An argument for solipsism

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Scott » May 7th, 2012, 1:14 am

It seems to me that even from the philosophical perspective one has to believe for some reason or another that it is ever so slightly more likely that those things that the non-nihilist, non-solipsist believes to be true are in fact true. Indeed because of the lack of proof in the most absolute, philosophical sense, we cannot know in the most absolute philosophical sense that we are not living in The Matrix, on The Truman Show or in a dream world or that certain falling trees do make sounds and that there is no teapot orbiting in the Solar System or that the Solar System even exists in some sense. However, of all those possibilities of which a true nihilist would think just as likely as any that propose the real world exists or that give any reason to make choices that provide survival value, the rest of us decide philosophically that it is ever so slightly more likely that any of the set of possibilities that in some way confirm the so-called real world in such a way that we can know things in the everyday in that we haven't absolute proof but rather evidence that warrants belief on probabilistic grounds are true than all the other possibilities. That's all it takes to not be a nihilist and not a near nihilist solipsist. And out of the philosophical context, of course we don't stand around talking about our beliefs as if they are just some weak probabilistic outlook, but all our words refer to and cares regard the relatively huge differences on that teeny tiny scale of believability that is accessible to us even if it is from 0% more likely than not (i.e. nihilism) as opposed to 1 in a googolplx-googolplexes. This provides complete justification for our everyday belief in the real world.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Spectrum » May 7th, 2012, 1:18 am

Prismatic wrote: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 don't think your 'baby' example is applicable, note wiki's.
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist.
Infants do not philosophize consciously and intellectually.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Belinda » May 7th, 2012, 1:49 am

A naturalistic disproof of solipsism is that the lonely mind is embodied, and the mind-body is itself enveloped in its natural environment which includes other minds.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by H M » May 7th, 2012, 4:14 am

Jackwhitlocke_005 wrote: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


Your very first word was "we". By definition solipsism is not an applicable possibility to a "we", a group, a philosophical community, or any social organization you are submitting it to.
ex: indicates that an "outside" world exists.
You had nothing about an "outside world" in it. Even if there had been, the external world is plainly exhibited in immediate, waking perception. You are likely trying to switch that with an invisible, transcendent version. Humans can't put the cart before the horse and claim that they originally got the idea [external world] from apprehension of a meta-empirical place or general substance that lacks any manifestation whatsoever before life and after death. A world should publicly present itself to multiple observers and researchers, not exist in the experiential dark like this or that secretive god, or privately for only one individual. Our switching the standard for an external world to something produced by later reflective thought and metaphysical speculations, to create a pseudo-problem, should speak for itself.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Prismatic » May 7th, 2012, 2:10 pm

Spectrum wrote:
Prismatic wrote: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 don't think your 'baby' example is applicable, note wiki's.
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist.
Infants do not philosophize consciously and intellectually.
I mentioned the infant mind not as any logical refutation of solipsism or even as evidence against it—that does not seem possible—but because it shows that a major intellectual advance for children occurs when they stop being solipsistic and recognize the existence of other minds. Human ability to recognize other minds, for which direct experience is lacking, appears to be unique to the human species and is one reason complex social interactions are possible. It is the best explanation of human behavior and has evolutionary value.

Rarely do we have proof beyond any possible doubt and most of our theories of how things work are simply ones that explain a great deal and predict outcomes correctly. We can adapt these to fit new circumstances and if they prove deficient in comparison with other views, we can simply abandon them.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by ciceronianus » May 7th, 2012, 3:47 pm

Spectrum wrote: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.
I know of nothing that requires a philosopher to discard an independent external world, and I rather doubt many philosophers do so. There are those who may believe that what we know of it is the result of our interaction with it, which I have always felt is merely to assert that we are human beings and experience it as human beings do (a rather uninteresting assertion, I think), but those who actually think there is nothing but themselves are, I hope, few and far between. I tend to think reference to an "external" world is somewhat sloppy; we are as much a part of the world as anything else.

Philosophers may amuse themselves and others by doubting the existence of "the external world" for purposes of an exercise, of course, in the faux manner of Descartes, or befuddle some novice by asking him/her to "prove" there is an external world. But I think one should have a good reason to doubt before doubting. I know of no good reason to doubt, for example, that I'm using a computer at this moment.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Jackwhitlocke_005 » May 7th, 2012, 8:13 pm

Scott- I am not thinking from the viewpoint of near-nihilism. My question is this: is there anything that indicates that the outside world exists independently of our conscious experiences as human beings? Or, is the common sense belief in the "outside" world justified? I am simply wondering if the common-sense view of the world hold up under philosophical investigation. Also, do you honestly believe that it is only slightly more likely that the common sense view is true, or were you only illustrating a point?

