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Solipsism vs. Materialism

Discussion in 'Perspectives' started by Insipidipity, Oct 27, 2006.

  1. Insipidipity Ignostic Buddhist

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    In my spare time, I tried to reduce my understanding/perception of the universe to a level of fundamental reality of existence. To that extent, I came up with two conclusions which form a solid dichotomy. After a long period of time, I have discovered these two thoughts already have been developed and named(It is inevitable, I assume, as time has been around far longer than I seem to have been).
    While I had named them a relative and an absolute view, it seems the appropriate terms are solipsist and materialist views.

    Just for reference purposes, these are the wikipedia articles.



    On the solipsist side, my world is a dreamworld, and everyone else is quite possibly an illusion. This thinking results in me being the only true consciousness, and in fact, all reality to be a personal manifestation of such. Even time, space, and even the idea of mortality are possible, if not necessary, illusions.

    On the materialism side, everything operates on a causal, emergent manner, but inevitably all is a result of the basic interactions of an atomic level. The world becomes a machine, of which individual perceptions of self are illusions, when everything is simply a cog in the great mechanism of the universe.

    Anywho, I'm still deciding between them, which seems to be more true, although I believe I've gotten them down to a point where both are inherently undisprovable. In the end, a solipsist view would encourage a selfish way of living life, as all else is an illusion, whereas a materialist view would encourage a selfless way of life because the only reality is the universe and my personal gains are meaningless.

    So which is it? Is the universe an illusion and my consciousness real, or is my consciousness the illusion and the universe real?
     
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  2. Firedraconian Lather, rinse, repeat

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    There's no way to answer that question.

    If the universe is an illusion, then it's clearly a very good illusion, and there's no way to show that it is an illusion. If your consciousness is the illusion, then it's equally good, and you can't disprove your own existence because the act of disproving would show you exist.

    "I am but a figment of my own imagination."
     
  3. Sammy-Jo Rawr

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    I'm going to have to agree with what Firedraconian said...

    Personally, I don't think the universe is an illusion. From reading those 2 wikipedia articles, I would say that Materialsm describes me a lot better than Solipism.

    This doesn't mean Solipism couldn't be true, it's just that it really doesn't matter whether it's real or not. As long as we don't know whether or not the universe is an illusion, all we have is what's right in front of us; we have the observable materials which make up the world.

    I'm definitely more of a scientist than a philosopher, and so it's no surprise that I take this view on the subject, but I see no point in focusing on that which cannot be observed through our senses. If we cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something, why bother with it?

    Sure, it's occasionally fun to think about these things...But then again, it's also occasionally fun to imagine oneself into fantasy worlds, with dragons and unicorns and magic (I do this often :)).

    At the risk of sounding clichéd, you know which hand will hold the most if you spit in one and fantasize in the other.
     
  4. syrup Don't Judge Me

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    I would have to fall in a grey area or perhaps I just do not know enough about each side yet. I love science and believe that everyone and everything is made of particles however I am not selflish and have not ruled out the law of attraction or the possibility of alternate reality. Overall i would have to say I am somewhat of an observer at this point, interested in quantum physics and pychology and still wating to set my mind down on one idea.
     
  5. martryn Dick in hand

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    Can you say neither? I believe the universe functions under certain laws, but I still think that I exist and my consciousness is the most important thing to me (well, a very important thing to me). My perception of the laws of the universe allow for personal introspection, and my faith allows for the supernatural, which sometimes is confined by the laws of the universe and sometimes not. So, where do I stand? I see the larger picture (having studied extensively the Big Bang and the creation of matter) and yet I live day to day probing my own emotions and trying to decide how I feel on issues.
     
  6. Insipidipity Ignostic Buddhist

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    Well yes, there's no way to determine what must be true. One or the other is a damn good illusion. If I could think of one, I probably wouldn't be stuck between these two and would've come to a logical conclusion.

