If we say that the burden of proof is on the one making the claim and thus we should only believe in something if we have proof and should otherwise discard it, than the saying that an external world exists ( which has no proof ) logically shouldnt be beleived and should thus solipsism is the logically more believable theory, am I correct or have I misunderstood the idea of burden of proof claims?

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    If solipsism were true, how could there be a burden of proof at all? The one mind would be the only being upon whom the burden could be placed, would it not? Do I have a burden to prove to myself that I exist, or that others do or don't? Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 14:50
  • @KristianBerry Decent question. One would have to establish that epistemic virtue or epistemic obligation doesn't require a social context.
    – Hokon
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 19:50

3 Answers 3


No, the burden of proof is simply a convention that says that if you make a claim you should be prepared to back it up with evidence if evidence is needed. It applies as much to someone who claims that solipsism is the truth as it does to someone who claims it isn't.

  • Thanks for answering!, I see now that i misunderstood the concept but I have another question, if we follow occams razor ( the theory with the fewest assumptions should be selected ) then would we have to logically accept solipsism as it has far fewer assumptions then belief in an external world? Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 3:44
  • @Rayyankhan although there is a version of Occam's razor that is quantitative rather than qualitative, the former is not often preferred among philosophers. And ultimately, almost every theory whatsoever has the same number of general assumptions (a countably infinite number of them), i.e. there are countably many countable theories. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 11:37
  • Why isn't the quantitative version in more use? And dosent solipism have fewer assumptions then most theories, I thought that was the appeal ( please correct me if I'm mistaken ) Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 12:07
  • @Rayyankhan when applying Occam's razor you have to factor in the validity of the assumptions as well as their number. A theory with a hundred sensible assumptions can be better than one with a single nonsensical assumption. Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 12:50

Demanding a burden of proof is suggesting that when somebody is making a positive claim about something, they should be the one to provide the proof. Essentially, they are trying to change your mind about something and that requires them to do more than simply make the claim.

Solipsism isn't a default position

Solipsism isn't a default position. It is not trying to say that there is no external world, but that the external world, if it exists, cannot be discerned undeniably. Making that claim itself is something which required a burden of proof and proof was supplied, but it did not prove that it was some default position.

However, you may be getting at something deeper here. If nothing is undeniably true (outside of the cogito), then how could we actually provide burden of proof for anything outside of Solipsism? This is a good and important question, and there's multiple schools of thought.

Changing One's Mind

One thing to consider is that every person already, for whatever reason, has some views about the world before they arrived at Solipsism. Therefore, it could be argued that the burden of proof is not to find some actual truth, but instead to persuade a person to change their mind. In this case, for instance, if somebody already happened to believe in leprechauns, then it would be my burden of proof to prove to them that leprechauns are not real or perhaps that they at least should not believe in them. In this method, we would apply the concept of defeasibility where we may be rationally justified in believing a thing until we are made aware of a defeater for that belief, and we must then seek to defeat that defeater or abandon the belief.

Questioning Solipsism

But what if the thing you have been convinced to be defeated is the belief in your own set of core beliefs? Or what if your currently held belief happens to be Solipsism alone? You might then ask if there is any defeater to that or if there could be some proof provided of a different set of core beliefs. This is much more challenging. This is exacerbated by the fact that, in reality, we may come to hold beliefs through many different methods, such as habit and emotion. So, one potential method might be to provide emotional proofs. These are not subject to the laws of reason which forced Solipsism in the first place.

Impetus and Reason

You may have balked at the suggestion to use emotional appeal. That is because when you ask the question, you are already implying that reason is a more reliable tool and that you should use the more reliable tool. If this is the case, you already have something more than pure Solipsism (and if not, how did you arrive at Solipsism in the first place?) Solipsism provides no warrant for reason nor for impetus. Just because I might be deceived does not mean that I am certainly deceived, and if there is nothing outside of myself, then there would be no impetus to believe any specific thing. Thus, you now have warrant to believe something outside of Solipsism and some standards which must be met. You could try out each potential claim to sets of core beliefs to see which ones best account for reason and which provide reasonable impetus to believe at all. The burden of proof would not be to prove that something is true undeniably, but only that the belief is reasonable and that you should believe it.

  • I see, Thanks for giving such a detailed answer!, but if I could ask you another question regarding this, does occams razor make it so as solipsism should logically be followed as it has fewer assumptions than belief in an external world? Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 3:47
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    @Rayyankhan First, the positive belief that there is nothing external does require an assumption, and there may be other beliefs which only require a single assumption as well. But Occam's Razor states "all things being equal." Solipsism is not close to being equal with other sets of beliefs if for no other reasons than the ones stated. It's "think of horses, not zebras," not "Assume the hoofbeats are an illusion."
    – DKing
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 5:52

So you think that the world is your idea? I know that I am a conscious being and can think. I can reasonably infer the existence of other minds. Using reason to analyse evidence, it appears that the universe has certain properties. What makes you think that there is no proof that the universe exists? Solipsism is a peculiar view. The burden of proof is on the solipsist to prove that the universe does not exist. Just because we can consider something does not make it worthy of consideration. Yes, you have misunderstood.

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