How would one choose between Solipsism and Realism/materialism?

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  • #26
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Jislaaik. If this is really my godlike subconscious instead of reality then it truly is a separate entity from me. I reckon I'll fall back onto the pantheistic worldview I had before, it makes the most sense whether reality is real or not.

"we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively" - Bill Hicks

Now I'll definitely wait till someone else responds.


If you are dismayed at all the nonsense, stupidity and wrong-doings you see and hear around you, it very likely doesn't have anything to do with you or your consciousness or subconsciousness. You are not going to get a much better argument.
 
  • #27
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If you are dismayed at all the nonsense, stupidity and wrong-doings you see and hear around you, it very likely doesn't have anything to do with you or your consciousness or subconsciousness. You are not going to get a much better argument.
Meh, probably the best argument so far.

Anyway, I still say that solipsism doesn't help explain anything in the world.
 
  • #28
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Meh, probably the best argument so far.

Anyway, I still say that solipsism doesn't help explain anything in the world.
Well it is maybe the only thing to be able to correctly describe solipsism. Try to explain solipsism by just using realism.

So I agree it doesn't explain much and definitely not something that has ever aided me in anything as far as I know, but it did explain something.
 
  • #29
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Well it is maybe the only thing to be able to correctly describe solipsism. Try to explain solipsism by just using realism.

So I agree it doesn't explain much and definitely not something that has ever aided me in anything as far as I know, but it did explain something.
It doesn't even seem that solipsism can explain itself. All it states is that all that can be known is the existence of the self/mind. It can't even explain what that mind is or where it came from etc.

Realism at least gives us the ability to attempt to explain the world we experience, and it works very well.
 
  • #30
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Realism at least gives us the ability to attempt to explain the world we experience, and it works very well.

I would sum up the situation as follows - there are at least a thousand very good reasons to believe realism/materialism is true. There are however several very good reasons to believe it might be false. If the number of arguments were the deciding criterion, realism would win hands-down.
 
  • #31
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I would sum up the situation as follows - there are at least a thousand very good reasons to believe realism/materialism is true. There are however several very good reasons to believe it might be false. If the number of arguments were the deciding criterion, realism would win hands-down.
And how many of those reasons against realism aren't for other things like the simulation hypothesis etc.
 
  • #32
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And how many of those reasons against realism aren't for other things like the simulation hypothesis etc.


I'd say zero. I don't consider the simulation hypothesis as being detrimental to realism. As its name says - it's just a hypothesis(a shot in the dark). Hardly one of the very good reasons i mentioned earlier :)
 
  • #33
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I'd say zero. I don't consider the simulation hypothesis as being detrimental to realism. As its name says - it's just a hypothesis(a shot in the dark). Hardly one of the very good reasons i mentioned earlier :)
And other than that there are actual good reasons against realism? And good reasons for realism?
 
  • #34
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And other than that there are actual good reasons against realism? And good reasons for realism?

There are known foundational issues with realism in physics that cannot be resolved at present. Google 'realism physics' as this can't be summerized in one post.

As for good reasons for sticking to realism - it's dubious if you'd be able to come up with a single example from your lifetime that is at odds with realism. Note however, that this doesn't mean that realism is true. There are more twists to realism than its methaphysical definition. Lots of physicists believe that reality exists apart from one's conscious awareness of it, but as a tendency that gets actualized upon one's inquiry/interaction with it(your classical physical body being a distinctly different entity). Or it gets actualized based on a process called decoherence. In all cases, our physical notions are undergoing a severe change and realism is one of those notions that is permanently on the table.
 
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  • #35
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3. All my thinking is based on logic (I can't doubt logic without using logic).
I'm not sure about this because philosophers have argued that Descarte's argument is based on "I think, I exist" and not on logic "I think, therefore I exist". So, when I'm thinking, I exist; otherwise, who's doing the thinking?
 
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  • #36
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I'm not sure about this because philosophers have argued that Descarte's argument is based on "I think, I exist" and not on logic "I think, therefore I exist". So, when I'm thinking, I exist; otherwise, who's doing the thinking?
You're still using a type of logic here. If you didn't how would you doubt? Hell, if you used no logic you could come to the conclusion that "I think, I am a non-existent tree that doesn't exist while existing"
 
  • #37
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But could one not also come from the direction, "ok I've doubted everything, memories, reality, and I can only be certain of my own existence. So prove to me that reality exists or I won't believe it".
Until/unless Morpheus and the gang come to rescue me from my ignorant bliss I feel compelled to believe that solipsism is a fantasy.
 
  • #38
quen_tin
I suggest you read Wittgenstein "on certainty". Wittgenstein shows that doubt is not always grounded, for you must have some prior knowledge or conception, some kind of "framework", to actually doubt of something, and then this framework is beyond doubt.

