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I was thinking about the claim that other (future past etc. groups) people don't matter at all, and wondered in what way solipsism, which I think implies this ambivalence, might impoverish us, either the belief or it being a fact.

Very clearly, the philosophical theory about the status of other minds does imply that other people, whom appear to be like us, don't matter as they otherwise might, and are just assailants or pleasure machines etc.. I think most would feel different about everyone from their spouse to their children, if they knew they were zombies.

Even if some of us are already there.


I don't think a "solipsist" can love rather than enjoy, care rather than act, create rather than work. But these are truisms dressed up as something else. I'm specifically interested in what drives a solipsist can fulfil, and whether without others all behaviour is just self gratification, narcissism.

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  • It seems that you are thinking at a sort of "practical solipsism"... What does it mean "other people don't matter at all"? You are not forced to interact with others, but what happens when others interact with you? Nov 16, 2022 at 9:16
  • If we are true solipsists, then others don't "matter" in the sense I mean @MauroALLEGRANZA they are just assailants or pleasure machines. Do you not see what I mean at all?
    – user63148
    Nov 16, 2022 at 9:36
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    See Solipsism: "Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind." Nov 16, 2022 at 9:37
  • that ^^ seems slightly disingenuous as a reply, which i'm used to all over the internet so nbd @MauroALLEGRANZA haha. in all honesty, i hope i'm done here. crisis over, and no-one has helped me with a thing
    – user63148
    Nov 16, 2022 at 10:02
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    You're confusing solipsism with egocentrism. Solipsism does not mean that "people don't matter at all" but that others don't exist at all, except in the mind. Egocentrism means that one is the center (ego-"centrism"). Solipsists' drive is the same as any other, except that it is explained by different means.
    – RodolfoAP
    Nov 16, 2022 at 10:44

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Solipsism is a philosophical idea. Nobody is any actual solipsist.

Solipsism is understood as a thought experiment. Given that we don't actually know that there is anything outside our own mind, it is possible in theory that someone believes that there is nothing outside his or her mind.

However, this is really very unlikely. Human beings are one product of natural selection and one crucial aspect of our psychology which is essential to our survival in our environment is that we cannot stop ourselves believing that there is a real world outside our mind.

If solipsism is just a philosophical posture, then it won't affect your chances of survival because you would in effect still believe that there is a world outside your mind.

It may not be impossible to be a true solipsist, but it would probably come as a result of some very serious mental illness or of the effect of some psychotropic drug. The effect would be anyone's guess but it seems that it would be difficult to survive in the outside world if you really believed that there is no outside world.

We probably don't know the effect because it is probably impossible to ascertain scientifically that anyone is a true solipsist.

Using the label "solipsist" for the philosophical view that it is not possible to have knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is a serious confusion. Descartes' notion of extreme or metaphysical doubt leads to this but it has no relation to the notion of solipsism since absence of knowledge does not imply absence of belief. We don't actually know that there is a world outside our minds but we certainly all believe that there is one. To believe that you know that there is a world outside does not change the fact that you don't know that there is one, and this still doesn't make all of us solipsists. We all believe that there is a world outside so we are not solipsists. The fact that we don't know that there is one doesn't change the fact that we believe that there is.

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  • hahah yeah i think you're right
    – user63148
    Nov 16, 2022 at 13:02
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It is quite possible to arrive at the belief that no-one else exists or is likely to exist whilst simultaneously acknowledging that the illusion of other people existing is so powerful and ingrained that to separate oneself from it is - if not impossible - impractical and/or unnecessary.

It's also possible, perhaps, for a person to be comforted by the notion that they are the only extant being. It might offer them a certain freedom of thought and behaviour and an insulation from the cruelty of others. But the solipsist also stands to lose a sense of consequence; a sense of the impact of their behaviour upon others. If solipsism is true, this might not matter a great deal (at least initially), but if the solipsist is wrong, it may come to matter a whole lot.

Whether it is true or false, our experience to date tells us that more often than not, when we lack connection and empathy, we invite a range of negative consequences, such as isolation (perceived or real), misunderstanding, confusion... even punishment. Solipsism being real doesn't necessarily free the solipsist from these consequences. The miseries of the illusory world - where other people exist and impact us - are almost certain to accompany the solipsist and perhaps even become augmented by the personality shifts that are likely to accompany any embrace of a solipsistic worldview.

The solipsist also stands to lose a sense of connection enabled by the belief that other people are in fact real and care about them, and are impacted (positively and negatively) by the solipsist's actions, for we tend to derive much of the meaning we find in life directly or indirectly from our relationship to others; from approval, acceptance, love, admiration, companionship and so on.

Even if, upon accepting solipsism, a person feels an initial, refreshing liberty, it is likely that - if they are somehow able to maintain a continual belief that no-one else exists - they would find this form of happiness only temporary; that the notion they are the only mind in existence would gradually (or rapidly) become an existential burden. A sense of meaning might become very difficult to maintain. To repeat a quote that has been made here before:

The self is too small for perpetual enthusiasm (Huston Smith, if Google is to be believed).

Even a malicious or power-hungry person might become depressed at the notion of a solipsistic world, for there is no-one upon whom to exert one's will or power.

If the world seems too great a burden, solipsism might become appealing less because it is convincing, but because it suits a person's need to withdraw and to escape the anxiety of a life that must be lived with others. This would be a case in which a person allows their desires to dictate their philosophy, as opposed to using philosophy to dictate their desires (and beliefs). As already touched upon, solipsism might not actually offer as much as it initially seems to, for when others cause us pain, we often mistake our desire to be free from suffering as a desire to be free from others who are causing us that suffering, when in fact we are deeply programmed to rely upon them.

Is a solipsistic life doomed to self-gratification and narcissism? There's a case to be made that life is ordinarily lived - at root - in such a state; that even our attempts to serve others are fundamentally an attempt to serve ourselves. But if solipsism is real, life could be lived clinging to the illusion of other minds and maintaining a generous spirit whilst shunning focus on the self. Alternatively, every potential action might be evaluated from the perspective only of the self. In both circumstances, there seems something to be lost as well as something to be gained.

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  • i think this is too much an opinion question.
    – user63148
    Nov 16, 2022 at 12:56

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