“Am I? Are You? Is This Real?” The Solipsism Paradox; A Key To Freedom?
May 21, 2012 § 5 Comments
There’s a feeling that you and I share. It’s something that we’ve always felt but rarely discuss. There are two possible reasons why you and I both have thought about this simple concept and they are this:
1. Because our nature as human beings, our consciousness, at some point will probably ask the question “Does anybody else exist?” based on the inherent flaw (?) that we can not escape our minds and confirm whether or not anyone else has a consciousness, or;
2. Because you don’t exist. You are nothing but a projection of my mind and if you are reading this, than I am nothing more than a projection of yours. You have no way to confirm if I have actually written this or if you are creating each next word in this sentence. You’ll never actually be able to know for sure.
Am I wrong? Have we not all considered whether or not the world around us is just an illusion? That I created this or that you created this? Is that not why we all walked out of The Matrix saying “Woah. That was a science fiction movie that I could see being science non-fiction.”?
Maybe we want better answers to all of life’s problems or maybe we want to believe that there’s something more to life than this. Or maybe we want to know how we can make it perfect. After all, if the whole world is made up by me than why hasn’t it been better? Why don’t I create a better place? The world would literally be my oyster and yet I’ve wallowed for 29 years in a state of simple living and simple pleasures. I’m not exactly Ryan Gosling or Mark Zuckerberg. And even then, on a real level of solipsism being true, a person in control of his/her universe would shoot for something much higher than being a celebrity or a billionaire.
If I was in control, I could just live in infinite bliss where money didn’t matter. Where sex didn’t matter. Where nothing mattered and everything mattered, like a Tibetan monk that has found nirvana.
“I think, therefore I am.” – Descartes.
Stop. Save draft. Mark as “Only thing we can possibly confirm.” Move on and make theories about everything else. Everything. Else.
How do I know that I have an actual beating heart inside of my chest? How do I know that I even have a chest, or a body, or a friend, or a hobby, or a feeling, or a childhood?
How do I even know that anything that has happened to me up to this very second was real? What if I was just at this moment jettisoned into this body, with these memories and these beliefs? How can I be sure that this isn’t the first day of my life? I have asked myself these questions many times in my life and I will probably never have an answer but imagine if you did.
Imagine if we could unlock the true power of the universe, if we simply knew that the universe wasn’t real and that it was all up to us. What could we do then? This philosophy wasn’t just touched on in The Matrix of course, it’s been dabbled with in a bunch of films:
Inception touched on the idea that within dreams, we can create our universe and for the main character, he was stuck with his wife for a very long time. So much so that for his wife, reality could never be confirmed again. I wonder, if solipsism is real, then what are dreams? It’s almost like dreams would be our brains only chance to truly be free.
When we’re awake, we have to reason, but when we fall asleep and let the conscious part of our brain sleep, then the rest of the brain is allowed to be free and create a certain universe, whether we like it or not, depending on our own ability to control our dreams.
Sort of similar to Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy gets whisked away to another world and we tread a fine line between reality and dreams. Of course, it’s not just dreams in which movies touch on this subject and it’s not always as cut and dry as being “the only one.”
In Being John Malkovich, characters can force themselves into the mind of Malkovich and actually perceive another person’s consciousness which almost seems to alleviate any concerns one might have about the possible existence of solipsism, but then again – John Cusack was just a mind inside of a mind, he didn’t switch existences with Malkovich. Maybe like how Professor X in X-Men is able to feel the consciousness of every mutant on the planet.
I don’t necessarily see solipsism as an indication that I am the only one in the entire universe, or whatever this is, because I think it could still be a shared concept such as the one in The Matrix. Or just leaving open the possibility that I don’t know or we don’t know.
What if our reality is a created reality, such as in The Truman Show? Are you a reality show and does that make any of your “private moments” that much more embarrassing? Are any of your friends real or are they Tyler Durden in Fight Club? If you’re standing at the end of Vanilla Sky, are you jumping off of the building?
Film explicitly tackles solipsism and similar philosophies, theories, and concepts but as of yesterday I had never heard the word solipsism before and why not? I’ve heard of a lot of other stupid things like Scientology, Heaven’s Gate, and Destiny’s Child, but nothing about solipsism.
Probably because a true believer would never bother to talk about it. Solipsism exists only as a concept that we can think about within ourselves but to what end can you talk about it? I’ve only been researching the belief for a short time and already have found that many people think that either solipsism is a stupid idea, that it’s strongest argument is simply that it can’t be disproved, or that even if it were true there would be no point to talk about it.
If I am the only one that exists in my universe, then why should I talk to you about it or anything else really? You’re just a projection anyway.
The whole idea of me writing this article about solipsism almost instantly suggests that I don’t believe 100% in solipsism because it’s a 100% waste of time to tell “you” about solipsism when you’re only a figment of my imagination. However, is solipsism any different than faith in a higher being or anything else that’s strongest argument is that “just like I can’t prove that it is, you can’t prove that it isn’t.”
