22nd Dec, 2023

On Solipsism

Let's assume you and me are standing in a room. The room has white walls, no windows, a white floor. It is empty. Except for the big, blue table that's placed right in the centre of it. We both look a the blue table. I point at it and ask you: "Do you see that blue table?". You respond "yes, I do". How can I be sure that the blue colour you see is the same thing that I see?

I can't. The only thing I can be sure of is that the table has a colour that we both agreed to label as blue. Maybe your blue is my red and we just agreed upon a word for a colour to be able to communicate.

Let's go a step further.

You and me, we both stand in the room still, looking at the table that has a colour. I look at you, the person I just asked a question and had an agreement on regarding the colour of an object in front of me. How can I be sure that you actually exist? I can't. I can listen to you tell me about your experiences in this world that sound a lot like my experiences. But I can't be sure. I can only assume. How can I be sure that anything outside of my own thoughts actually exists?

This is the idea of solipsism (or my naïve interpretation of it). Let's not stay on that thought for too long, because I'm afraid of staring into that abyss for too long. Let's keep our assumption that other people exist. That the world exists and that both you and I have made our own experiences in this objective space.

But just for fun, let's think about some questions that we might have if we were to accept the idea of solipsism:

  • If we accept the idea of metaphysical solipsism (nothing outside of my own mind exists, I made reality up), this would mean that all experiences in my life so far are made up by myself. That would also mean that every thing that ever happened, from very bad to brilliant, is a shade of my mind
  • I sometimes do forget things, then remember them later on. I am aware of the sensation of having forgotten said thing. Shouldn't this happen to the world I created as well? Taking the world map as an example, why haven't I ever "misplaced" a continent. Or could the Mandela-Effect be exactly that?
  • If I made this world up and now knew about it, shouldn't I be able to manipulate it somehow?
  • If I can't, who is responsible for the sensations I experience?

I've come back to this idea every once in a while over the past few years. It's a compelling idea to think about. I may think about it further. I feel like there might be a link to the simulation theory somewhere. However, I don't think it is true. I like the idea of not being alone. Especially on this night, after midnight, when a storm is rattling on the house. It's an interesting idea, though.

© 2024 Chris Jarling