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Metaphysical solipsism is the variety of idealism which is based on the argument that no reality exists other than one's own mind or mental states, and that the individual mind is the whole of reality and the external world has no independent existence. It is expressed by the assertion "Only I myself exist", in other words, no reality exists other than one's own mind. There are weaker versions of metaphysical solipsism, such as Caspar Hare's egocentric presentism (or perspectival realism), in which other persons are conscious but their experiences are simply not present.
Descartes made it famous with the Latin phase "cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am), the first step of his thought experiment on the existence of God.
Arguments in favour of Solipsism
The argument in favor of Solipsism:
(a) The only thing one has direct access to is the contents of one's own mind (one's mental states). What one knows most certainly are one's mental states - one's thoughts, experiences, emotions, and so on.
(b) Just because one sees an object does not mean that the object exists. One could be dreaming or hallucinating. There is no direct conceptual or logically necessary link between the mental and the physical.
(c) The experiences of a given person are necessarily private to that person. The contents of one's mind are the only things one has direct access to. One cannot get ‘outside’ of one's mind to encounter any other objects including other persons. Other minds are even more removed.
The basic form of the argument:
- My mental states are the only things I have access to.
- I cannot conclude the existence of anything outside of my mental states.
- Therefore only my mental states exist.
"Jiva is called so because he sees the world. A dreamer sees many jivas in a dream, but all of them are not real. The dreamer alone exists and he sees all. So it is with the individual and the world. There is the creed of only one Self, which is also called the creed of only one jiva. It says that the jiva is the only one who sees the whole world and the jivas therein."
Arguments against Solipsism
One reason for the lack of support of this philosophical position is how strange it would be for a solipsist to preach solipsism - as if to convince everyone around them that they are purely a figment of the author's own imagination. The very idea of communicating philosophical ideas would be arbitrary to a true solipsist, as according to them, there is no other mind with whom they would communicate their beliefs.
Russell commented, on the same theme:
"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, this surprised me. The fact that I cannot believe something does not prove that it is false, but it does prove that I am insincere and frivolous if I pretend to believe it." (Russell, p. 180).
- Actual idealism
- Brain in a vat
- Cartesian skepticism
- Methodological solipsism
- Subject–object problem
- , Drishti-sristi-vada.
- Angeles, Peter A. (1992), Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd edition, Harper Perennial, New York, NY.
- Runes, Dagobert D. (ed.), Dictionary of Philosophy, Littlefield, Adams, and Company, Totowa, NJ, 1962.
- Russell, B., Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1948.
- Wood, Ledger (1962), "Solipsism", p. 295 in Runes (ed.), Dictionary of Philosophy, Littlefield, Adams, and Company, Totowa, NJ.