    Even arguing it would be a difficult task. To accept one of the views as absolutely true leads to circular logic because to accept it would require you believe some aspect of it already to justify it.

    I'm leaning towards materialism, but at the same time, this consciousness I perceive is hard to deny. While it could be the product of an algorithm predesigned in the brain and altered over time, merely processing input and generating output, I could similarly argue how the possibility for solipsism could conclude the opposite, arguing how the other illusion is maintained.

    I'm left with an undebateable debate. :(
     
  7. Rhaella nothing but the rain

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    Solipsism is hard to disprove, and I've never been entirely pleased with the solutions people have given to it. The closest you can get to denying scepticism is to deny having the ability to ask the question in the first place. I'd explain further, but it's 4am and my brain is not working. At all.

    As far as materialism goes... I don't like it at all. I'm not even sure that it would inspire any sort of selflessness, since if everything is determined entirely by the law of causality, you don't really have the free will to even be selfless.

    Meh. I quit. It's not quite solipsism, but scepticism is being doubtful about whether an external world exists. If you want an interesting counter to it, I'd suggest On Certainty by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Carnap's Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology presents an interesting take on doubt also.

    Well, after I sleep I suppose I'll be alive enough again to actually be able to talk about this, so I guess I'll be back in a couple hours if nothing I posted makes any sense at all... :sweat
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2006
  8. Insipidipity Ignostic Buddhist

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    Even if a program is deterministic, you can still have a dynamic algorithm. By realized the materialistic nature of the world, it would alter the algorithm of one's brain. An input of sorts. That would have ramifications. So while we don't have the "free will" to change anything, we cannot determine what the future holds(adding information from the future would be an input in the system, affecting the future, creating an infinte loop). So in one sense, we can't make any choices outside of what would happen. In another sense, we still make that choice, regardless of whether there was any other way. It's hard to explain.
     
  9. Rhaella nothing but the rain

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    Well. I'm awake enough now to do this. :amuse

    I understand what you're trying to say here, I think. According to causality, however, all the choices I'm able to make are dependent on the experiences I've had in the past. In short, everything that's happened in the past to me defines who I am, and determines what I'm going to do in any given situation. Now, if because my past experiences caused me to become somewhat philosophically minded, I began to wonder if the world might be somewhat materialistic in nature, and began to change my manner of interaction to accommodate this realisation, my choice to become more selfless, perhaps, would not be an act of free will as much as my prior psychology combined with this new imput of information. And even if I were to realise this and attempt to change my psychology to allow for free will, this attempt to change itself would be dependent upon my realisation and the part of my psychology that desires free will, and thus would still end up being deterministic.

    I'm not certain, however, just how the materialism undermines the concept of self. Even if your metaphysics is monistic, I'm not sure how you can get around the cogito ergo sum. There needs to be an agent performing the thinking act to even come to these realisations. Unless you're going to take a Humean approach to the question, my thinking such thoughts invalidates the idea that I myself do not exist. Even if there is just one material in the world, my thoughts concerning it seem to indicate that mine own mind is an inherent part of this world, and perhaps in a way becomes the monad that is the world around me.

    So I can definitely see here that from some approaches, this degree of materialism can turn around and become solipsism, unless you find a way to deal with the cogito.

    ...and I shouldn't have suggested reading Wittgenstein and Carnap last night, since I'm not sure that you've read much philosophy before, and those guys are nigh impossible to understand. Definitely start with some Descartes and Hume if you haven't already. :)
     
  10. Bad Pornography Yum.

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    This stuff is too deep for me to get into without getting bored.

    Solipsism is a hard word for me to say. ^_^
     
  11. Shidoshi Cross Marian: Ninjai's Father

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    The two views of the universe are much like the fundamental nature of it. Duality. Particle-wave, day-night, evil-good, emotion-disinterest. Both are equally plausible, and can be proven under the right set of circumstances and experiments ("tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it", "sound is nothing more than a longitudinal pressure wave in a medium"), yet both cannot be at the same time because of their opposing principles. Much like we can't see light as both a wave and a photon simultaneously.

