Why Solipsism is OK

What is solipsism? Well, as with all philosophical frameworks, there are infinitely many variants of solipsism, but the gist of solipsism is as follows: solipsists believe all that exists before them resides only within their mind. Their neighbours, their friends, and co-workers all exist as a piece of their own mind rather than as an element of some mind-independent world. 

When we think about it, being a solipsist is a lot like watching a movie. All the people we see, all the emotions we feel, and all the things we learn exist purely on a screen. The only difference being, no one else can see the screen; in part because no one else exists and in part because the screen is the inside of our mind. 

For a solipsist, speaking with a neighbour is like talking to an NPC in a video game which is devoid of other players; for a solipsist, kissing a romantic partner is like kissing yourself in the mirror; for a solipsist, being angry at the world is like self-harm. Solipsists have a fundamentally different existence.

Solipsism is an extremely different metaphysical system when compared to what most people adopt. Most people take a subject-object view, wherein which they are subjects that relate to the objects of their perceptions. But a solipsist holds the view that there exists only a singular subject. The supposed objects of perception, put otherwise, are no more than elements of the singular subject. And as some of you may already expect, not everyone is alright with solipsism. They believe solipsism is not ok.

Fair enough. Solipsism is far from what is normal within metaphysics. But we need more than strangeness to accept that solipsism is not ok. So, what are some reasons to be against solipsism?

The biggest concern often raised against solipsism relates to morality. As said before, solipsism is a strictly subject worldview, and so only one subject exists: namely, you. But, if that is then the case, why would the lives of people matter? Why would a solipsist inconvenience themselves and abide by any social contracts or help other people? After all, others are just NPCs.

Those are fair questions, but I think they hold too many misconceptions about what motivates solipsism. Solipsism is not used to become all powerful. Just because someone becomes the centre of the world does not mean they were after power. Let’s explain.

On the one hand, solipsism doesn’t entail ill-will. Just because someone has become a solipsist does not mean they want to harm others. In fact, a solipsist can very much be a solipsist and likewise desire a world wherein which social contracts are followed. They can even behave in accordance to such a preference. Solipsists can even derive pleasure from helping others, even if those others are just elements of their own consciousness. Perhaps the solipsist wants a pro-social ecosystem in their own consciousness. 

On the other hand, solipsism doesn’t entail control over the world. Certainly, solipsism means everything which exists does so within a subject, but that fails to entail that the contents of consciousness can be bent by will. Solipsists are as passive as realists when it comes to the contents of consciousness. Solipsists cannot control the behaviour of their NPCs, nor can solipsists control the laws of physics within their consciousness. As a result, when a solipsist murders an NPC, the NPC police will come and arrest the solipsist. When the solipsist insults an NPC, that NPC will no longer associate with the solipsist. 

So, clearly, then, being a solipsist does not entail that one must become an evil monster. As with any other worldview, ethics seem to matter; not only because ethics will shape the world around you, but the world around you will concern itself with your ethics. Solipsists need ethics just as much as others do. 

Well, if the ethical argument fails to make solipsism not ok, then what about other arguments? One other argument often raised against solipsism comes from evolution; that is, evolution could not be the case if solipsism were the case. In specific, the theory of adaptation seems incompatible with the notion that everything exists inside a singular consciousness. The forces of natural selection must come from something blind and mindless, a world governed by physics and independent change.

As with the ethical argument against solipsism, this argument seems more legitimate than it actually is. Solipsism is as compatible with evolution as any other metaphysical framework. 

Again, solipsism doesn’t always claim to have some unbending will that controls each and every aspect of conscious experience freely. Solipsism minimally claims that everything which exists does so within a singular consciousness. That claim leaves room for evolution in two ways. 

On the one hand, a solipsist can suppose evolution is beyond conscious appearance; that evolution is whatever comes before conscious appearances. In that case, evolution occurs in the realm of noumena. 

On the other hand, a solipsist can suppose evolution still occurs within the realm of conscious appearance; only because they are not in control of the changes going on within conscious experience. A solipsist is no more responsible for an apple falling than a bird is responsible for their desire to chirp. These are things which are a consequent of the natural forces not contingent upon the solipsists will. In that case, evolution occurs as much as gravity occurs. 

So, solipsists as much as direct realists can believe in evolution without contradiction or inconsistency. And that tends to be the trend for other issues as well.

The counter arguments against solipsism go on even further, such as arguments from God, or arguments from nihilism. But in each instance, where people suppose solipsism is not ok because of x, y or z, solipsism can in fact be just fine. 

