Brett A. English 101 11/20/17 Essay #3 An Argument for the Validity of Solipsism
Solipsism, the belief that the external world and other minds do not exist, is a more plausible philosophy than any major world religion. It is, in fact, almost provable. It is very likely that you are not reading this and do not exist.
Of course, it is somewhat ironic to convince something that does not exist of its nonexistence. Despite this obvious pretension, I am inclined to think that what follows is logical, well-formulated, and entirely evidence-based.
The main general criticism of the theory of solipsism is that is ‘improbable’. Though this arguably true, what is actually remarkably improbable is your existence, if one accepts the external world as being real. If any of your ancestors, going back several billion years, had died before reproductive age, you would not exist. If they had not chosen to have sex with the exact person that they had, perhaps at the exact time that they had, you would not exist. Dr. Ali Binazir, a writer for the Huffington Post, calculated the odds of you being alive as 1 in 10 to the 2,685,000 power – 10 with 2,865,000 zeroes after it. This is a probability that is virtually zero, proving that, if the world is ‘real’, you are a statistical oddity.
To ‘accept’ solipsism, one needs to accept a basic tenet – that one’s thoughts exist (which is a fact, and, in terms of absolute certainty, the only fact). I am inclined to agree that the circumstances behind this basic fact seem somewhat tenuous – logic would state that consciousness should not arise from a vacuum, and more specifically logic would state that nothing should have arisen from a vacuum, and thus that nothing should have ever happened at all. But something did emerge from a vacuum, which suggests two probable outcomes: either just the observer’s thoughts emerged from a vacuum, or the entire universe – all of existence – emerged from a vacuum. I think that it is more likely, or at least comparably likely, for thoughts alone to have emerged from a vacuum than for thoughts and physical matter to have emerged from a vacuum. Given that these two scenarios at the very least equate in terms of probability, one is left with an inevitable conclusion: to accept that the world is ‘real’ is to accept that the universe emerged from a vacuum, that life somehow arose from it, that consciousness somehow arose from that (and that consciousness emerged so perfectly so as to be able to understand the universe, out of all the more flawed states of consciousness that could have came to exist), and that conscious life reproduced for several billion years to one day fulfill the 1 in 10 to the 2,685,000 power chance that you would be born. To accept solipsism, one has to accept that one’s thoughts emerged from a vacuum. I see nothing inherently absurd about accepting that one’s thoughts exist and that only one’s thoughts exist, even if they are not sure how they came to exist (perhaps there is a fundamental limitation in these thoughts that prevents it that the thinker is not aware of precisely due to their limitation), however I do see something inherently absurd in accepting the alternative.
There is no evidence that suggests that the external world exists (beyond the fact that you ‘experience’ it - and you also experience dreams and hallucinations). On the contrary, there is a plethora of evidence that suggests that the external world does not exist. The aforementioned principle that nothing comes from nothing (ex nihlio, nihil fit) is an obvious starting point (I am aware that a solipsist’s thoughts also would appear to have came from nothing, but a solipsist would not know what he or she’s ‘thoughts’
really are or whether it was possible for them to come from nothing or not. We do know what matter is, and we know that a fundamental property of it is that it does not arise from nothing.) Another obvious limitation to accepting the universe at face value is that in doing this you are also accepting that time and space exist (some people who believe that the universe exists will argue that time does not exist, however they are wrong – if the universe exists but time does not you would be everywhere at once, which you are not). If someone invents a ‘time machine’ and annihilates the universe the year before you were born, the hypothetical aftermath would create two contradictory situations, one where you exist (because you are reading this) and another where you do not exist, because the universe has been blown up: the obvious conclusion is that this hypothetical aftermath is not possible, and by extent that time itself is not possible. A similar hypothetical parable illustrates an alternate universe that is in the ‘future’: in the parable, our universe has already ended in their time, because they are in the future, but in ours it hasn’t, because we are in the ‘past’. If they were to be look at our universe, they would have to see two separate images: the universe as it currently is, because in our time we appear to exist, or something else entirely, because in their time we do not. It is impossible to see both pictures at once, which is what this parable, based on a linear interpretation of time, would suggest. Another simpler way to understand the illusion of time is trying to imagine the same object being in two different moments: it is impossible, because otherwise it would not be the ‘same’ object: It would be a different collection of matter. Or, Person A sits on a bed and Person B sits on it the next night: it cannot be the ‘same’ bed, because that bed has Person A sitting on it. It is blatantly obvious that time is a spurious concept which cannot exist, which by causal effect implies that reality itself is a spurious concept which cannot exist.
Descartes, before he converted to Christianity (dumb move), said that an ‘evil demon’ could not be deceiving him because the demon would not give Descartes the power to think that he was being deceived: how would anyone, least of all someone being deceived by an evil demon, know what an all-
powerful creator would think or not? This perceived ‘knowledge’ is the same logic that leads people to reject solipsism on the basis of such notions as that their mind wouldn’t ‘dream up’ an entire universe: it is very difficult to conclusively say whether thoughts would ‘dream up’ a universe or whether they would behave differently. It is difficult to imagine consciousness without something to observe and perceive: perhaps ‘reality’ is the most plausible construction that a solipsist’s thoughts can create. A similarly misguided refutation of solipsism is that many hypothesize that they are not ‘smart’ enough to imagine the works of Shakespeare, Homer, etc., and that someone else must have created them for them to exist: It is impossible discern the nature of thoughts or to what extent they are capable of knowing things that are not immediately perceived if there is no reference point and no way of conclusively establishing what ‘thoughts’ really are. We are only aware of ‘thoughts’ because we think them (and this extends to senses, objects, etc.) It ultimately proves quite the opposite of the supposed assertion of human knowledge: that everything could be ‘wrong’. If everything could be wrong, and there is no reason to assume that it isn’t, it would be speculative to believe in anything other than the only definitive statement that can be proven true: Cogito, ergo sum. Descartes, despite his status as a legendary philosopher, also overlooks the obvious: the demon, if one uses human characteristics to describe an all-powerful being, as Descartes does, is only giving Descartes the power to think that he is being deceived, rather than to know. Descartes clearly had virtually no concept of logic whatsoever, and it is unfortunate that his writings have been the basis of Western philosophy for the past several centuries.
