Saturday, 18 October 2014

You are never alone with solipsism

Solipsism is not only hard to pronounce it is also a peculiar philosophical stance with an ancient pedigree. This rather insular and introspective of philosophies was first tentatively broached by Gorgias of Leontini (483-375 BC). Solipsism is the belief, in its most extreme form, that only my mind exists and everything in my world is a construct of that mind. A less extreme form acknowledges the possibility of other minds and an external world but consider them inaccessible to the singular and subjective mind.

Solipsism is a logical conclusion of Cartesian contingent doubt. Descartes (1596-1650) is considered the first of the modern philosophers, and rightly so. His insight was to strip bare the problem of existence. He established that he could only be certain of his own thoughts which gave necessary credence to the existence of his own mind and by extension, himself. We are all privileged in this respect as we all have unique access to our own minds. Furthermore, it does not take a leap of reasoning to decide that as we can only access our own minds, and not others, we can never be really certain that these minds actually exist as independent thinking entities. This train of thought sets the scene for the modern concept of solipsism.

Descartes did away with the problem by the simple expedient of introducing God. A loving, benevolent God would not deceive his creations and therefore, at a stroke, plurality in an insane world was restored. Although Descartes stated the problem clearly, he offered a solution which would not satisfy the philosophers to follow and especially so, the British empiricists. Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753) extended solipsistic reasoning to its logical conclusion and denied the existence of matter altogether; matter became the construct of the mind. The unperceived chair does not exist. His philosophy was phantasmal and the dream of a madman. Equally fantastic, Berkeley saved the world from nonexistence by positing that God perceives all, even the occasional sideboard.

While the great philosophers were ready to state the problem, few actually embraced the concept, at least when sane. Solipsism has, in the main, been a stimulus for advancement in thought, especially when coupled to the problem of mind/matter duality. Indeed, for clever men, solipsism has always been a matter of high sophistry.

Solipsism, as a valid system, has been thoroughly discredited by modern philosophy. Wittgenstein (1889-1951) countered on the grounds of its linguistic and semantic absurdity. His arguments are highly technical, and as the second bottle of wine has started to kick in, and my head has started to loll to the side, I am disinclined to elucidate further. In addition, such a venture is likely to alienate the few readers that frequent this blog.          

Most people at some stage in their life have thought, even if only fleetingly, that only they exist. And herein lies the kernel of the problem and perhaps its solution. We could dismiss this most extreme of philosophies by an appeal to commonsense. Commonsense dictates that solipsism is simply 'silly'. Of course, the counter argument could validly state that reality is often contrary to common sense. Consider quantum physics or notions of infinity.......

I'll leave adjudication to the Great English Philosopher, Bertrand Russell.

Big, bad, Bert, in repose

“As against solipsism it is to be said, in the first place, that it is psychologically impossible to believe, and is rejected in fact even by those who mean to accept it. I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others. Coming from a logician and a solipsist, her surprise surprised me.”

And in the final analysis, perhaps, this is all that is required


  1. Most interesting. It has been a theory of mine for many years but until now I had no idea that anyone else has actually proposed it or that there was a name for it.

    It is, of course, an argument that it is impossible to beat down because if it is my mind that is creating what I perceive as existence, then your arguing with me is irrelevant because you are a figment of my imagination.

    I have often thought, however, that if this theory is true then my mind must be truly disturbed to invent the kind of shite that I see going on all around me...

    1. First to say... Russell was no Gentleman. Doing a cheap joke on the back of Christine Ladd Franklin, instead of telling her, that his close friend, lover (with whom he fucked a lot around) and colleaque as Prof. Phil. at Cambridge Univ., Ludwig Wittgenstein, was a solipsist. Bad, bad and tiny Bertie

      Second: Dreaming means solipsism on it´s best. Who else but the dreamer only can be the creator of the world, the dreamer is living in while dreaming? Having that proof, that you are able to create rich and complex worlds, why shouldn´t you create the world you call reality? In a dream, the creator is not allmighty... (do not think in the chliches of god-characters, they are all fictional) but you can learn to control your dreams... see movies: Inception and Waking Life

      Third: Solipsism is the consequence of the development of the European theories of cognition (fundamental philosophy - such as rationalism, empirism, sceptizism, idealism, phenomenlogy, existentialism, constructivism...) - the actually most advanced theory and the very only one, that is able to answer any essential question: such as: meaning of life, where are we comming from/going to...

