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Is there any way for me to truly know I exist? I mean, I think I exist, but I recently came across skepticism, which says to doubt everything, even one's own existence, so now I don't know if I exist. Is there any way for me to know, 100% and without a doubt, absolutely and surely, that I exist?

Do I exist?

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    You could ask me. But how do I know I exist? Ask someone else I guess...
    – Scott Rowe
    Sep 27, 2022 at 23:09
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    It could, kind of, make sense to doubt that anything around you exists, but yourself is a different case. If you doubt that you exist, something is here that is doubting, and that would be you. Do you mean something less obvious, like your body, your sense of identity or your memories?
    – armand
    Sep 27, 2022 at 23:45
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    Does this answer your question? How does mind discovers its own existence?
    – user14511
    Sep 28, 2022 at 3:20
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    @armand Your argument assumes logic. If one is skeptical even of one's own existence, then what reason does one have to assume logic?
    – user110391
    Sep 28, 2022 at 7:23
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    @user110391 if one denies the existence of logic, why does one even bother asking questions?
    – armand
    Sep 28, 2022 at 9:28

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I don't know if you exist. As a skeptic, I'm pretty confident that you do (that being the most parsimonious explanation for my experience of your question), but I'm not absolutely certain.

On the other hand, I am 100% certain that the experience of being me occurs. It is not a thing I can question without contradiction (see Socrates, Descarte, etc.).

Can I doubt the veracity of my experience? Absolutely. Can I doubt its continuity, past, or future? Certainly. But at any given moment, that the experience is occurring is certain.

Skepticism is widely misunderstood as this idea that in withholding ultimate judgement, we make no judgements. That is not the case. Skepticism simply means not desiring certainty of things that one cannot be certain of, and instead acting on the best information that one is able to acquire.

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  • I like your answer. Perhaps this person is simply starting with the first and most basic question underlying it all? They accidentally asked and then, stumbled on to Philosophy!
    – Scott Rowe
    Sep 28, 2022 at 10:40
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It's a cliche question. So it gets cliche answers.

  1. I don't believe in nihilism.
  2. I have long wondered why there are not more hard solipsists.
  3. Sometimes you all go away but I'm always right here.

Nihilistic skepticism is self defeating. If you deny the evidence at hand then you are lost. Yes it's an ad baculum. But it's a very LARGE baculum. The best we can do is the best we can do. If you deny the evidence then the best you can do is paralysis. This becomes very unpleasant very fast.

Hard solipsism is the claim that all there is is my own mind. If that's the case then there aren't any other people. So wondering about other people is without boots. And so, another baculum comes after us indicating that hard solipsism means we can't have friends.

Or, to put it another way, Descartes's "evil genius" cannot be refuted. But it's "the only game in town." If you don't bet you can't win. It's an idea that you cannot do anything with. Surmising that you are in the hands of an Evil Genius who supplies all of your experiential inputs does not allow you to make any different choices to what we experience. We are pretty much forced to ignore it and go on as though what we see is reality.

Personhood is directly experienced. One example of this experience is the fact that you can distinguish between you and everybody else by the fact that you are the one doing the attempt. And sometimes you don't see anybody else around.

These questions are all beaten to death many many times. You are not likely to come up with new answers that are any more satisfying or convincing. Go get Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes and have a good read. Then watch the movie The Matrix and just enjoy. "He's beginning to believe." Keep watching for the glitches. But do the stuff you are supposed to be doing according to if it is all really as you seem to experience.

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May I suggest an alternative to investigate? Skepticism is very good, a useful tool. Stoicism is also helpful, but as you can see, these lead mostly to 'No' answers, or at least questions that assume No will be the answer. How do we get to Yes, as the popular book says?

To know what is, after all that is not has been cleared away, you need something that gets past thinking and what I call, "The tyranny of concepts". Thinking gets in the way. Nonduality gets the obstacle out of the way - that obstacle being yourself, or rather, your concept of yourself.

So you end up answering "do I exist?" with: "not as such, but now I know what does." Which is certainly a vast improvement.

Some sources to study are anything by modern nondual folks like Nisargadatta, Adyashanti, Krishnamurti, and also the Center for the Study of Nonsymbolic Consciousness.

