Re: Solipsism unplugged

From: George Levy <>
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2006 22:07:55 -0700

The scientist could prove that he is not alone by invoking the principle
of sufficient reason: nothing is arbitrary and exist with no reason. If
something exists in a particular arbitrary way (himself) with no reason
for him to be in that particular way, then all other alternatives of him
must also exist (the Plenitude). Hence he is not alone. Solipsism is dead.


Colin Hales wrote:

>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 - 01:08:56 PDT

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