If you are an Idealistic Solipsist, is it not true that you must say "I am a Solipsist." or "I am the Solipsist."?

One cannot say "I am one of the Solipsists" for example. Are there other counterexamples?

  • Counter examples to what? Why would it be true that you must say "I am a solipsist"?
    – virmaior
    Jul 10, 2015 at 1:54
  • Good point, I need to clarify that the type of solipsism I am referring to is an Idealistic Solipsism.
    – hellyale
    Jul 10, 2015 at 2:06
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    Why would a solipsist bother even referring to himself as a solipsist? As far as the solipsist is concerned non-solipsists do not exist.
    – David H
    Jul 10, 2015 at 2:23
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    "I obviously invented solipsism." - Dean Cavanagh. Maybe we should ask him. Any "I am one of many" may provide a counterexample.
    – nwr
    Jul 10, 2015 at 2:42
  • @David H Boredom I presume, an attempt to give ones life some meaning. I think it would be the only way a Solopsist could stay sane.
    – hellyale
    Jul 10, 2015 at 3:51

3 Answers 3


Solipsism can be more subtle than that, Berkeley's for example, although there is a linguistic disagreement on whether to classify his philosophy as solipsism, and Berkeley denied the label. Basically he contends that "to be is to be perceived" (esse est percipi), there is no material or physical substrate to that, and each soul has a whole perceived world all to itself. In this Berkeley anticipated Kant's idea of appearances (phenomena).

This does not mean that there can be no other souls however. According to Berkeley God is one of them, and so are other people. God produces perceptions in each other soul independently however, so there is no shared world in any sense, and they are all solipsists. See Grey's The Solipsism of Bishop Berkeley.

Wittgenstein makes a cryptic remark in the Tractatus, which is perhaps the only "endorsement" of solipsism by a major philosopher

"In fact what solipsism intends is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but it shows itself. That the world is my world shows itself in the fact that the limits of language (the language, which I alone understand) means the limits of my world."

According to Hintikka's On Wittgenstein's `Solipsism', the parenthetical phrase is a mistranslation, and should instead read "the only language that I understand". He also argues that what Wittgenstein thought solipsism intends to say is different from what most philosophers take it to say.

  • Always a fan of Berkeley, great links I'll read them more soon. I actually had Berkeley in mind when I asked the question. However... you have yet to answer the question. Maybe answer it from Berkeley's perspective, apply it to the 3 sentences provided, and maybe add other sentences Berkeley might have had issue with under his view? I up voted regardless as it is completely relevant, if not complete. ;-)
    – hellyale
    Jul 10, 2015 at 22:04
  • top 5% this year, that is impressive. Would you be interested in working together to give the Berkeley tag a wiki? It is a tag that would stand alone on questions, according to what I learned on the meta this is necessary.
    – hellyale
    Jul 10, 2015 at 22:08
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    @hellyale Berkeley denied the label, so he would say no to all three. If I had to do it for him against his wishes I'd say no to "I am the solipsist" since there is God and I am clearly not him, yes to "I am a solipsist" without the cap, and yes to "I am one of solipsists" without "the". I am ashamed to say, but I never dealt with tag wikis before, are they the little blurbs that appear when you hold mouse over a tag?
    – Conifold
    Jul 10, 2015 at 22:27
  • yes that is what the tag wikis are. I can get drafts that we can revise together until ready for a pitch on the meta. I like your answer as it indeed captures Berkeley as he did not seem bothered by the problem of other minds and did believe in God. A complete answer I think though would be from the perspective of an Idealistic Solipsist,which Berkeley most certainly wasn't the later. In other words, I think Berkeley would certainly say no to "I am a solipsist" as well. Thoughts on this?
    – hellyale
    Jul 10, 2015 at 23:25
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    See his On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects press.princeton.edu/titles/8921.html, his philosophy is called Egocentric Presentism. I'll check this thread on Monday.
    – Conifold
    Jul 11, 2015 at 1:05

If you are a solipsist, from your point of view you would only be talking to yourself anyway. So you could say whatever you wanted.

If you are a (presumably external) interlocutor trying to catch a solipsist in an implicit contradiction, there will probably be plenty of opportunities. Even if the solipsist has no actual belief in the existence of others, the solipsist still needs to behave and speak as if the solipsist does believe in their existence to make any progress at all through this illusion we call life.

  • Excellent points. For the record I am not a Solipsist. To the first paragraph : You still would use a logical langauge as a Solipsist wouldn't you? Even if you did believe you were talking to yourself I think it seems so...
    – hellyale
    Jul 10, 2015 at 3:50
  • +1 I made an edit for my own clarification. I am reading the posts about Berkeley to better understand this philosopher. Jul 22, 2018 at 23:55

If solipsism is the thesis that only I exist, then Berkeley was certainly not a solipsist since a major burden of his argument in the Principles is that all that exist are his and other minds or spirits and their ideas. Spirits crucially include God; and while Berkeley was a Bishop I don't believe he credited himself with divinity.

I don't think 'Idealism' comes into the picture. It is indifferent to solipsism whether the 'I' that alone exists is mental, spiritual or material. But your question suggests possibilities for plurality, paradoxical as that might appear.

How so ? Like this. It is a logical possibility that while only I exist, I consist of multiple selves, minds or spirits. (This is nothing like Berkeley's account.) Being the only thing that exists does not exclude having a plural identity. See Kathleeen V. Wilkes, Real People: Personal Identity without Thought Experiments, ISBN 10: 0198249551 / ISBN 13: 9780198249559, Oxford University Press, 1988 : 109-128.

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