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Spectrum » May 8th, 2012, 2:55 am

Prismatic wrote:
Spectrum wrote:I don't think your 'baby' example is applicable, note wiki's.
Infants do not philosophize consciously and intellectually.
I mentioned the infant mind not as any logical refutation of solipsism or even as evidence against it—that does not seem possible—but because it shows that a major intellectual advance for children occurs when they stop being solipsistic and recognize the existence of other minds. Human ability to recognize other minds, for which direct experience is lacking, appears to be unique to the human species and is one reason complex social interactions are possible. It is the best explanation of human behavior and has evolutionary value.

Rarely do we have proof beyond any possible doubt and most of our theories of how things work are simply ones that explain a great deal and predict outcomes correctly. We can adapt these to fit new circumstances and if they prove deficient in comparison with other views, we can simply abandon them.
OK, I think you are refering to "Theory of Mind" i.e.
Theory of mind (TOM) is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own.[1] Though there are philosophical approaches to issues raised in such discussions, the theory of mind as such is distinct from the philosophy of mind.

TOM is developed in children after a certain age, and deficit in TOM is due to "mind-blindness", autism, schizo and other pychological issues.

I don't think the philosophical issue of 'solipsism' is directly related to 'Theory of Mind'. 'Solipsism' is a hypothesis supported by its own specific philosophical arguments which imo, is wrongly extrapolated from the wrong interpretations of fundamental idealism, i.e. reality is all mental stuffs.

TOM with reference to child development is with reference to a very specific definitions of mind and belief. When a baby cry for attention (instinctive) from the mother, it is implied the baby is connecting with another 'mind'. The baby instintively know there is another 'mind' other than its own 'mind', if we define mind as the works of the physical brain.

-- Updated Tue May 08, 2012 2:26 am to add the following --
ciceronianus wrote:
Spectrum wrote: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.
I know of nothing that requires a philosopher to discard an independent external world, and I rather doubt many philosophers do so. There are those who may believe that what we know of it is the result of our interaction with it, which I have always felt is merely to assert that we are human beings and experience it as human beings do (a rather uninteresting assertion, I think), but those who actually think there is nothing but themselves are, I hope, few and far between. I tend to think reference to an "external" world is somewhat sloppy; we are as much a part of the world as anything else.
As I had mentioned, the view of an independent external world is a default of common sense, ordinary, conventional and non-QM physics. No ordinary (except the schizo or psychotic) person or philosophers would discard this default view. The perspective that we are a part of everything else would be more refined than common sense and thus more appropriately a philosophical perspective.
Philosophers may amuse themselves and others by doubting the existence of "the external world" for purposes of an exercise, of course, in the faux manner of Descartes, or befuddle some novice by asking him/her to "prove" there is an external world. But I think one should have a good reason to doubt before doubting. I know of no good reason to doubt, for example, that I'm using a computer at this moment.
Actually many philosophers do not doubts the "external world". What they are actually doing is countering those who are dogmatic on the independent external world theory. "Countering dogmatism" is a more realistic term than 'doubting' which is a very misleading word

When they counter the independent external world theory from a philosophical perspective, they are not discarding the common sense perspective. They are just changing hat for the moment or shifting perspective relevant to the circumstances. Note the Necker Cube Demo, they are toggling between the two cubes rather than merely seeing one but not the other cube at all.

There are lots of usefulness from the concept of an independent external world, but it also has its limitation and baggages when taken to the extreme.

One of this extreme is an independent external world created by an independent God. I am sure you are aware how bad (despite some usefulness) this associated baggage has cost humanity and will be a potential hindrance to the progress of mankind in the future.
The other is Scientism. While Science is very useful for mankind, it has its negative side, i.e. Scientism.

An independent external world deliberately separate (by theory) the subject from objective reality, when as you are aware, in reality, the subject is part and parcel of reality as a whole. In the independent external world perspective, the subject has no interrelation with reality and thus is at the mercy of the external world.
On the otherhand, a subject interdependent reality recognize that the subject (s) [individually and collectively] has a role in the actualization of reality. Note Neuro-cognitive Science is recognizing this interdependent role.

