RE: Solipsism unplugged

From: Colin Hales <>
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2006 14:41:43 +1000

This is an extract from the full work on solipsism. It is one special
section written in the first person, for what else could a solipsist
scientist do? I'd be interested in any comments... it paints a rather
bizarre picture of science.
I, Solipsist Scientist

Copyright(c) 2006. Colin Hales. All rights reserved.
I am a solipsist scientist in that I accept that my mind, which is producing
the dialogue you now read, is the one and only conclusively proven mind and
possibly the only mind. My mind is an image in a kind of mirror; a
phenomenal mirror. The image I see and feel and smell and taste is all I
have to enact my craft, my science. Modern neuroscience shows me my brain in
the act of being a mirror for me. The image is what philosophy calls my
phenomenal consciousness or my phenomenality. I can experiment on my own
phenomenality say, by closing my eyes, which I note has a dramatic effect on
my ability to do science. When I sleep dreamlessly my phenomenality is
absent and when I awake the apparent external world in my mirror is
consistently behaving as if it recently had me asleep in it. Yet, as a
solipsist I am forced to question the actual existence of what is depicted
in my mirror. It is only an image, after all, and images can be fabricated.
As a solipsist I attribute this apparent external world depicted within my
mirror to be the work of the 'magical fabricator'.

At the same time I must find it remarkable that my phenomenality somehow,
via the mysterious solution to the 'hard problem', appears to intimately
connect me to an external world. I know that my sensory data (nerve signals
from the peripheral nervous system that have no innate phenomenality) are
used by my apparent brain to create my phenomenality. As a scientist my job
is to extract and depict regularity in the appearances within my phenomenal
mirror's image as scientifically justified beliefs in the form of useful,
predictive generalisations. I know that when I do science what I am doing is
correlating the appearances of the contents of my phenomenality. The most
obvious evidence of this in any of my scientific papers is that of the
'test' subject in contrast to the 'control' subject. In the case of
Newtonian dynamics I would be correlating the behaviour of a mass and the
space it inhabits. All of this makes very good sense to me. Yet I am

Within my mirror's image are what appear to be other scientists with brains
that look the same as mine. These scientists are merely fabrications in my
own mirror's image. Yet despite being mere fabrications they appear, to me,
to do science on exquisitely novel things just as well as I do using my real
mind. At the same time I cannot see the image in their mirror and vice
versa. All report seeing only brain material. I take this as lending support
to my solipsism in that I can claim their minds not to exist, which is
consistent with my conviction that the external world does not exist. If I
am right, and my image(mind) is the only image(mind), then their science is
done without any image of their own. The 'magical fabricator' of my image
goes to an amazing amount of trouble to make it appear 'as-if' the external
world shown to me in my mirror does exist. The scientists within it behave
'as-if' they had the kind of mind I know I must have to do science.

To be a solipsist scientist in this circumstance is to live in cooperation
with this extravagant fabrication including apparent scientists as adept as
myself. As a solipsist scientist, inwardly and silently I deny (remain
scientifically unable to confirm) that an external world exists. But as a
scientist within this apparent world I am fundamentally conflicted. To be
consistent with the behaviour of all the other scientists, outwardly I am
forced to act 'as-if' there was an external reality. Also, inwardly I know
my mind is the only proven reality, yet to my scientist colleagues, to
remain consistent I must deny my own mind as much as I deny theirs. I live
in this situation of denial that I have something more than my colleagues
have. I am thus doubly conflicted, for I must also act 'as-if' I have no
mind, for to declare otherwise is to be inconsistent with my claims about my
scientist colleagues, to whom I am identical.

