brothercyst: solipsism

Saturday, May 26, 2007


One of my third grade classmates picked up and read Fires. (I recall having a sleepover at his house once.) Yes, I found that post by blogsearching my own name. Jetlag has reawakened (so to speak) my insomnia. With a vengeance. It was gone for a while. I slept maybe an hour last night. Read a book. Watched TV. Considered the rational underpinnings of solipsism as a basis for a philosophy of how to live. Unsurprisingly I see none: even though it is theoretically rational to be agnostic about the existence of all things other than oneself* (just as agnosticism is the most rational religious philosophy), it is irrational for, ironically, reasons of self-interest to behave in practice as if nothing else exists**.

(That's assuming that if I believe my consciousness is all that truly exists, then self-interest becomes my only rational motivation for any behavior or decision. Which seems a correct assumption because if I'm the only thing that exists, what other interest could there be? Is it also correct to assume that instant gratification would then become a guiding principle of how to live? Perhaps not, because if "sooner" exists as a different thing than "later," then time exists, and that is something that is not my mind. That argument can be expanded to all qualia; even if I can't verify the existence of external forces, I still perceive them and feel their effects, which is why I prefer to have something I want "sooner" rather than "later." If I were fully convinced that nothing existed outside my mind [that everything was an illusion], and if my desires/perceptions could be made to obey my mental calculations, I would have no preference for anything at all. Therefore the most rational way to live with regard to the idea of solipsism, against which no ironclad empirical argument can be made, is nominal agnosticism toward the existence of all things outside the mind but practical acceptance of their reality as well as of the ability of other conscious beings to experience qualia. Which is in fact totally intuitive and most everyone except sociopaths does it without contemplation.)

* For the obvious reason that each quale, or individual experience, is available to one and only one consciousness. Am I wrong about this? Is there any example that contradicts this?

**For the even more obvious reason that such behavior would probably result in painful "real world" consequences, such as jail.

1 comment:

trevor johnson said...

I'm an agnostic. It's a safe bet, as long as you're a fairly decent person, that everything will turn out all right in the end. And you don't have to get up early every Sunday and pay an admission fee to sit in a hard pew for an hour or so.

Solipsism is a fun idea to kick around, but I can't take it seriously. Discounting the daily news across the world, the different sorts of people and the overheard coversations, imagine that you're the creator of all your favorite movies and, even better, all the great novels. And the rest of the crap left over as well. Just try not to dwell on that.