    As long as we're a part of the Universe, we'll never be able to answer it.

    We could have been created as a way for the Universe (since we're part of it) to ponder itself.
     
  12. Insipidipity Ignostic Buddhist

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    I started with Descartes and Hume in high school(for an epistemology class, hence the idea of peeling away the filters that cloud our understanding of reality), then moved on to Plato and Nietzsche(chronologically not philosophically). Descartes was essentially Solipsist in his claim I think therefore I am, rather than dualist as claimed(not to say as a whole, just that that statement in particular supports it).
    As for Hume, that is essentially causality, which supports the idea of Materialism(of which I assume that you were already well aware, I just wanted to rehash on those for others). In fact, that may have been partially where I drew my inspiration. Nietzsche and Plato were rather irrelevant in regards to such(although Plato was more in the realm of idealism, I wouldn't regard him as a solipsist), but I probably will delve into the two you prescribed when I have time if you still believe them to be pertinent.

    Anyways, while you may be awake, it is time for my catnap, I'll try to read the rest of your post with greater clarity when I am done.
     
  13. Rhaella nothing but the rain

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    Oh, okay! That's good then. You've definitely got enough of a backing to get into some of the insane fun stuff. Personally, Nietzsche is one of my favourites, but he kind of ignores this question altogether. Something I'm kind of happy about, since it always feels like I'm banging my head against a wall when it comes up.

    If you haven't done so already, you're definitely going to want to read some of Kant, since much of modern philosophy is built around some of his ideas, and you can't really escape him in the long run (as much as I wish you could :scry). He doesn't really go into some of this stuff all that much, but he's got a very interesting refutation of idealism in the Critique of Pure Reason which you should check out if you haven't yet.

    Sartre's got some interesting theories regarding the importance of the other in defining the self. You can find those in part three of Being and Nothingness. I think it's called The Existence of the Other, but I've got the French version so I'm not perfectly certain of the translation. That'd be an interesting contrast if you do get around to the Wittgenstein and Carnap as well, since they're from very different schools of Western philosophy. Carnap's not all that difficult, I think, but don't worry if you have trouble with Wittgenstein. He was the sort of jackass who purposely made it so that he'd be easily misinterpreted... nobody's quite sure of exactly what he was saying.

    And napping is good. ^_^;; If I slept more, I wouldn't be borderline insane half the time.
     
  14. cygnus Ta Det Lungt

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    That's kinda old school thinking thar. Light is a vibrating particle, what we percieve as the "trails" of light, or the wave part, is simply its effect on the surroundings. A photon is invisible to us, we just see the way the environment reacts to that photon's presence. It isn't a wave, light itself is a particle of energy vibrating. Its motion forwards is due to its momentum being both zero and infinity, because it has no mass. ie. when it is created, it requires an energy change, and this energy is given to the light which accelarates it to "infinite" speed, which is the speed of light, as it has no mass to slow it.

    The fact that light doesn't need a frame of reference/medium to occur is the same way that a sound wave doesn't need a reciever to be created. Its a one way process, but that doesn't mean it doesn't occur.

    The fact is, there are powers that are out of our understanding, as hard and unselfish that is to believe, so at a fundamental level, the way we percieve the universe IS an illusion.

    If you compare our understanding of anything, the way we see things has changed over time.

    What exists in the universe is a reality, but our lives are an illusion, or rather, an opinionated view, and not a reality; and reality cannot be proven without a frame of reference.:p

    Its a vicious cycle. Our frame of reference isn't reality, but nothing can be proven to be real without a frame of reference.

    We cannot "prove" it in absolute terms, but we cannot prove ANYTHING in absolute terms. It is a reality as far as it is possible for us to percieve it, hence it is a reality...we just can't prove it.

    Difficult concept, but I understand what I think. I think.:huh

    Sorry for the roundabout way of saying everything...
     
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