What is solipsism and what is its idea?

Have you ever wondered if the reality you perceive is the product of your own mind? Well, solipsism thinks so. Let’s see what it consists of.

Last update: May 13, 2022

Solipsism is a philosophical current that defends that the only thing that exists is consciousness itself; so that everything we call “reality” is created by the mind. In other words, it is a philosophical position that maintains that nothing exists, except the contents created by consciousness itself.

This idea was present in the theories of great philosophers such as René Descartes and George Berkeley. Below we present the postulates of this current and discuss the criticisms it has received.

Main ideas of solipsism

The term solipsism comes from the Latin words solus, which means “alone”; and ipse, which refers to “oneself”. Therefore, its meaning in Spanish would be “only oneself”.

In this way, the word conveys the idea that there is only one’s own consciousness and that the rest of the universe (including other human beings) are nothing more than a product of the human mind or imagination.

Only one’s own existence can be confirmed

In this case, solipsism defends that The only thing we can be certain of is our own existence.. Therefore, we will never be able to verify that everything else really exists.

Own experiences are private

It is impossible to know the experiences and sensations of othersjust as we cannot know if they are like our own.

The self is the only thing that really exists

what is known as outside world is a perception of my own self. So that everything is reduced to him and there is nothing that exists independently of him.

René Descartes is considered to be a representative of some ideas of solipsism.

Your own thoughts are the only true ones.

Then there is nothing else in the world than the individual and his consciousness. Therefore, the contents of it are the only really true elements of reality.

Objective science is meaningless

Since all knowledge is created in the mind of the individual, it makes no sense to speak of a science that objectively studies the external world and the laws that govern it.

Things are as they are perceived

For solipsism, things can only exist if the subject is thinking or perceiving them. When they are not in the mind of the individual, these disappear or cease to be.

Types of solipsism

Within this current, different solipsistic positions can be identified. What has allowed the emergence of a typology.

Metaphysical or ontological solipsism

This is the most radical version and supports the premise that the only thing that exists is your own consciousness and everything else is dependent on it. An exponent of this type of solipsism would be George Berkeley, who rejected the objective existence of reality, both immediate and material.

This would be subject to man’s perception. In other words, the mind would be the only place where the true existence of things is found.

epistemological solipsism

It does not necessarily deny the existence of a reality external to consciousness. But he does affirm that the only knowable thing is that which comes from the mind, such as one’s own ideas and sensations. Therefore, the contents of consciousness are the only valid object of study.

This would be the solipsism proposed by Descartes, who claimed that true knowledge was obtained by exploring one’s own ideas through reason. In this case, we know things from the ideas that are formed of them in our consciousness and that are obtained from what we perceive.

In this same line we find Christine Ladd-Franklin, who defended that the human being is mediated and limited by his way of apprehending the exterior world. So the only certainty we have is our own perception. The rest can neither be known nor assured.

methodological solipsism

He states that one alone and by himself can reach true knowledgeindependently of all social communication.

empathic solipsism

Maintains that it is impossible to accurately understand the experience of other sentient beings. In this way, we will always be isolated from others, despite the social contact we have. One of the most representative exponents of this trend is Thomas Nagel.

In its aspect of the study of social relations, empathic solipsism affirms that we can never know the real experience of others.

Criticism of solipsism

While it is true that the only thing we can be more certain of is our own existence, it is also true that there are solipsistic arguments that are untenable. And the latter has been reflected by the detractors of this current.

One objection to solipsism would be that if consciousness itself is what produces all of reality, why would anyone take it upon themselves to create pain and suffering for themselves? Another criticism would be around the language. Why do we need a communication system if other people do not exist outside our mind?

For its part, the idea of ​​death in solipsism could also be questioned, be it naturally or provoked. When a person dies, does the mind survive or does it perish with the body? And if someone takes our life, is the attack imaginary? If so, why would we end our own lives?

Faced with the questioning of pain and suffering, a solipsist might reply that the pain we cause ourselves has a purpose. Either a kind of unconscious karma or a way to experience new emotions.

Likewise, another solipsistic counterargument for the existence of pain would be the need not to get bored. In this case, the experienced pain arises to entertain us.

While for the critics of solipsism, language is used to communicate with other humans who really exist, solipsists admit that others do not exist, so we invent a language to entertain ourselves by imagining that we speak.

The subjective to think and think of ourselves

Not all solipsistic positions are as radical as the ontological or metaphysical one., which denies the existence of an external world. So we can find currents that affirm solipsism in a field of reality, such as knowledge or social relationships.

Whatever the case, it is important that we reflect on the extent to which human subjectivity permeates our lives.

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