    2. I’ve always wondered what Mrs Kidd’s recollection of the anecdote would have been? Perhaps not so silly? Or maybe she was injecting a little humour into flaccid philosophy? You are of course right- Bertrand was a very naughty boy. Personally, I would have had him shot for his display of treason during the Great War. At least Wittgenstein served, hernia and all.

      When has the dreamer been a ‘conscious’ creator? I would think it represented solipsism at its most chaotic? Have you ever considered direction from an evil daemon? - I have. At least it would explain the level of casual violence I experience when in the hands of Morpheus.

      Perhaps solipsism anticipated Biocentrism. Tis but a flick away from a world created by a collective consciousness to a world captured by one mind. As for the meaning of life……. In a post scientific paradigm why should we need one?

      You bring to mind someone I used to know- could it be?

    3. Well, well, pretty nice latenight solipsistic self-conversation.

      Right! - it is thinkable, that some crazed god (evil daemon), a kind of weird radio station (Black Knight satelite, Matrix-Machines...), telepathic versed aliens... etc., could think, dream, feel... for us by sending their manipulations into our mind.

      BUT: there ain´t no proof, that any of such creeps are existing. In fact, it is of very poor probability.
      On the other hand, you have a 100% garanty, that you are exiting. R. Descartes´s "I´m thinking, therefore I am" is very convincing in that way, and even if you are nothing but a dumb receiver of stranger´s thoughts you definitely have to exist.

      Exactly this is one of the reasons, that inspired me to develope a theory of cognition named PLAUSIBILISM - as the best chance to verify the most probable "truth" from different options is to accept the most plausible one.

      Plausibilism is correlating very fine with advanced Solipsism (think of Aristotle´s Oganon, meant as a toolbox of fundamental philosophy).

      Solipsist or part of the pack - me/we am doubtless sitting in Plato´s fucking shadow cave and actually plausibilism - this, plus learning lucid dreaming, an astoundingly fine working method to get control over your own dreams - is the most promising way to find the exit.

      Great good fortune

    4. Plausibilism- sound a bit like 'Occam's razor'. Why posit unnecessary complexity? As for the evil daemon, if it exists, it must be a naughty little tike/sprite judging from the thoughts that appear unbidden in my head.

    5. Very right - W. Occam´s cool way to approach/solve problems is part of Plausibilism - but it´s an epestemological model that means much more. For ex., to accept infinity as the next thinkable dimension, after time and space... Tricky Mr. Einstein is talking about spacetime as a new (5th) dimension, but in fact, any time is spacetime (time ain´t use to follow a line).
      Forget the daemon. (Shure, it´s pretty entertaining, but..) As mentioned, a chance of it´s exsistence is of incredible poor probability. Not worth to spend energy on this idea. Solipsism is very worth. Thrilling, stunning and brandnew - if thought in a positive way. It changes nearly everything. Any successful new epistemological system did so (Bacon´s Empirism, Descarte´s Rationalims...!!! - without them/that, we would not have systematical nat. or soc. sciences) Schopenhauer or Sartre dealt with Solipsism, but understood it very negative only - I guess because it is so uncharming to tell the ladies, that they might be nothing but just images of your mind. Nethertheless, dreaming of a girl is exactly that - and none can say, that this, what is presumed as reality, is something else but a dream too. C. Nolan did a nice job spinning off Inception from Linklater´s Waking life.


    6. Hi Flaxen Saxon (Essex, Wessex, Sussex... wich part of Saxony are you from...?).
      to let you know, who I am, you may visite my websites.
      with solipsistic greets from Hamburg

      p.s.: to add the atheist/agnostic-discuss: any christian, jew, muslim has to face it as a valid historical fact, that the abrahamic god, they are all believing in (it´s the same chap to all of them, no bomb-belt will change that), is a fictional character created by Pharao Echn Aton something 1350 b.c... This information is easy to get by few mouseclicks for any agnostic, who changes into a gnostic automatically same moment then.

