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Exploring Solipsism

Introduction

Still, the idea is normally dismissed quickly without too much thought. In this article, we thoroughly investigate the idea and the arguments given against it.

An absolute philosophical proof may be out of our reach, but the probability of the solipsist-anti-solipsist disagreement will not move much from its starting point, and will probably hover close to its initial value of plausibility.

This article is structured into three sections and a conclusion. The first section presents the contractive perspective from which we will observe the thought experiment. The second section discusses solipsism’s early history and logical implications.

The observation of self-referential logical systems will be investigated, and a parallel perspective with other similar theories will be given. A feedback mechanism will be explored, which emerges when moving between different time scales. The last section contains two thought experiments designed to investigate the solipsistic idea. The conclusion is given at the end of the paper.

Though no man believes that primeval man was the equal of a contemporary European, yet all have had a better opinion of them than they were entitled to, and we are but just emerging from the age of stone, where unbridled savagery was the first stage.

The idea of solipsism brings this relationship – I am the center of the universe – to a philosophical level. The idea is seemingly refuted by common sense when it is spelled out in detail.

When a student reads about a very elaborate theory of the universe, perhaps writes some new equations, and rarely gets to see the actual objects before he finishes his course, the idea may become appealing. Since communication mainly occurs through the carrier wave of light, a solipsistic person has no need for other people since he, and objects with large masses, are self-illuminating. Solipsists believe that the phenomenal universe is entirely the result of their own mental constructions.

Origin

Although the terms “solipsism” and “solipsistic” are relatively common in modern discussions of a variety of topics, poking fun at it by defining it as an annoyance to which one is subject, certain difficulties accompany all attempts to define the term. Solipsism is most often taken to be the denial of the existence of anything except oneself.

The extreme nature of this position explains why anyone seeking to attribute it to a given thinker must be very careful.

To impute solipsism to a philosopher is not just to suggest an antirealist bias in some aspect of his metaphysics, but to say that he denies the existence of mind-independent objects, other persons, animals, and even his own body, thereby reducing all of nature to mere appearances or to his own ideas.

As will be shown later, this view is usually considered absurd and is more easily ascribed to modern authors commonly called “solipsists.” The chapter will examine that “straw man” as well as the alleged historical solipsists, but the real concern is the philosophical position that is attributed to intuitively appealing or “serious” philosophers and to questioning the way in which these philosophers are presented by designing an investigation that attempts to deliver a concise, but plausible explication of the defining characteristics of solipsism and to a sense in which these views are plausibly ascribed to historically significant authors who have long been associated with that position.

Concepts and Assumptions

The first assumption of solipsism is that existence is absolute, meaning that every consciousness is conscious of something and that nothing can exist outside of this consciousness. This absolute existence is assumed to be a primary and fundamental reality that is totally unmediated by any secondary factors such as time, space, matter, or energy.

Only what is present within consciousness can be experienced and known directly, which is another basic assumption of solipsism. The second assumption is that existence is structured, meaning that reality consists of conscious activity structured into levels of consciousness or states of mind, each with its specific mode of being and way of knowing.

The third assumption is that the structure of existence is psychological. The fourth assumption is that existence is necessarily egocentric, which means that the existence of consciousness is not to be inferred but is given to each and every conscious being in and with the contents of its consciousness. The fifth assumption is that existence is purposeful, which is an assumption that was made explicit by Max Planck.

Central to solipsism is the distinction between ego and non-ego, where the ego is the reflective subject of consciousness and the non-ego is the object that is reflected. This distinction is based on the fundamental nature of consciousness as reflective and is of paramount importance in solipsism.

The reflective nature of consciousness implies that the mind is not only aware but also aware of its awareness, which is referred to as a higher awareness, reflecting subject, or a meta-mind. The concept of consciousness as both self-reflective and self-coordinated is a fundamental insight of the first-person method and is in stark contrast with the third-person method of natural science.

This self-reflection makes solipsism a distinctly first-person enterprise, which is an approach to the problem of knowledge from the standpoint of our present state of direct knowledge regarding consciousness and its contents.

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