short(ish) post

The basis idea of Solipsism as I understand it is that I cannot be sure that anything other than my own mind exists--not other minds, maybe not even the external world. (I haven't read much other than a description of the view, so feel free to offer reading suggestions.)

Although I don't know of any major philosophers who actually held this view, it certainly seems like a concern that needs to be dealt with. After all, my (your) only connection to whatever else might be in existence is through my own subjective perspective. How am I to know that anything exists externally to my mind? I have only perceptions of the apparently physical world, but those perceptions could just be some part of my Self that I do not yet fully understand.

Descartes gets started with a basically Solipsist view in the Meditations when he entertains the notion of radical doubt. He concludes that, at least, he himself must exist, because by his very entertainment of doubts about his existence, he is thinking, existing. He goes on to attempt to prove the existence of God by the ontological proof, which is in basic form: "I have the idea of a totally perfect being. Existence is one of these perfections, and thus the perfect being must exist." This goes along with his hierarchy going from nothingness to perfections in Ideas and in true existence, and he holds that the Idea of something higher up on the list of perfections (God, the angels) cannot be caused by something lesser than them (himself, the physical world). Since something as imperfect as himself could not cause the idea of a perfect being, it must have been caused by God.

If you don't accept that proof of God, however, you need another way to prove the existence of something outside of the self. This seems like a very difficult task however, and I really don't know how it could be done. You can argue that there must be some cause of you perceptions, such as the physical world, but I think this only works when you have the idea of the mind as something that does not already contain such perceptions. A solipsist might respond that this is an impoverished idea of the mind. Perhaps she/he is not aware of all of the contents of her/his mind, but this limited self-awareness does not constitute a reason to believe that perceptions are caused by something outside of the mind rather than within it.

Like I said, I'm not as familiar with this issue as with others, so I will welcome all further explanations, reading recommendations, and debate in the 'Comments' section. Hopefully I can come back to the issue when I learn some more about it--maybe better-explained arguments for or against it.

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