Ultimately, perhaps the most common specific refutation of solipsism is that if you created the universe, you would have created a better one: you would be the president of the world, and you would be having sex with Shakira right now. This fanciful exercise in vanity can be refuted similarly: If thoughts emerged at random, it is presumptuous to guess what they would perceive (or whether there is human logic behind it). Another refutation is that it is improbable, and arrogantly presumptuous, for
only one consciousness to exist: we are too limited, of course, to understand whether that it is more, less, or equally probable. It is feasible, in fact, that it is not possible for there to be more than one consciousness: it is arguably a singular phenomena. It is equally feasible that there are trillions of consciousnesses, but that they dreamed other worlds: yours dreamed Earth, humans, etc. There may even be a reality somewhere that is separate from your solipsistic experience: It is an unknown.
Another improbable coincidence is that you are a human. Nematodes and rats outnumber us. All of the combined non-human species vastly outnumber us. The probability of being alive at the present moment out of all the billions of years that allegedly existed is also incredibly small. I feel that if the real world were to exist, it would perhaps be more likely that I was a dead nematode, or something that is non-sentient, like a wall (however, it should be noted that no one is to say that you are not a wall. You would not be aware of it, since walls are not conscious, which of course is another discussion on what constitutes awareness and ‘identity’ in general).
I am also fascinated by what death would be like for a solipsist. Since a solipsist would not have a body, it would logically be immortal – but if it lived to be, say, 200, would it not then discover it was a solipsist, and be the subject of news articles, etc.?
Ultimately, as the logical errors in these refutations demonstrate, the reason most people choose not to believe in solipsism is because they do not want to. It is unsettling for them to believe that their best friend and dog do not exist. Hence, among the proletariat masses, it is rarely discussed.
Perhaps the final refutation of solipsism can be postulated by those who believe in God – and, more specifically, a benevolent, loving God. Earlier I stated that the probability of life coming together to create you in the ‘real’ world was 1 in 10 to the 2,685,000 power – however many religious people
likely feel that God wanted them to be created, and that their existence is not an improbability at all but rather a result of some form of divine intervention. This position not only smacks of insufferable narcissism (why you and not someone else?) but is also blind to the fact virtually every major religion can be easily proven false (and many non-solipsists have done it). Of course it is difficult to attempt to disprove every major religion within a sentence or two, but for the purpose of brevity I will attempt to do so. Religions like Buddhism and Hinduism are based entirely on customs and traditions with no basis in reality whatsoever: they are pure mythology on the level of Zeus and sun gods. Islam was invented when someone who had a vision in a cave: millions of people have had ‘visions’, and most of them are in mental hospitals. The fanatical repression among Muslims of anyone who does not believe in Islam is the reason why it is still so widely practiced. Billions of people believe in these religions mainly because they are comforting to them. It is obvious by using the human brain for its intended purpose that solipsism is more rational than any of them. Over three billion people believe in these religions. I am not aware of a single living person besides myself who is a solipsist. This is either an argument for solipsism (if other people existed, they would likely be solipsists) or an argument for colossal human stupidity.
Even if I had seen Christian ‘miracles’, I would not have believed in the validity of them: I would assume that I was a solipsist who was dreaming about someone performing miracles. I would also consider the possibility that a more intelligent form of existence was pulling a hoax: maybe aliens perform ‘miracles’ all the time, simply because they are smarter than us and know how to do so. It is very possible that if there is a ‘God’ that controls us in some fashion that this being speculates on whether there is a God that controls them as well. Their religion and rituals may be almost as comical as ours (almost). To other animals, are we not ‘God’? If animals were intelligent enough, they would likely invent religions to rationalize their existence: myths to explain how we created cars, computers,
electricity, the nuclear bomb, etc., just as we have created myths to explain how god created the universe.
The final nail in the coffin of religion is this: If you argue with a religious person, they will always be likely to tell you that it is about what they ‘feel’ in their heart to be true, rather than logic. In addition to this spurious method of belief, the argument has a fatal flaw that probably few of its adherents have thought to consider: millions of religious people ‘feel’ different religions to be true, and most of them contradict each other. This merely proves the obvious: that spirituality is a natural human instinct, ultimately a delusion of very little consequence.
I have more or less been a solipsist since I was ten. To this day, no one has been able to refute me. I do not expect this to change: the only way it could change is if I dream a future ‘reality’ that makes a lot more sense than this one, with much smarter people in it than those that I dreamed in this one.
Humans know nothing. People will always believe what they want to believe. It takes them a very long time to discover the blatantly obvious truth. Socrates was poisoned for saying that the Greek gods, which everyone believed in at the time and are now confined to mythology, did not exist. Galileo was jailed for saying that the Sun didn’t revolve around the Earth. Perhaps, then, it is time to start with a blank slate and accept the obvious: that nothing exists at all.
Spector, Dina: “The Odds of You Being Alive Are Incredibly Small” http://www.businessinsider.com/infographic-the-odds-of-being-alive-2012-6
Near-proof of the theory of solipsism.