    7. Hi Josh, I would consider myself a West Saxon. Today I live as an exiled Englishman in New Zealand. Let us be honest: Europe has gone to hell for reasons only too apparent for those that can see. I had a Germen fellow stay with me last week and he spoke of the horrors in his land as a result of unrestrained immigration. Leftist, so called liberal politicians, are hell-bent in destroying Western culture and civilisation. Anyway, Josh, I will visit your site and comment accordingly.
      Cheers, FS.

  2. Hi Flaxen,
    very right! - unfortunately this is bloody true. Britain, France, Germany + other European key-countries actually have to face a massive muslim invasion, strategically clean planned, overwhelming well funded and done incredibly straight. No Francis Drake, no Horatio Nelson and no Winston Churchill are in to prevent us from that and even if... the bravest RAF-Squadrons won´t be of any effect. Well - the christians needed 400 years to conquer the roman empire from inside, but finally they got it and ruined 900 years of progress in just one decade for more than 1.200 years - until R. Descartes liberated the human mind again by Rationalism. Easy to watch this wheel turning back much faster today. And yes - absurd enough, that just those political powers, who might be the first to be eliminated, are the ones, who welcome this mess. Anyway - all I can do is: Plausiblism (it can´t fail, if Solipsism is right - if it´s wrong, Europe has to prepare to listen to the worst thinkable music for a very long time. But then, this ain´t no problem of our generation anymore - Rock´n Roll forever

    p.s. A.Camus is a fool - Sysyphos ain´t never a happy chap

  3. Hi Flaxon,
    long time ago that I´ve heard from you. Hope you are fine on board, while this weird corona-campaign is wiping out the last poor rests of ratio in Europe and may be all over the planet. Plausibilism is doing pretty well to immune against that rubbish oozing out of all medias, but unfortunately not against the consequenses of those firestarters. Anyway - we´ll never surrender. Great good greets, Josh

    1. Indeed Josh, the world is an oyster, without the pearl. I decided long ago that the system in Britain is fucked and thus I emigrated to the last bastion of European secularism. Here, as an exile in a foreign land, I will live my life in veritable comfort far from the world's woes..... But what of my children and grandkids. Mayhap they will have to fight again for hard won freedoms.

    2. Hi Flax,
      seen Bojack Horseman Season 6, Ep. 8,opening scene? Pretty cool.

      I´ve just found a publisher to publish my book "THE PLAUSIBILISM" Not so easy to write, but done before 2021 is over. It´s in the tradition of Sartre´s "The being an the nothing", but far beyond of existentialism, constructivism, solipsism... well it´s... plausibilism! Not less than the most advanced concept in epistemology is going to become available then. Have fun. Great good greets. Josh

    3. Hi Josh, will check out the link. Good luck with the book sales.

  4. Hi Flaxon, you may know Henry Rollins. I just read "Solipist". Bit disapointed - expected more. Mr Rollins is not (half the writer as) Charles Bukowski. A solipist is not a misanthrope (like H. Rollins tells us, that he is) A solipsist is a constructivist. Blaming your construction if it is not to your liking? Don´t complain, better do better. You are never alone with solipsism. Very right. A solipsist is not alone - a solipist is on his own. The superb moment, when a solipsist finds another true solipsist, plausibilism is going to start (...blowing minds). Enjoy! Yours Josh

  5. I'm aware of Henry Rollins- an interesting character for sure. Now Charles Bukowski is (was) an extremely interesting character. I've been looking for other solipsists but when I find them they tell me I don't exist. I'm starting to believe them.

  6. Hi Flaxen,
    if it needed corona to melt away the last rest of europe´s ratio, it worked best in Moscow. Fuckin sick Mr Putin seems keen in to manage the end of civilization. Guess Zealand is one of the better places to sleep well those days. In case of your existence (ever seen the movie "existenz" by David Cronenberg? real good surrealistic stuff) would you mind to answer me by e-mail please? Will make conversation a bit easier:
    Meanwhile I´ve got some of the letters exchanged by Christine Ladd-Franklin and Bertie Russell in the early 20th century. There was more than the one, Russell mentioned it that anecdote. Should have been 12 or more and I have 7 oven them - pretty delightening and easy to attach on a mail.
    Happy to hear from you - yours Josh
    "the 4th worldwar will be done with sticks and stones" A.Einstein