I think this is relevant to solipsism. I think solipsism is not something you should believe or not believe in. Both believing in it or not believing in it is actually a nonsense, a kind of fiction that is not performative. Even asking the question of solipsism is mistaking reality for something it is not.

This is also to be related with pragmatist conceptions of truth: a belief is true if you can act successfully on its basis. As Peirce observed, we never escape our mental realm, and the notions of subjectivity / objectivity are only relevant inside that realm (objectivity refers to something that has more stability when varying viewpoints, something more "general"). In that sense there is no "God viewpoint" nor any absolute objectivity nor any transcendant truth, this again is a pure fiction of the mind. Asking if other people really exist or not is not something that can be true or false. It is not a belief on the basis of which you could act in a way or another.

Another way to put it is to call "reality" the thing you are aware of. You live inside reality, you act inside it, etc. Saying "there is a chair" is not meaning that some transcendant object exists outside you, it is meaning that there is something you are aware of and you can interact with. Similarly, just call "other people" the people you interact with, take them for how they are given to you in your experience. Wondering about their true nature is a fallacy: there are only interactions.

A last way to put it is to view solipsism not as a doubt on reality, not as a negative claim (the absence of something), but as a positive claim: if you are solipsist, then you think that there is some kind of illusion that makes you believe that people are not "real people". But are there any good reason to believe that there is such an illusion? Is there a kind of God tricking you? What evidence of that do you have? On the contrary, if you just interact with "real people" as they are given to you, without thinking that there is something like their "true nature", illusory or not, that you could grasp beyond appearences, then you are not making any positive claim and there is nothing you can doubt. You just have to live, concretely, within your mental realm and through the representation of reality that best fit with your experience.

Finally you might be interested in buddhists or hinduists conceptions of mind and reality (antic indian philosophy).
 
  • #39
quen_tin
About Wittgenstein: my summary is very poor. I suggest you read it if you haven't.
 
  • #40
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Thanks quen tin. Your answer is fantastic, and exactly what I have been thinking about this subject for a while (since wuliheron's responses at least!). I have been thinking of reading that Wittgenstein work, since it looks like it could help me in this regard.

And yes, I have been looking at some buddhist and hindu ideas as well as a few ideas.
 
  • #41
Khashishi
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While solipsism is unfalsifiable, it is not immune to attack. (Isn't everything unfalsifiable at some level?) We can base our beliefs on various principles which aren't provable but are reasonable and powerful. Some examples of these principles are Occham's razor and the cosmological principle.

If solipsism is true, then the only constraints on the universe are the constraints of my mind. Yet, the universe seems to make far more sense than anything my mind could come up with. It seems to obey all sorts of physical laws. On the other hand, there is a rich complexity of phenomenon in the universe which I do not understand in detail, yet I am discovering more about through study of physics.

The universe CANNOT be all in my conscious mind, because how can it be the case that I can learn things about the universe which I didn't know before, yet all these facts fit together in a consistent framework which describe a universe which already exists in my mind? That cannot be so, unless my mind has multiple layers, and my conscious mind is exceedingly feeble in computation compared with my "overmind" which actually imagines the universe. But, if this is the case, then why even consider the overmind to be me at all? Why not just call this overmind the real universe?

Secondly, why would my mind create a human body for me which is the same as other human bodies in my universe. Except that my body is somehow special, because I inhabit it. This symmetry doesn't make any sense.

Basically, solipsism is ridiculous.
 
  • #42
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The universe CANNOT be all in my conscious mind, because how can it be the case that I can learn things about the universe which I didn't know before, yet all these facts fit together in a consistent framework which describe a universe which already exists in my mind? That cannot be so, unless my mind has multiple layers, and my conscious mind is exceedingly feeble in computation compared with my "overmind" which actually imagines the universe. But, if this is the case, then why even consider the overmind to be me at all? Why not just call this overmind the real universe?

Basically, solipsism is ridiculous.
this is the exact conclusion that I came to when I was first confronted with this idea. Sure you can still argue that it is not theoretically impossible but it is so ridiculous and improbable that it is foolish to accept it as a philosophy...also it is pointless to adopt this thought style ...

anyway I like to think of philosophy as a way of "weight lifting" for my brain haha
 
  • #43
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The private language argument handles this one nicely. In short: there can be no private language, and if solipsism were true, all the language that I, myself, am acquainted with, would be private. So solipsism is false. If you're in doubt as to whether the premise that there can be no private language is true, then read the link.
 
