Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist.

Does there exist a term to define the concept that one only exists due to one's perception and interpretation by others' minds?

In other words, one only finds existential quantification through validation by others; what is this called?

  • Constructivism and immaterialism might be worth investigating in this context, though neither is quite what you seem to be curious about -- is there any chance you might be able to share a little bit more about why this might have become an interesting or important question for you in terms of your study of philosophy?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Apr 9, 2015 at 2:38
  • 1
    While I was walking to my car from my programming job the other day, I began to curiously consider whether there was an inversion to the term solipsism that I'd come across years before. Strange enough thing for a software geek to ponder, I suppose.
    – sws
    Apr 10, 2015 at 3:32
  • 4
    "What is the inverse of solipsism?" "Well, what do you think?" Apr 13, 2015 at 22:38
  • The opposite view seems to be 'To be is to be perceived', which would lead you to Whitehead and his ideas. I don't know of an 'ism' that is quite the opposite of solipsism. .
    – user20253
    Jun 3, 2019 at 13:29
  • Sunyata, also called dependent origination, or interpenetration. And illustrated by Indra's Net en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra%27s_net (understood with anatta, no persistent or independent self)
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 29, 2021 at 2:27

1 Answer 1


In Kohut's self-psychology, the notion of the parents as an infant's selfobjects comes close to supposing this. So one answer might be 'self-psychology'.

Kohut avoids defining the self, so it is impossible to know whether he supposes the self would exist without them, but the parents are not conceived of by Kohut as truly separate from the self of the infant early in development. They are its 'selfobjects', the things out of which its 'self' is really made.

Going beyond Klein's notion that an infant introjects the world, pulling important objects into itself in phantasy to be rid of the anxiety about their absence, Kohut sees the self itself as truly made up of attachments to objects (mostly people, despite the word).

In the same way a transitional object like a favorite stuffed toy can become a replacement for continual holding, another object can take the place of a selfobject out of necessity, but the need for some connection back to the original remains real. (At some point Mommy can set him down at will, but if the 'wubby' is lost, the child falls apart.)

In the most direct application of the theory, for an addict, the substance and the feeling of being in an altered state of mind can be selfobjects that have replaced earlier selfobjects like maternal regard and the giddiness of being regarded.

Deprived of selfobjects, one's self lacks cohesion and one 'fragments'. Narcissistically healthy people have a broad enough set of associations to selfobjects and clear enough internal images to evoke those associations, that they are never truly deprived of them. Though even healthy people, placed in a foreign enough environment, may begin to fragment due to a lack of reminders and experiences of their selfobjects.

(Of course this has to do with selfhood, not existence. Someone could exist entirely as an extension of another person, with a common self. It seems to me that we do so in the womb and continue to do so for a while as infants. Of course that does not mean that fetuses or infants have no physical existence.)

  • After careful consideration, this is the type of definition I was seeking: the relationship between the self and its selfobjects. Thanks for your contribution!
    – sws
    Apr 10, 2015 at 3:30

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