Yet despite this odd personal situation the system works, in a way. My
scientist colleagues continue to act as-if they had minds. Their scientific
lives - our lives - of appearance correlation go on as usual. The whole
system is consistent. I, the solipsist, get to inwardly claim my own mind's
existence and deny an external world. Outwardly I act 'as-if' there is an
external reality and deny my own mind and my colleagues'. They get to act
exactly like I do. All along I know that it is actually the work of the
magical fabricator, a belief I must also withhold to maintain appearances to
my science colleagues, since within this fabricated world such a claim would
be rejected on the grounds of empirical parsimony. My savior is
'objectivity'. As scientists we get to agree what appearances we are
describing and in doing so it is 'as-if' we are accessing an external
reality. The method is so successful scientists have a belief in an
'objective view' of the external world shared by all of them. The icing on
the solipsist's cake is that the inconsistency even works in the rather odd
self-referential boundary condition of the science of mind where the
scientific evidence system is pointed at the scientific evidence system to
do science. This unique science has taken the form of the Neural Correlates
of Consciousness. Scientists can correlate appearances of brain material
with hearsay reports of mirror image contents - phenomenal contents - quite
successfully and it has all the hallmarks of providing knowledge of the mind
in exactly the same way as it has provided knowledge of everything else.
Provided the scientists go on acting as if this technique is delivering an
explanation of 'mind' (that I outwardly deny exists), then even in the face
of the obviously anomalous evidentiary paradox (looking for appearances and
instead finding brain material) the system self-perpetuates. The scientists
even invented a theorem called the 'mind-brain identity theorem' to make
sure nobody went so far as to intuit anything like a magical fabricator or
its proxy.

This I know is all just 'as-if' behaviour but if I stay quiet about it the
whole system works. My internal life thus masked, the whole system gets to
behave outwardly consistently. The only inconsistency is me and my unique
mind. Late at night in the quietude I wonder about my mind. How do I
reconcile my solipsistic internal life as a scientist with my outward
behaviour? On reflection I can see there are two choices. Firstly (a) I can
accept my mind as conclusive proof supporting continued fervent adherence to
the belief in a magical fabricator. Alternatively, (b) I can let a real
external world be responsible for my phenomenal mirror and all the contents
it shows me. What would my life as a scientist be like if the laughably
implausible option (b) were real? As a scientist I would, in effect, be
talking about mirrors, not images within them.

In the case (b) world I would still lead a dual life as a scientist. On one
hand I can happily correlate the appearances within mirror images and do
science like it has always been done. Nothing is wrong with it. After all it
is responsible for all the apparent technology we have. On the other hand I
also get to describe the external world in a completely different way. I get
to describe systems capable of creating what functions as mirrors, and not
only that, systems that appear to behave as they do when viewed with the
mirrors it makes. I realise this is an extraordinarily constrained problem.
There simply cannot be many systems that can do all of this. If we could do
this kind of science then 'images in the mirror' act as support for both
types of description - the description of image behaviour and the
description of systems that can make mirrors that appear like brains to the
mirror. Whatever that system is, it is capable of construction of things in
the external world with appearances we observe as such as atoms, elephants
and scientists and their phenomenal mirrors. In this alternative world my
mind is effective proof of the existence of an underlying reality. I no
longer have to pretend. I can lead an outwardly honest dual life as a
scientist within a world of scientists with minds like me. The magical
fabricator has been replaced by an external world. Not the external world of
appearances, but an underlying external world capable of generating mirrors
with appearances that depict the natural world as it does to us. In this new
world of science seeing is evidence of mind and thus an underlying external
world. In contrast, that which is seen is empirical evidence of the behaving
external world and also is evidence of seeing.

If I am right to be a solipsist I live in the universe of the magical
fabricator forced to play a pretend life 'as-if' there is a real external
world with fictitious scientific colleagues, all doing the same thing. If I
am wrong to be a solipsist and the external world is justified (which
scientists paradoxically behave 'is-if' true already), then all scientists
in that world, behaving 'as-if' there was an external world are actually
also tacit solipsists in denial of all minds, just like me. So as a
scientist I face a dilemma. I look around myself and what do I see universal
evidence of? The world I live in is a case (a) world. No scientist anywhere
has, for any reason other than accidentally, ever looked at systems
producing worlds with scientists in them complete with minds in it, built of
it. Indeed when they do the scientific world snaps back, declares the
attempt irrelevant metaphysics consistent with an outward denial of mind. In
this bizarre world of 'objective' scientists outwardly all acting 'as-if' an
external world exists, all scientists are actually virtual solipsists
outwardly acting 'as-if' there is no such thing as mind whilst being totally
reliant on their phenomenality to do science. And, like me, they are in
effective (methodological) denial of their own mind, tacitly affirming
belief in a magical fabricator. Scientists in this state will go on forever
correlating appearances within their denied mirrors and never get to do
science on mirrors. Which one to choose? Perhaps I'll go where the
fictitious money is. to the land of the virtual magical fabricator. and keep
I, Solipsist Scientist

Copyright(c) 2006. Colin Hales. All rights reserved.

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Received on Thu Sep 21 2006 - 00:42:54 PDT

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