What is solipsism and is it true?

Solipsism is the philosophical idea that the only thing that can be known to exist is one's own mind and everything outside of one's own mind cannot be verified. It means that a person can not know anything exists except for himself.  Therefore, solipsism is a form of skepticism since it doubts the existence of everything except one's own existence. Solipsism also means that everything that a person perceives to exist is a projection of his own thinking.

It us difficult to argue against solipsism because whatever argument is raised in refutation to the position, needs only to say that the other person, and his arguments are a projection of his own mind. Though various proofs might be offered against solipsism, the solipsist needs only to deny the arguments as being a projection of one's own mind.

Following are a series of questions that can invoke discussion and, hopefully, can help a solipsist abandon his self-deception.


ONLY MIND

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    • If the mind is all there is, then he cannot know if his mind is all there is since what he knows is a projection of his own mind, which he cannot validate is the only mind in existence.  It is assumed.  But the assumption cannot be validated.  Therefore, his solipsism is in doubt.
    • If his mind is all there is, then how does he know that his mind is not a projection of a mind beyond his own?  He cannot know.  Therefore, his solipsism is in doubt.
    • How do the solipsist account for his own existence?  Is his mind eternal?  If not, then it was created. If it was created, then it was created by something other than himself and this would argue against his solipsism.  But if he says his mind is eternal, then how does he account for his own eternal existence?  Where did his mind to come from?  Is it self generating?  If he has no answers, then his solipsism is in doubt.

      TRUTH
    • If the solipsists' mind is all that exists, then whatever he "says" is true becomes true because the only thing that exists is his mind and he could declare whatever he wanted to be true or not true. However, if he were to say "Solipsism is false", would it be true that his solipsism is false?  If it is true, then he refutes his own solipsism.  But if the statement is false, then he refutes his own mind which was asserting the truth of the statement.  Either way, his solipsism is refuted.
    • If he says that he cannot contradict himself lest he violate the laws of logic, then is his mind subject to the laws that he also created?  If so, then his mind answers to those laws.  How then can he know if those laws are correct (in that they lead to truth) since they come from his own mind and truth is what he perceives to be true?
    • The solipsist could say that the laws of logic are emanations of his own mind and he would naturally be consistent with his own mind and therefore be consistent with the laws of logic which he himself created. Therefore it would not be logical to say that any statement he desires to be true would be true.  But this means that whatever his mind "says" is logical is logical.  As a result truth cannot really be known and he cannot know if his solipsism is true or not.

      MORALITY
    • If the solipsist's mind is all that exists, then how could he know what is or morally correct since whatever his mind "says" is morally correct would be so?  Logically, whatever he would "say" is morally correct would be morally correct since he is inventing his own morals.
    • If the solipsist's mind is all that exists, then murder, rape, torture, etc., are neither good nor bad since they are merely reflections of the solipsist's mind.  How could he defend the idea that mass murder is
    • If the mind is all there is, then are there any moral absolutes?  If morality is an invention of his mind, then for him it could be okay to rape and torture for fun if he decides it is okay.

      KNOWLEDGE
    • If the mind is hiding aspects of its own creative ability (the solipsist does not know all things), then he cannot know if his solipsism is true since there could be things that could prove his solipsism false.
    • If the solipsists mind is all there is, then why does the solipsist have to learn about the world since his own mind created it?
    • If the universe is a projection of his mind, then it must be necessarily true that his mind produces super complex concepts such as gravitational constants, chemical reactions, quantum fluctuations, but also which he does not understand, yet they are merely projections of the mind that don't really exist.  Isn't this an inconsistency?
    • If the mind is all there is, then why can't he control his own mind and alter reality to suit his own desires especially since things occur that he does not like such as pain?
    • If the mind is all there is and he cannot control his own mind (i.e., not wanting pain but pain happens), then he is being controlled by something other than himself. 

      INCONSISTENCIES
    • If the solipsist tries to convince someone else that solipsism is true, then isn't he arguing against his own mind since he's arguing with "someone" who doesn't affirm that the solipsist's mind is all their is?
    • If solipsism is true, then my mind is projecting yours into existence and you have no actuality.  Therefore, your solipsism is false.  But if you say that yours is true, then you have to show that mine is false. But to do that, you'd have to convince me (or me as the projection of your own mind), that your mind is the only mind.  But, to do this, you would be arguing against your own mind.  This would be an inconsistency.

      EXPERIENCE
    • How do you have experiences?  Does your mind produce experiences that are not true such as pain, suffering, pleasure, etc.?  if you do not want suffering to occur because you avoid it, then what is your own mind produce it?  Are you not in control of your own mind?  If not, how can you know that your solipsism is correct?
    • How do you account for your own pain and suffering and what is its purpose in your own mind?

      OTHER
    • Solipsism implies that the person is his own God since he is the author of everything that is, including all morality and truth.
    • Can you have purpose in your solipsism if you don't know all things?
    • How do you account for the logic in these questions?  Is the logic sound?  If not, then your mind can't be trusted.  If it is, then your mind can't be trusted.

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About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.