In general, those who suppose solipsism is not ok usually do so because they fail to realize that metaphysical frameworks are never really intrinsically incompatible with other non-metaphysical theories. All frameworks, as far as I can tell, can always be re-worked and thus made compatible with other non-metaphysical frameworks; so long as proponents do not adopt exclusionary axioms.

So solipsism is OK.

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Ideasinhat is a business development analyst and longtime reader of academic literature. He writes books and essays on science and philosophy, and posts them to this website. The essays, as with the books, cover topics from psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science to economics, politics, and law.

18 thoughts on “Why Solipsism is OK

  1. The mind and body are the same thing and are both Physical. To claim that nothing physical lyes beyond the limits of your body is delusional, both in time and in space. So where was your mind before you were born?

    1. Hmm. I understand where you are coming from. This relates back to regression. However, your questions presuppose one worldview as being the case rather than another; in specific, you presuppose physicalism.

      I think, therefore, that your comment misses the point. We are to accept a metaphysical viewpoint by means of axioms, which is a standard we must then apply to all frameworks. Solipsism and realism are both axiomatically established.

      I only mention some common counter arguments as a way to demonstrate the ability to cope with any theoretical challenge to solipsism.

      Maybe check the trilemma article I wrote, it’ll help explain.


      1. Does a computer operate physically? Is your WiFi signal physical. Are you physically connected to the Sun and the planets? Is thought then physical? Is emotion physical?

        Physicality includes both the Material and the Non-Material to make up the Physical Universe. There is no such thing as Non-Physical; It’s a fiction created to explain existence in a finite and temporal universe. By the inadequacy of this fundamental assumption, it requires a God who is Infinite, and Eternal to explain the universe. It’s an unnecessary middle man that serves no real purpose.
        The Eastern religions assume an Infinite and Eternal Universe and are Godless! The Eastern assertion is correct based upon scientific evidence about the Gaussian curvature of SpaceTime itself….its zero!

      2. That’s a perfectly ok viewpoint, but it is one level less meta than the point I was trying to make.

        Maybe read my essay on skepticism (linked above), it should clarify my viewpoint.

      3. Solipsism is not a valid theory because it maintains that the solipsist is the sufficient cause of the rest of the universe, and that the rest of the universe serves that person. This would make you God, the creator and ultimate all knowing omnipresent entity that everything else was dependent on. It’s pure vanity, narcissism and is fundamentally sociopathic and maladaptive to living in reality.

      4. It doesn’t suppose that, though. Solipsism comes in different theories.

        At any rate, if you study skepticism, you’ll soon realize you have no “justification” to exclude other sets of axioms that you seem to find objectionable.

      5. Sure I do if I’m dealing with facts first and working up to conclusions instead of establishing and abstract Platonic ideal and then searching for justification. You’ve got it ass backwards!

  2. I think you make an error in the morality argument.

    The solipsist has no reason to behave ethically however or care about others because there are no others. Even if they do get arrested it still would not motivate them to behave ethically because there is no subject for them to behave ethically towards. You can’t be ethical with just yourself. You have mangled the morality argument because the very foundations of moral and ethical behavior collapse under a framework with solipsism. A solipsist has no reason to behave ethically.

    Furthermore solipsism does imply that you ARE god, since you are the only thing that exists according to solipsism and all this exists in your mind, therefor you should have utter control as you would in a lucid dream (where everything is in your head). If you are all there is and everything is in your consciousness then you are effectively God and there should be nothing out of reach. With you being God, how can you account for everything in existence if you didn’t make it?

    There is also the language argument, and the evolution argument does hurt solipsism as well, but mostly that a solipsist cannot claim truth without the existence of others as “truth” and “false” hood only make sense or exist against a backdrop of intersubjectivity.

    Solipsism is not OK, because the more you poke at it the more you see how it fails to hold up. Because solipsism doesn’t argue anything, it only asserts YOU without anything else.

    1. How does solipsism entail the negation of morality? That only works if you PRESUPPOSE, that is, YOU ASSUME, morality requires goodness toward another person.

      I don’t have to accept that axiom, nor do solipsists. As far as I am concerned, morality means labelling things as either good or bad.

      And a solipsist can indeed do that, if they so desire. Again, solipsism doesn’t entail one must reject morality or be evil.

      Lastly, you should be careful about conflating notions of God. Everyone views God differently, not everyone thinks God is all powerful.

      At the end of the day, all worldviews are based on unjustified axioms, including your own.

      1. I would reread your comments section as it appears you don’t understand the use of axioms or skepticism.

        One does not presuppose morality is goodness to another person, because that is literally how it is conceived and used. Morality is null without the existence of other minds, period. To become a Solipsist is essentially to reject morality

        Not every worldview is based on unjustified axioms either. Realism from what I can tell is based on justified axioms while solipsism is not. You misapply the trilemma here.

