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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?

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    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. Commented 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
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 11:15
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    @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
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 23:19
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    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... Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 18:26
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    I'd respond but it's feeding time in my vat. Gotta go.
    – user4894
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 19:55

8 Answers 8

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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.

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  • +1. as usual - best, GT
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented 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
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 17:55
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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.

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  • How is this more than your personal opinion?
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented 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
    Commented 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
    Commented 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
    Commented 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
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 12:07
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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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Solipsism is logically irrefutable. This follows from the fact that solipsism is physically indistinguishable from no minds whatsoever, let alone every human having a mind. See also the concepts of p-zombies and Boltzmann brains.

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If no other minds exist--if you are effectively alone in the Universe then why do other thinking people seem to exist? How is this simulated?

  • A: Some other, external person has simulated them. Therefore another person exists.
  • B: You have generated these people in your own mind. But in that case, why do you experience them as separate from yourself?

Case A is an easy contradiction of solipsism, so it's only Case B we really need to consider. We might think of B in terms of being in a dream. We think we are interacting with a wide range of other people in a dream, but they are all only in our mind. Isn't this an example of a solipsitic world?

I would say the error in this line of argument is identifying the dream protagonist with the dreamer. All the characters, including the protagonist, are in the mind of the dreamer, but the protagonist is just a small part of the dreamer. The protagonist is not alone in the dream, there are other figures in the dream that have a similar level of reality to their own.

Similarly, if this world we experience is just a dream in the mind of God, then it might be accurate to say that God is alone in the universe, but not accurate to say that you are. You are not God, even if you are a part of God. The other people you experience have as valid an existence as yours.

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I have a simple and different argument in favor of refuting solipsism as well. I call it the "Location of mind argument"

My argument is against especially the "Metaphysical solipsism" the most strict form.

Lets start with the definition of solipsim to make it clear:

Metaphysical solipsism is the variety of idealism which asserts that nothing exists externally to this one mind, and since this mind is the whole of reality then the "external world" was never anything more than an idea. Everyting else are the figments of the mind. It can also be expressed by the assertion "there is nothing external to these present experiences", in other words, no reality exists beyond whatever is presently being sensed. The aforementioned definition of solipsism entails the non-existence of anything presently unperceived including the external world, causation, other minds (including God's mind or a subconscious mind), the past or future, and a subject of experience.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysical_solipsism

So I simply want to ask the owner of this argument, the solipsist individual or any other person who is willing to explain this theory witin a solipsist perspective.

Can you locate where mind is?

  • If yes please point it in your body
    • If you show your brain as the location of the mind then you must agree that brain exists outside the mind.
      • If you agree that your brain exist then you have to agree that your body must exist in complete form.
        • If you agree that your body exist in a physical complete form then there is a solid possibility that other physical forms can exist at least.
          • If other forms can exist then the theory"solipsism" it self is refuted

Most possible location of the mind: Can science prove or provide evidence that the brain is the source of the mind

  • If no how you are so sure that you have a mind 100 %
    • If you are not sure that you have a mind how do you assert that your mind exsists?
      • If your mind does not exist,then you do not exist.
        • If you do not exist you can not be a solipsist or anyting
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  • As is the case with your other answers and comments on the same subject, you are stubbornly missing the point of solipsism. Why should a solipsist accept that they must locate their experience in your imaginary space or time? They can argue that your claimed dependence of minds on brains is imaginary too. Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 21:00
  • @MarcoOcram Then how a solipsist defines the source of his experience in their only existing mind?
    – Wiseman
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 21:07
  • I have no idea. Why do they need to define anything of the sort? A solipsist is a nutcase. Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 21:12
  • @MarcoOcram if he can not define then it supports and concludes with my "no" argument.
    – Wiseman
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 21:20
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If there were a person, let's call them X, who directly is conscious of other people's minds, then X has a default refutation of solipsism available. Let us suppose that not everyone is like X. However, let us also suppose that X and some of these others get into an argument: X says, "I directly am conscious of your consciousness." What can the skeptics say against X, though? X can no more be wrong about the existence of the skeptics' consciousness than they can be wrong about being conscious of various color patches, etc. (C.f. the private language argument.)