In the article, “The Metaphysical Challenge of Solipsism,” there are several interesting key bits of information about the philosophy and why it’s both hated and considered worthless by many in the field:
Thomas Mautner defines it as “(1-metaphysics) the view that nothing exists except one’s own self and the contents of its consciousness; (2-epistemology) the view that nothing can be known except one’s own self and the contents of its consciousness.”(2)
Would it be so vain of me to believe that none of this is real and that my experiences are the only experiences? And if it were, would it matter? Of course not, because nothing matters. Now this is interesting and I have a gut reaction to disagree:
The interesting feature of Solipsism is that there is no discernable difference between the Solipsist’s experiences of the world, and the anti-Solipsist’s experiences of the world…. But the Solipsist can draw upon Ockham’s Razor to argue that there is no discernable benefit to me, and no discernable difference to my current or future experiences, from positing anything in addition to the summation of my personal experiences.
True but let’s not get too off-track and remember that if you were a true Solipsist, if you believed that none of this were real and that nobody could be hurt but you, how would you live your life?
Remembering that you are still governed by the laws of the world you have created, knowing that you still had to live by a moral code and you couldn’t just go around killing people because they aren’t real since you’ll still have to face laws and justice, could you still not take advantage of the absolute power you could have over yourself if you believed that it was all fake? That we were living in the the Matrix. That even though it might not change how and when you die, it will certainly change how you live.
Imagine that you are a true Solipsist. Therefore, nothing bad that you ever do really matters. None of your mistakes matter. None of your embarrassment or shame matters. You can choose to live how you want to live and in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t matter. Now, the problem is that you still have to navigate through life for as long as you live it and if you want certain things during your reign as the supreme God of your own existence, you still have to abide by the laws of nature and man.
Think of it like playing a video game. As a character in The Sims, or Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, or most any game, your world is created. Mostly, someone else created it for you and you’re not in control of the rules but you do have free will. You want to kill the bad guy at the end of the game but just because you know that it is a game does not change the fact that in order to win, you have to play by the rules.
Now imagine that your life is a RPG. (Role Playing Game) The universe is created and you had no power on how that universe was created but you find yourself smack dab in the middle of it as the main character. You want to reach the end, have a successful journey, slay the bad guys, but you still have to play by the rules. Don’t play by the rules and you won’t get what you want. Take it for granted, and you may find yourself surrounded by 65 cops that want to kill you because you said “Fuck it, this isn’t real!”
It’s real. It’s just your real. What are you going to do with your real?
The part that may change the way you eat, change the way you live, and change the way you treat each other (as a Solipsist, I’m most proud of my creation of Tupac) is knowing that you can never really fail and if you ask for something and hear the word “No,” it doesn’t matter because they’re not real.
Would I go up to a beautiful girl on her wedding day that I had never met before and ask her to leave her fiance for me? No. But would a Solipsist? Sure, why would it matter if you embarrassed yourself in front of 250 projections of your own conscious?
Once you fully detach from other’s realities and start to realize your own reality as the only reality, you’re somewhat free. Not entirely free, of course. To be entirely free, we’d need to find a way to unlock the key that allowed the universe to be created from my projections but unfortunately we may never have that.
Sadly, the principal theory of Solsism is that we are alone. I am alone. That none of this is real. To crack a code like that, I’d basically have to be Neo. I’d have to be the one guy that figures out how to unlock all of life’s mysteries. Does the answer exist in dreams, or maybe somewhere in between?
If you’re reading this, you have to wonder whether or not Kenneth Arthur is a real person or a projection. Certainly, you can’t just trust me. And if you “Like” this or follow my blog or comment, then I have to decide whether or not you exist too. It wouldn’t necessarily be bad or sad if the universe was only mine because I don’t feel alone when I’m with my projections.
Sex still feels like sex. (From how I remember it at least.)
A burn still hurts.
The “Goodbye, Michael” episode of The Office still makes me cry.
I have had real-feeling feelings on the spectrum to love and hate and none of them felt any better or worse simply because the universe might be fake. Movies weren’t worse, music wasn’t just vanilla and bland, people weren’t any less beautiful or smart.
If I controlled the universe, things would be different. I can’t. but the only person that has to deal with that knowledge and with the millions of people that live in poverty, are dying, are sad, desperate, and in terrible situations, is me. And only by proxy. Would it not give you some comfort to know that everything bad that happens in the world is only a projection and that when you’re not around, they don’t even exist?
You can only have full knowledge of events that somehow affected you, even in the most minor of ways but you can’t have full knowledge of everything. The only worst case scenario of Solipsism is that outside of your universe, you are alone. But in here… I’m surrounded by billions.
I believe that you can live a more fulfilling and rich life as a Solipsist based on the fact that people with courage go further. People with confidence and drive make things happy. On that note, a Solipsist may take a turn down a different path and say “What does any of this matter?” but I believe you (I) have been given a gift of potentially seeing a world where I can never feel ashamed again. I can never feel stupid again. I can never feel embarrassed again. I can be the guy that says “Hey, this is what I want” and no that the worst case scenario in that situation is nothing compared to the worst case scenario that I am actually a projection.
But since I am writing this and have full knowledge of what goes on in my mind, I’m certain this isn’t the case. But you? You can never be certain about me.
It’s my world, you’re just livin’ in it.
This is most definitely not the end of Solipsism on this blog.