        I’m with the comments section, it seems you don’t understand philosophy well enough to apply it. Let’s not forget that a Solipsist cannot argue their point either without abandoning it. Language itself does a good job of blowing a hole in the solipsism argument they can’t address, among many other ones.

        So no, solipsism is not ok. It’s weak and falls apart under questioning. Plus as far as I know the trilemma is lot a problem in contemporary philosophy so you quoting it means nothing. It sounds more like laziness to me. You cite the realist but really you can cite anything there. The problem with your questioning the senses is that you can’t do that without sensation. We can’t get outside our own skin. Regardless of what you believe sensation is how we gather data about the world, to discount that would mean you have nothing to build on at all. Every belief starts with that axiom. I’d also like to say that science proves you wrong about the trilemma in that all beliefs are the same. So far I haven’t seen any conception of god have the impact science does or achieve what science does.

        We might ultimately base things on axioms but that doesn’t mean every belief is the same. I also looked into psychological egoism, it’s a very weak position to hold and isn’t supported by evidence.

        TLDR: you don’t understand philosophy

      2. Ian Corral, who made you the authority on the definition of morality? lol.

        Also, which argumentation form is: “one does not presuppose morality is goodness to another person, because that is literally how it is CONCEIVED and USED, (B) morality is null without the existence of other minds, (C), therefore being a solipsist is to reject morality.

        Seems a lot like “A and B are true because I said so; therefore, C is true”. Or otherwise put, you’re presupposing A and B are true.

        Also, just out of meme-sake, if 2+2 is CONCEIVED and USED as being equal to 6, does that also mean it is absolutely true?

        Double also, there is no such thing as a justified axiom. The word, by definition, excludes justification. In justification literature, things that are self-evidently true are called non-inferential truths, non-propositional truths, or foundational properties. They aren’t axioms. Axioms, by definition, are assumed, presupposes, or regarded as true without evidence.

        At any rate, you’ve only managed to assert a ton of unjustified stuff, all which fails to NECESSARILY entail solipsists reject morality.

        Explain to me, why I am not allowed to behave with good intentions towards a tree or a rock? Surely, morality isn’t determined by the other person perceiving my actions as moral, because if that’s the case, then Ian I perceive you as being very immoral all the time. And you can never be a moral person, lol.

      3. It’s not really an authority but using the definition of morality. IF you are going to start changing definitions in the name of “skepticism” then you have no grounds for using philosophy as a vehicle.

        Nothing I have asserted fails to show that solipsism does not assert morality, because it can’t. Morality involves agents with agency and choice, in a world of solipsism this fails because there are no other agents. Your intentions might be good but there is no benefit or harm being done to a rock or tree because such things don’t have that capacity.

        Like, You keep citing the trilema but are ignorant of it’s use or meaning. Morality is a bit more complex but suffice to say it does entail another perceiving actions as moral, not just you. Even if you call me immoral it means nothing because it’s just you. Morality requires a social setting, which is impossible under solipsism.

        I don’t know specifics, but suffice to say you are in the wrong here.

      4. Here are some google definitions of morality:

        1) a particular system of values and principles of conduct.

        2) the extent to which an action is right or wrong.

        3) principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.

        As far as I can tell, none of this requires other minds. A single mind is capable of all these things.

        At any rate, you keep flip-flopping in your positions now. You went from conception and usage, to social setting…which is still usage but with a fancier word, lol.

        I think I will let others decide for themselves, my point was made sufficiently clear, I believe.

        Thanks for the dialogue.

      5. Your point is incorrect. Morality requires other minds and a social setting. It is meaningless otherwise. Everything you have described only works in a social setting or with other minds. Wittgenstein already proved that “right and wrong” are meaningless (as is truth and falsehood) without the backdrop of a social setting.

        The fact you can’t accept that morality is incompatible with solipsism says more about you than solipsism itself. As I have said, you don’t understand philosophy and just cling to the trilema. The two are incompatible, period.

        To reiterate, solipsism is NOT ok. It falls apart under questioning unlike most other schools.

  3. Except ethics doesn’t function within solipsism. Neither would evolution or anything else. Solipsism is suggesting that you are the only one that exists, therefor ethics becomes a moot point because you cannot treat other’s well because there are no others.

    What you call “others” have no feelings or emotions, in short they don’t exist. Ethics only applies if other parties exist and in fact are conscious. In short they are little more than rocks if you want to put it that way.

    Also if the solipsist wants to claim that they are the only thing they can confirm exists then by extension everything else is a projection of their mind or created by it. For your argument saying that these things aren’t so would entail solipsism to be false.

    In short, solipsism is NOT ok.

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