Now suppose that the issue was honesty, as in someone claiming to be like X: are they lying? But to attribute dishonesty to them will mean attributing a mind to them. We can't respond to an X-claimant without representing them as able to respond to our responses, can we? If attribution of a mind to an X-claimant is unavoidable even when the X-claimant is lying, it almost seems as if the X-claimant is vindicated in another way regardless.

So imagine that we have a Moorean or Rossian faculty of moral intuition, which delivers results pertaining to obligations we have to other people. Then we are not so far from being like X, it turns out. This might be a strike against the theory of a moral-intuition faculty, or it might be a strike against solipsism-via-skepticism. But if we have a priori reason to believe in obligations to others, without first representing those others as real other-minded people, perhaps there is some noncircular, rationalistic way to get at the existence of other minds even so.

Regarding that radical solipsism according to which the whole of reality is projected from just our lone mind: however, we are conscious of our minds as divisible into some sorts of "parts." It is less correct to speak of just "the mind" just like that, and more correct to speak of various faculties, drives, forms, levels, etc. Then we are conscious of our will as something other than our perceptions, for example. Now which compartment will we privilege as the projector, here? If we prioritize the representation of our will, yet then when we experience, in our perceptions, things that go against our will, we will be representing our perceptions as if they are another mind altogether, or house such a thing. Even if radical solipsism were (possibly) true on one level, on another it would then seem to be false (any one mind can be interpreted as a multitude of minds itself).

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  • Now suppose that the issue was honesty, as in someone claiming to be like X: are they lying? But to attribute dishonesty to them will mean attributing a mind to them. - Why? If I'm a solipsist, then X is basically a fictional character. I can easily write a fictional character named X2 who says things that aren't true, I'll do it right now: "Hi, My name is X2 and I wasn't invented by TKOL in the comments of a stackexchange website - in fact I'm real and not fictional at all." X2, this fictional being, is saying things that aren't true, does that mean X2 is lying and has a mind?
    – TKoL
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 16:20
  • @TKoL the supposition regarding X here is not now from the solipsist's POV, but I mean even granting that other people exist, how do we argue against someone claiming to be like X? Arguing against an X-claimant will presuppose that the X-claimant has a mind. The point is not to refute solipsism by showing it to be false, not even quite indirectly, but to show that it is possibly meaningless (not, necessarily, actually so, but possibly so modulo the possibility of X). Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 17:26
  • I have no idea how it shows it to be meaningless.
    – TKoL
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 15:37
  • @TKoL it is possible for solipsism to be meaningless relative to X (since X directly knows that other minds and other things exist). There's no way to argue with X, either, without assuming that X has a mind of their own. Again, we're not really refuting solipsism metaphysically, but showing that it's pointless to argue about it if we directly know (as by moral intuition, or divine revelation) that other people exist. But it is logically possible for someone to be the only mind, such as if no one else existed at all (not even as a hallucination). Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 15:43
  • This whole scenario is meaningless. X is not a person that exists. It doesn't matter what solipsism means to a fictional being that could never possibly exist, I don't understand why that's even an argument.
    – TKoL
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 17:25
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Quantum Mechanics may refute solipsism maybe not the solipsist himself but in your POV.

The key point is that a realist explanation of quantum experiments requires the existence of something directly represented by the quantum state or something that can simulate the quantum state,while the mental state is a classical state in the sense that it is always definite and its content contains only information about macroscopics ystems such as the setting of apreparation apparatus, which is not enough for representing or simulating the quantum state. A positive result of this analysis is that one finds the existence of anexternal world besidesone’s mind.

Quantum mechanics refutes solipsism:A proof of the existence of an external world https://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/22361/

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