihilists can be found because they would have all starved to death by now seeing as they do not believe it even slightly more likely that the food at the grocery store does exist in some sense or another and that choosing not to put the effort into going to get it to eat it will have probabilistically predicable results in accessible to a nihilist or for that matter anyone who doubts the ability to predict the future using the perceived present as evidence.

In regards to solipsism specifically, if one wants to argue for that then one needs to define mind. Does a person with split personality disorder have multiple minds? If both I and you were simply a character in some god-like figure's unbelievably complex superior mind's dream, destined for apocalypse upon his awakening, would that mean you and I do not have the minds we think we do? Wouldn't it rather mean that our minds exist within the dark corners of someone else's mind? I really love the book, Sophie's World, and it toys with that idea. Solipsism in that sense of the idea mind cannot be achieved simply by supposing the world is a dream and the other alleged p-zombies we encounter are just characters in that dream, but rather would require a certain superficiality to the dream because if the dreamed would-be p-zombies are too complex than these dreamed characters are actually minds -- much like artificial intelligences created in the machinery of the dreaming mind -- not p-zombies.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Spectrum » May 7th, 2012, 12:48 am

ciceronianus wrote:
Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote:So, if you claim there is a "world outside yourself" you better have good reasons for believing so. The thing is, no one has been able to do it.
God's teeth. You make my point (regarding silliness) for me, I think. Define "good reasons" for believing there is a world outside myself. I assume these cannot include the fact that you are communicating with me.
I think you are conflating the common sense/ordinary/conventional perspective with the philosophical perspective.

In the conventional perspective, the default is the existence of an independent external world and this has survival value and occupy human consciousness most of the time. But this conventional perspective of the senses, empirical evidences, reason (basic and pure) has limitations. This perspective is analogical to say, the Newtonian perspective which has limitations when dealing with relativity or QM. Due to its limitations, philosophers had ventured to explore beyond the conventional perspective, i.e. the philosophical perspective.

From the philosophical perspective, one has to discard the independent external world default of the ordinary perspective and starts afresh. This is why Kant asked for proof of the external world. So far, no one has provided convincing proofs and imo, there will never be any from the philosophical perspective.

The philosophical perspective that holds the existence of an independent external world is 'philosophical realism', objectivism, and physicalism. Note philosophers like Putnam (has since given this up) and many other analytics hold this independent external world view within the philosophical perspective.

-- Updated Mon May 07, 2012 12:09 am to add the following --
Scott wrote:In regards to solipsism specifically, if one wants to argue for that then one needs to define mind.
"1. We experience all things through the mind"

Point 1 above assumed the mind to be a closed container, e.g. in wiki,
In popular usage 'mind' is frequently synonymous with thought: the private conversation with ourselves that we carry on "inside our heads." Thus we "make up our minds," "change our minds" or are "of two minds" about something. One of the key attributes of the mind in this sense is that it is a private sphere to which no one but the owner has access. No one else can "know our mind." They can only interpret what we consciously or unconsciously communicate.

However, from the philosophical perspective, note,
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies.

Theories of mind and its function are numerous. Earliest recorded speculations are from the likes of Zoroaster, the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient Greek, Indian and, later, Islamic and medieval European philosophers. Pre-modern understandings of the mind, such as the neoplatonic "nous" saw it as an aspect of the soul, in the sense of being both divine and immortal, linking human thinking with the unchanging ordering principle of the cosmos itself.
[/quote]In the above case, the concept of 'solipsism' is extended from a conflation of common sense with the philosophical perspective with limited critical thinking.

At present, 'mind' in the common and philosophical perspective is merely a very loose term and 'what is consciousness' is still a 'hard' problem. Since 'mind' and 'consciousness' are loose terms, 'solipsism' which relies on them should be a looser term, or better still, put in the 'recycle bin'.
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