Here is yet another opportunity for philosophy to shine:

Let it refute solipsism.

If the question is going to turn on what solipsism is, there are probably more interesting words to look up in the dictionary.

But if solipsism cannot be refuted, why should philosophy be taken seriously?

BTW This is a serious question - if it is marked down, is reason too much to expect?

  • You can see Solipsism and the Problem of Other Minds for an introduction to tmhe topic, with bibliography. See more specifically para.7. The Incoherence of Solipsism. Jul 3, 2018 at 9:37
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    Hello, and welcome to Philosophy SE. Saying "Let philosophy refute solipsism" is not a question. Your entire post is next to rambling, and more akin to a forum post instead of a question intended for Stack Exchange. Please take some time to read through the help section, looking particularly on the sections stating what kind of questions are suitable for Philosophy SE and which ones are not.
    – MichaelK
    Jul 3, 2018 at 11:15
  • @MichaelK I politely asked for reasons, and you come back with a statement of your dissatisfaction. If you cannot detect a question in my post then you could benefit from spending some time on erotetics.
    – Baby Boy
    Jul 3, 2018 at 23:19
  • As Johnson said when asked to refute Berkeley's idealism, "I refute it thus!" and kicked a stone. Many things, perhaps most, can't be definitively refuted and many, perhaps most, people don't take philosophy seriously, so not much is at stake. Solipsism is incoherent because it is incoherent to say "I define all other minds as not being minds," a tautology in reverse. And such incoherence or impossibility of determination is a pretty good sort of demonstration. Yet on the other hand... Oct 26, 2020 at 18:26
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    I'd respond but it's feeding time in my vat. Gotta go.
    – user4894
    Oct 26, 2020 at 19:55

3 Answers 3


There are philosophers suggesting exactly that. To quote the promotion text of the recent book What Do Philosophers Do?: Skepticism and the Practice of Philosophy by Penelope Maddy (Oxford, New York: Oxford UP, 2017):

How do you know the world around you isn't just an elaborate dream, or the creation of an evil neuroscientist? If all you have to go on are various lights, sounds, smells, tastes and tickles, how can you know what the world is really like, or even whether there is a world beyond your own mind? Questions like these -- familiar from science fiction and dorm room debates -- lie at the core of venerable philosophical arguments for radical skepticism: the stark contention that we in fact know nothing at all about the world, that we have no more reason to believe any claim -- that there are trees, that we have hands -- than we have to disbelieve it.

Like non-philosophers in their sober moments, philosophers, too, find this skeptical conclusion preposterous, but they're faced with those famous arguments: the Dream Argument, the Argument from Illusion, the Infinite Regress of Justification, the more recent Closure Argument. If these can't be met, they raise a serious challenge not just to philosophers, but to anyone responsible enough to expect her beliefs to square with her evidence.

What Do Philosophers Do? takes up the skeptical arguments from this everyday point of view, and ultimately concludes that they don't undermine our ordinary beliefs or our ordinary ways of finding out about the world. In the process, Maddy examines and evaluates a range of philosophical methods -- common sense, scientific naturalism, ordinary language, conceptual analysis, therapeutic approaches -- as employed by such philosophers as Thomas Reid, G. E. Moore, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and J. L. Austin. The result is a revealing portrait of what philosophers do, and perhaps a quiet suggestion for what they should do, for what they do best.

So the answer is (according to Maddy): Even if skepticism is not ultimately refutable (solipsism can be shown to be contradictional, as can radical skepticism - a point made by Tim Button in his 2013 book The Limits of Realism as well), it is philosophers who can face and discuss the skeptical challenges - skeptical challenges based in everyday experience and not in armchair philosophy - best.

It remains questionable whether this is the only field where philosophers are "best", considering that it is ultimately analysing and discussing premises and positions, regardless of the field in which they occur.

  • +1. as usual - best, GT
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Jul 3, 2018 at 18:07
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    @PhilipKlocking restricting what philosophers do 'best' to analysis is what has brought contemporary philosophical practice into such disrepute. For an expansive explanation of the short comings and misleading results of the academic comparative analysis model, as it relates to Spinoza's system, see 'Footnote Fixation', on Academia.edu
    – user37981
    Oct 26, 2020 at 17:55

Philosophy should be taken seriously precisely because Solipsism is undecidable. So are all metaphysical problems and it is the task of metaphysics to explain this. This is what philosophy is about, establishing and explaining the results of analysis. The antinomies of metaphysics reveal the nature of Reality.

I would say it is those philosophers who ignore the undecidability of Solipsism who are not taking philosophy seriously.

EDIT: In response to some comments. This is not simply an opinion. All selective conclusions about the world as a whole are undecidable. This is well known and becomes obvious from a literature review if not from just sitting and thinking. It seems certain that the reason for this is the nature of Reality. Thus, as Kant and Nagarjuna demonstrate, a study of the antinomies reveals something of the nature of Reality. To ignore them is to bury our heads in the sand.

  • How is this more than your personal opinion?
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 3, 2018 at 11:44
  • It is demonstrable and not at all a matter of opinion. Metaphysical problems in their usual expression are undecidable and this is why they are called problems. The task of metaphysics is to explain this. The alternative is to suppose that metaphysics is incomprehensible and the Universe is paradoxical.
    – user20253
    Jul 3, 2018 at 11:58
  • I do not question that it is correct opinion, I just point out that it is presented in a way that it can only reflect opinion, however justified this opinion may be. In other words: It would be your task to demonstrate this "being more than mere opinion" in the text of your answer.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 3, 2018 at 12:01
  • It is only in Kant's; tradition that Solipsism is a major problem. He calls it the 'scandal of philosophy'. The Perennial philosophy would say it is not a problem, it would be just that Solipsism is neither strictly true or false and this would be why it is undecidable. Thus its undecidability teaches us something about Reality, or it will if we take our logical results seriously. . .
    – user20253
    Jul 3, 2018 at 12:05
  • @PhilipKlöcking - Do I really need to prove that metaphysical questions are undecidable? It seems like Metaphysics 101. Does anyone with an interest in the subject not know this? And is it not certain that the reason for this is the nature of Reality? Still, I'll add an note to the answer to clarify the point. .
    – user20253
    Jul 3, 2018 at 12:07

We are embodied beings. Our experience is of two kinds, internal and external. External experience is of the external senses. Internal experience is of two kinds, internal senses (proprioception) and thoughts. Material reality is that which we access through our external senses. Even if it's all an illusion, the word reality still means that experience, as distinct from internal experience. So long as it appears that there is a real world, and there's no evidence that it is not as it seems, it only makes sense to treat it exactly as if it is as it appears to be. A difference that makes no difference is no difference. Likewise, as long as those other beings that appear to be people keep acting exactly like people, they're real "for all intents and purposes". Solipsism is a useless idea that can only be ignored.

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