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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