  • #44
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The private language argument handles this one nicely. In short: there can be no private language, and if solipsism were true, all the language that I, myself, am acquainted with, would be private. So solipsism is false. If you're in doubt as to whether the premise that there can be no private language is true, then read the link.
I think one can question that argument in that article, although I think strict solipsism is just silly. In particular, it depends on how one defines "language". See section entitled: "Chomskyans treat something essentially social as if it were essentially individual" of this article:
But it does seem to me that a community view, even if not Kripke's, seems plausible to philosophers because they start out with an empirically falsifiable, and false, picture of language generalized from their local (usually Oxford) experience. I think it is worth pausing to correct this false picture.
Wittgensteinians and Chomskyans: In Defence of Mentalism
http://www.selectedworks.co.uk/wittgensteinianschomskyans.html [Broken]

Here's another piece questioning the premise that "language" (at least I-language) serves primarily social functions like communication:
Language can of course be used for communication, as can any aspect of what we do: style of dress, gesture, and so on. And it can be and commonly is used for much else. Statistically speaking, for whatever that is worth, the overwhelming use of language is internal – for thought. It takes an enormous act of will to keep from talking to oneself in every waking moment – and asleep as well, often a considerable annoyance. The distinguished neurologist Harry Jerison (1977:55) among others expressed a stronger view, holding that “language did not evolve as a communication system…. the initial evolution of language is more likely to have been…for the construction of a real world,” as a “tool for thought.” Not only in the functional dimension, but also in all other respects – semantic, syntactic, morphological and phonological – the core properties of human language appear to differ sharply from animal communication systems, and to be largely unique in the organic world.
The Biolinguistic Program: The Current State of its Evolution and Development
http://www.punksinscience.org/klean...L/material/Berwick-Chomsky_Biolinguistics.pdf
 
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  • #45
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I think one can question that argument in that article, although I think strict solipsism is just silly. In particular, it depends on how one defines "language". See section entitled: "Chomskyans treat something essentially social as if it were essentially individual" of this article:

Wittgensteinians and Chomskyans: In Defence of Mentalism
http://www.selectedworks.co.uk/wittgensteinianschomskyans.html [Broken]
Interesting article, but I don't think it stops the application of the private language argument to solipsism. The article rejects the kind of scepticism that solipsism (and the private language argument, possibly) relies on, whereas the private language argument (as it applies to solipsism) assumes such scepticism and uses that scepticism against solipsism. What I mean is, this article appears to operate at a different level than the discussion in this thread.

I'll read the other article later. Thanks for the links.
 
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  • #46
quen_tin
Solipsism is no falsifiable per se.
The private language argument is only valid to the extent that other people exist and that communication is possible (i.e. that solipsism is false from the start). Therefore it does not prove that solipsism is false, since it is a prerequisite.
 
  • #47
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The private language argument is only valid to the extent that other people exist and that communication is possible (i.e. that solipsism is false from the start). Therefore it does not prove that solipsism is false, since it is a prerequisite.
Keep in mind that proving that language is public is only one prong of the argument. Proving that language cannot be private is the important part, as far as solipsism is concerned, and this part does not rely on the existence of other people.
 
  • #48
quen_tin
Keep in mind that proving that language is public is only one prong of the argument. Proving that language cannot be private is the important part, as far as solipsism is concerned, and this part does not rely on the existence of other people.
That's wrong. The argument is based on the fact that a private language would have no meaning and would appear arbitrary for someone else. Therefore, someone else's existence is required for the sake of the argument : it is invalid within solipsism.
 
  • #49
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he argument is based on the fact that a private language would have no meaning and would appear arbitrary for someone else.
I think you may have misunderstood the private language argument. The argument uses memory skepticism to show that a private language is unintelligible even to the person for whom it is supposedly private.
 
  • #50
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Hey guys. I know this has been discussed many times before on here and you are probably sick of it, but I'm having a problem.

My question is slightly different from the usual "please refute solipsism" questions. I don't care about refuting it with absolute certainty. However, my problem lies between choosing what to believe. Frankly at this moment I don't know what is more logical to believe.

Why? Because Solipsism is unfalsifiable. But at the same time, is not reality unfalsifiable?

One could approach this from 2 directions. The general response is, "Yes, it's a possibility, but prove to me that this world is an illusion".

But could one not also come from the direction, "ok I've doubted everything, memories, reality, and I can only be certain of my own existence. So prove to me that reality exists or I won't believe it".

Does the last one seem logical?

I'm stuck and I'm actually quite anxious over this whole thing (I have been through this solipsism thing once before, but it seems my doubt didn't go deep enough and now I'm stuck in this situation again).

Thanks for the help guys!
There are a few philosophical traps from which one can't escape using logic because they are, in fact, logically defensible (as absurdly contrived as they may be). One is the immortal "it was meant to happen" statement. For example, whenever an event occurs that most of us believe occurred by chance, such as a nuclear decay, some smartass can say "it happened because it was meant to happen" or "God makes it happen...every...single...time..." and this can go on and on. There is no point arguing against this point of view. It is a brick wall.

Solipsism is the same way. It is as utterly defensible as it is utterly depressing. There is no reason to take a solipsistic point of view except to be a contrarian. It adds no benefit and can potentially skew your philosophies on moral responsibility. For my personal benefit, I abandoned solipsism long ago. It was not a choice made by logic but rather by utility! :D
 

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