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Sample argument doesn't illustrate any of the issues behind epistemological solipsism
The current article illustrates epistemological solipsism with an example that misses the core epistomological issues. It appears to be confusing observer bias with the much deeper issues used to argue for epistemological solipsism.
The article equates the problem of knowing whether a photo of the moon represents the moon. Having to prove that an image of the moon is and image of the moon and not a doctored photo has nothing to do with epistomological sceptism because even logical empiricists and materialists would have to prove that.
What sets epistomological solipsism apart from epiricism and idealism is the questions it raises about what the mind is actually doing when it claims to be perceiving something outside itself.
A second issue I have with the current article and the moon photo example is that it implies that epistemological solipsism is a critique of empiricism only. In fact, it critiques BOTH empiricism and idealism. This is particularly true post-Wittgenstein.
Prior to W. it was possible to argue that the mind's ability to conceive of a metaphysical concept such as "love" or "God" and the ability to have a shared language with others to communicate those conceptions meant that such things exist beyond the individual mind. Post W. words can simply be handles for a collection of associations and shared meanings simply mean overlapping associations. There is no way one can prove from language the objective existence of any concept, either physical or metaphysical.
Epistomological solipsism is the notion that the mind cannot escape itself. All thought and perception is mediated by the mind and therefore we have no certain way of knowing to what extent the mind is creating perception, altering perception or leaving things as they are. To talk about this properly, you need to bring in all the areas of philosophy and psychology that raise questions about the nature of perception both on an individual and social level.
Unfortunately, I don't have time to do more than list out some of the core questions. However, without citations that would make my attempt at a rewrite into "original research". Here's a brief start of where I'd go if I had more time to research this properly:
- consciousness/mind-body problem: is the mind's claim to perceive a reality separate from itself valid? Can that claim be proven or must it be assumed as axiomatic?
- even if we say the mind is separate from the world it claims to perceive, what are the limits on individual perception, i.e. observer bias, cognitive dissonance and other known distortions determined by comparing perceptions from multiple individuals
- if we say that social consensus corrects for distortions of the individual mind, what epistomological issues does a socially defined or discerned "reality" raise? how do we become aware of others? how do we select the relevant others for a social consensus? what is the significance of the beliefs of those whom we leave out of the social consensus? How do we know that a social consensus reflects a reality outside of itself?
- Even if we agree that others exist and that their perceptions are knowable, to what extent are they knowable given that the only medium we have to share perceptions is language? One would need to discuss Wittgenstein and other discussions of the relationship between thought, language, perception here.
- Even if we were to assume that there was some way around individual and social bias, there is still a potential logical issue. How does assumption, deduction and coherence figure into the minds claim to perceive something outside of itself? What impact does Godel's incompleteness theorem have on the "knowability" of the world outside the mind? For perceptions to be useful we need to interpret them. They don't just interpret themselves. However, interpretation requires a system of thought or rules. The validity of that interpretive frame needs to be proven. However, as per Godel any system of belief requires at least one assumption. We can talk about an internally coherent system derived from starting assumptions , but we can never pick one system and call it "the true system".
Instead any proof that the world outside of the mind can be known with certainty has to make a much more complicated claim: all possible non-trivial internally coherent interpretive frames lead to the conclusion of the same claims about the world outside of the mind. If one can't make that claim, then one would be forced to admit non-trivial uncertainty about the absolute nature of the world outside the mind and possibly uncertainty about its very existence. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 126.96.36.199 (talk) 22:20, 26 April 2012 (UTC)