Perhap there is some sort of cognitive biasness that do not enable you to recognize any limitations in the perspective of an independent external world. If you can break those glasses, there are tons* of reason why a dogmatic philosophical (not common sense) perspective of an independent external world is not tenable or is limited. I have a list of 70+ of such reason and trying to accumulate at least 101 reasons for the limitation of a philosophical independent external world.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by ciceronianus » May 8th, 2012, 11:55 am

Spectrum wrote:The perspective that we are a part of everything else would be more refined than common sense and thus more appropriately a philosophical perspective.
I disagree. I think the perspective that we are not a part of everything else is peculiarly (in more than one sense) philosophical, and can be attributed to the dualism promulgated by philosophers such as Descartes. The mind-body distinction is one indulged in by philosophers as well.

I think there is a tendency among some philosophers to accord greater significance to our interaction with the rest of the world and its result than is warranted. This may be the result of what I think is a kind of poetic license on their part. When philosophers (or others) speak of "creating" or "shaping" reality, or that the world is not "independent" it seems they purport to assert that something more is involved than that interaction, which I view as what takes place as a result of the undeniable and unremarkable fact that we are humans and part of the universe. Just what more they are asserting I can't understand. I assume they are not claiming that I'm creating my desk while sitting at it in any normal sense, or if they are I think they're claim is unsupported. As to QM, I have no idea where it is taking us, but I don't think that what may be the case on the quantum level means there is something wrong with claims and expectations related to what is not.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Jackwhitlocke_005 » May 8th, 2012, 11:34 pm

It seems to be that belief (or lack thereof) of entities that exist independent of consciousness rests completely on assumption. The questions is: what does the evidence suggest?

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Spectrum » May 9th, 2012, 12:18 am

ciceronianus wrote:
Spectrum wrote:The perspective that we are a part of everything else would be more refined than common sense and thus more appropriately a philosophical perspective.
I disagree. I think the perspective that we are not a part of everything else is peculiarly (in more than one sense) philosophical, and can be attributed to the dualism promulgated by philosophers such as Descartes. The mind-body distinction is one indulged in by philosophers as well.
I had mentioned the default view of common sense as taken for granted is an independent external world. Philosophers used to call this view, the 'vulgar' * view. [*archaic: common view]. Wonder why you insist that common view is philosophical.
Descartes dualism is after some very serious philosophical deliberation and of course is a much more deeper than the common sense external world.

It does take some reflection and philosophical thinking to realize that 'no man is an island by itself'. When the majority of humans do so, there will be a lesser threat to our Earth's environment that everyone share and live in.
I think there is a tendency among some philosophers to accord greater significance to our interaction with the rest of the world and its result than is warranted. This may be the result of what I think is a kind of poetic license on their part. When philosophers (or others) speak of "creating" or "shaping" reality, or that the world is not "independent" it seems they purport to assert that something more is involved than that interaction, which I view as what takes place as a result of the undeniable and unremarkable fact that we are humans and part of the universe.
Just what more they are asserting I can't understand. I assume they are not claiming that I'm creating my desk while sitting at it in any normal sense, or if they are I think they're claim is unsupported. As to QM, I have no idea where it is taking us, but I don't think that what may be the case on the quantum level means there is something wrong with claims and expectations related to what is not.
Obviously no philosophers had insisted that you or anyone else is "creating" the desk one is presently writing on. It is very wrong to think they do. What philosophers view differently from ordinary people is something else.
ciceronianus wrote:Just what more they are asserting I can't understand
Note this from William James.
James wrote:THE progress of society is due to the fact that individuals vary from the human average in all sorts of directions, and that the originality is often so attractive or useful that they are recognized by their tribe as leaders, and become objects of envy or admiration, and setters of new ideals.

Among the variations, every generation of men produces some individuals exceptionally preoccupied with theory. Such men find matter for puzzle and astonishment where no one else does. Their imagination invents explanations and combines them. They store up the learning of their time, utter prophecies and warnings, and are regarded as sages.
Philosophy, etymologically meaning the love of wisdom, is the work of this class of minds, regarded with an indulgent relish, if not with admiration, even by those who do not understand them or believe much in the truth which they proclaim.

Philosophy, beginning in wonder, as Plato and Aristotle said, is able to fancy everything different from what it is.
It sees the familiar as if it were strange, and the strange as if it were familiar. It can take things up and lay them down again. Its mind is full of air that plays round every subject. It rouses us from our native dogmatic slumber and breaks up our caked prejudices.
Note this from Russell;
Russell wrote:The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason.
To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected.
As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find, as we saw in our opening chapters, that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given.
Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.
I think why you cannot understand is because you had not philosophize deep enough. The ability to wonder deeper has limitations for some due to their nature and inclinations.