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Rigid skepticism is self-destructive: strict disbelief leads to absolute ignorance, i.e. you must doubt skepticism itself. Then, you must doubt doubt itself.

Ergo, by any trivial proof (e.g. cogito ergo sum), you exist.

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    Doubting your doubt does not destroy the doubt. Doubting the doubt merely opens you up to the possibility that you're not actually in doubt. That is not equivalent to being sure about anything though. Further more, you're not just doubting that you're doubting; you're also doubting that you're doubting that you're doubting that you're ... This is indeterminate (see the alternating sum of positive and negative 1s); so really, no matter how you twist and turn it, all you wind up with is doubt.
    – user110391
    Sep 28, 2022 at 7:25
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    Strict skepticism does not lead to absolute ignorance. It leads to (almost) absolute uncertainty, which is not the same thing and not nearly as scary as people think.
    – philosodad
    Oct 3, 2022 at 20:56
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TL;DR: Only you can answer this question.


Define "truly know". What is knowledge but a label? You may look at all labels of knowledge and feel like there's a deeper, related label (people often call it absolute truth) of which you could not, with certainty, put upon any of these so-called facts, tautologies and truisms. Others may have no concept or feeling of this deeper label. How do you know that they're the unaware ones? What if they're experiencing absolute truth, and it's you that's just unaware?

In other words, this is a question only you can answer. To what degree do you doubt? Do you doubt logic; do you doubt the identity of things itself? To exist can be defined reflexively as the thing you're actualizing right here and now; it could be your only axiom; one so undaring and immutable that one would be insane to doubt it; and yet, you feel that ultimately, you don't know... or do you? Your question seems to imply that you too are cursed, or blessed, with an unyielding, indiscriminate agnosticism.

It is completely and utterly ineffable to me how I might not exist. Yet, to equate my experience of ineffability with actual impossibility would be very arrogant, don't you think? Like a mosquito claiming that stars don't exist because they can't imagine it. So what if they can't? What do they know? What do I know?

What do you know?

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  • "Not much. You?"
    – Scott Rowe
    Sep 28, 2022 at 10:41
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Yes, you can adopt the moral stance

„Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts.“ — Charles Sanders Peirce. Vol. V, par. 265. Collected Papers (1931-1958).

Anyway, St Augustine said "You can doubt but you can't doubt that you doubt"

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    "A man can do as he wills, but not will as he wills."
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 3, 2022 at 0:16
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Who is asking? A student asked a professor this, because he doubted his existence. The professors reply was simply,"Who shall I say is asking?"

"George."

"Then George exists." was the definitive answer.

The ancient philosopher once said, "I think. therefore I am." To this, later, Thomas Jefferson added, "I exist, and I feel others, so I know others exist as well."

Actually this question violates the Law of Non-contradiction. A supposed non-existing person exists to ask the question about his existence. An invalid question, but skeptics delight in this exercise or mental gymnastics. This borders on the topic of "self-evident truths."

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    I would phrase the question: "Who wants to know?"
    – Scott Rowe
    Mar 19, 2023 at 0:45
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Is there any way for me to know,… absolutely and surely, that I exist?

Variants of this question appear from time to time on this forum. With variations, I answer all as follows: the answer does not make any difference, and there is no use fretting about it.

The laws of physics seem to operate today as they always have; it is possible to discern what must have happened sixty million years ago by applying the same principles observed this morning. The same is true of mathematics.

As relevant here, the same is true of history. Interpretations vary widely, but facts less so. Your two parents must have existed, and therefore so do you.

Now suppose you were convinced that you did not exist. What would you do differently? And how would you explain the world around you?

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Nothing can be proven beyond unreasonable doubt.

I would venture that doubting your own existence (c.f. "je pense, donc je suis") is unreasonable. There comes a point where skepticism is so extreme that no progress is possible on any topic and we just have to be content with the unavailability of certain knowledge regarding the real world and apply "common sense" about the residual uncertainty - what practical difference does it make?

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The only thing one is sure of is his existence. The slight difference in the 'I' in the question is a bit confusing.

When we think about the 'I' in this question, we feel that it is something while others exist. If that 'I' along with others is the goal, the answer is 'No' because that 'I' is made up of ego. (In true sense ego can't exist.)

If the 'I' here refers to beingness, the answer is 'Yes'; but that is possible only through self-realization.

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