[TLDR: is the argument in the last quotation a fallacy?]
I'm an (academic) engineer, and I've been reading some papers on cybernetics from the 1950s and 60s. I found it striking how often the authors go off on seemingly unnecessary philosophical tangents, and some of the arguments I've seen come across as dubious at best.
I wanted to share one such example with you, to see if you also think it's pretentious and even worse - just plain wrong.
It's from a highly-cited paper called "On self-organizing systems and their environments", by a person who seems like he was a bigshot at the time. The author states he will be addressing the question:
"How much order can our system assimilate from its environment, if any at all?"
and proceeds to say that:
Before tackling this question, I have to take two more hurdles, both of which represent problems concerned with the environment. [...] I am first of all obliged to show in which sense we may talk about the existence of such an environment.
Frankly, I fail to understand why the author needs to tackle an age-old philosophical dilemma within the scope of a scientific paper, but alas:
The first problem I am going to eliminate is perhaps one of the oldest philosophical problems with which mankind has had to live. [...] We may insist that introspection does not permit us to decide whether the world as we see it is “real,” or just a phantasmagory, a dream, an illusion of our fancy.
Anyway, here's the argument he uses to show this, which to my philosophically-untrained eyes, seems cursory at best, and probably a fallacy. I was wondering if philosophers would share my view:
Assume for the moment that I am the successful business man with the bowler hat in Fig. 2, and I insist that I am the sole reality, while everything else appears only in my imagination. I cannot deny that in my imagination there will appear people, scientists, other successful businessmen, etc., as for instance in this conference. Since I find these apparitions in many respects similar to myself, I have to grant them the privilege that they themselves may insist that they are the sole reality and everything else is only a concoction of their imagination. On the other hand, they cannot deny that their fantasies will be populated by people—and one of them may be I, with bowler hat and everything!
With this we have closed the circle of our contradiction: If I assume that I am the sole reality, it turns out that I am the imagination of somebody else, who in turn assumes that he is the sole reality. Of course, this paradox is easily resolved, by postulating the reality of the world in which we happily thrive.
Having re-established reality [...]