Note this Necker Cube,
Image

Some people just do not has the ability to see two cubes in this picture. They can only see one. Similarly, there are many deeper perspectives beyond the external world that the normal human being take for granted. Philosophizing the perspective of a subject-interdependent reality is one sophisticated perspective many cannot and will not see no matter how one explain it to them. This interdependent perspective is not for intellectual fun, it has utilities for life in its finer perspectives. Btw, I do not intend to convince you of such a perspective, I am just expressing my POV on it.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by ciceronianus » May 9th, 2012, 11:13 am

Spectrum wrote: What philosophers view differently from ordinary people is something else.
It seems that at least since Plato, there have been philosophers who delight in distinguishing themselves from "ordinary people" and their concerns. I agree with Dewey that there has been a tendency in philosophy to disdain the "problems of men" and focus instead on the "problems" of philosophy, and that this has been to the detriment of philosophy and humanity. I also agree with Dewey and with pragmatism generally that the only true problems are problems which create real doubt and admit of resolution, and that we only think reflectively and critically when we encounter problems. Philosophers may be the the only people who take pride in the fact that they address questions which by their nature cannot be answered.

Again, this may have value as an exercise, and in promoting open-mindedness and creative thinking. But I think philosophy can do more than that, and question the value of doubting when there is no reason to do so.

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Prismatic » May 9th, 2012, 12:18 pm

ciceronianus wrote:
Spectrum wrote: What philosophers view differently from ordinary people is something else.
It seems that at least since Plato, there have been philosophers who delight in distinguishing themselves from "ordinary people" and their concerns. I agree with Dewey that there has been a tendency in philosophy to disdain the "problems of men" and focus instead on the "problems" of philosophy, and that this has been to the detriment of philosophy and humanity. I also agree with Dewey and with pragmatism generally that the only true problems are problems which create real doubt and admit of resolution, and that we only think reflectively and critically when we encounter problems. Philosophers may be the the only people who take pride in the fact that they address questions which by their nature cannot be answered.

Again, this may have value as an exercise, and in promoting open-mindedness and creative thinking. But I think philosophy can do more than that, and question the value of doubting when there is no reason to do so.
In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant explains the negative use of pure philosophy:
The greatest and perhaps the sole use of all philosophy of pure reason is, after all, merely negative, since it serves not as an organon for the enlargement [of knowledge], but as a discipline for its delimitation; and, instead of discovering truth, has only the modest merit of preventing error.
This is an important service since errors propagate as fast as truths and once entrenched are hard to dislodge, but it is a service likely to be undervalued in the general view.

To give an example, there is a psychological tendency to treat abstractions in the same manner as material objects, which leads to further errors. As Kirk and Madsen put it in their book After the Ball:
It is Man's great difficulty, as well as his blessing, that the spooks and hobgoblins inside his head often seem as real as the furniture on his front lawn.
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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by ciceronianus » May 9th, 2012, 2:31 pm

Prismatic wrote:This is an important service since errors propagate as fast as truths and once entrenched are hard to dislodge, but it is a service likely to be undervalued in the general view.

To give an example, there is a psychological tendency to treat abstractions in the same manner as material objects, which leads to further errors.
Yes. But that has been an error of philosophers as well as non-philosophers. Similar errors result from the misuse of language by philosophers, as the likes of Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin have demonstrated, and from the detachment of philosophy from "ordinary day-to-day life."

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Re: An argument for solipsism

Post by Prismatic » May 9th, 2012, 3:28 pm

ciceronianus wrote:
Prismatic wrote:This is an important service since errors propagate as fast as truths and once entrenched are hard to dislodge, but it is a service likely to be undervalued in the general view.

To give an example, there is a psychological tendency to treat abstractions in the same manner as material objects, which leads to further errors.
Yes. But that has been an error of philosophers as well as non-philosophers. Similar errors result from the misuse of language by philosophers, as the likes of Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin have demonstrated, and from the detachment of philosophy from "ordinary day-to-day life."
No question whatever about philosophers being open to the misuse of language, but that just makes work for new philosophers who examine things more carefully and in the light of new knowledge and experience. Confining philosophy to consideration of ordinary every day life would not likely prevent the abuse of language since ordinary language is chock full of nuts. Ordinary language philosophy is now somewhat past its peak and does not seem to have solved the problems it thought arose through the abuse of language. Perhaps it clarified them.
Everywhere I have sought peace and never found it except in a corner with a book. —Thomas à Kempis

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