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Solipsism: The Easy Version

If you believe the universe is all in your head, then you might want an easy way to explain that to people at parties, here’s how.

If this is best my head could fathom, I think I’ve been ripped off. 

Whether it be a core belief, an edgier option to chose amongst a sea of nihilistic millennials, or a coping mechanism, you may have found yourself identifying as someone who either outright believes that the universe and all that (appears to) exists around them is merely inside of their mind, or you simply acknowledge that you can’t know for sure that anything other than you and your existence actually exists. If you think you might be one of these people, but just can’t seem to articulate your views, this article is here to help you out, you budding little solipsist, you. If you’re not one of these people, stick around anyway... please.

With movies like The Matrix (1999) and The Truman Show (1998) causing people in the late 90s to start looking all around them for signs that the world wasn’t real, the idea of solipsism began to take form in the mainstream for the first time, without people necessarily knowing it. A trickle down effect, mostly from older siblings telling little Tommy he’s really in a dream when all he wanted to do was watch The Cramp Twins on Cartoon Network, carried the notion along to today. 

Solipsism is a relatively easy philosophy to comprehend, probably because it deals entirely with the self. Writers such as Caspar Hare have covered the subject in the most affirming possible manner, by committing to it wholeheartedly first before immortalising their thoughts to paper. Hare published his work On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects (2009), to detail the nature of Egocentric Presentism (my experience is special and the only real one). I think a fairly blunt yet definite quote from his work summarises the underlying ideals quite well — when responding to his daughter saying she is hungry, he claims, "She says something false. I have just had a very good lunch." (Hare 2009:52). It can seem like a brutal reaction to others’ feelings at first, but truly what Hare means is that, he can not confirm that all things considered to be separate from himself and therefore a product of space surrounding him, are real, not definitively. This includes other people, and whatever they may claim to think and feel. He has no way to know that his daughter is real and that she is hungry, therefor he must subscribe to the philosophy that until somehow (impossibly) proven otherwise, they are not.

Now, it’s likely that once you describe yourself as a solipsist and profess exactly what that means, you’ll be met with some questions, such as "So do you not care about anyone?" and "What’s the point in being kind to anyone?" Well there’s a few ways to approach this —

The Blunt Approach: You explain that, it’s simply the nature of the automated meat sacks/life illusions around you to respond in differing ways depending on what you say to them. Therefore, you have to adhere to these rules to make sure your existence is as easy as possible. 

The Slightly Nicer But Still Pretty Blunt Approach: Morals are a part of your upbringing (usually) and regardless of the attitudes you develop as you get older, they generally embed themselves into our neural pathways enough to pop that guilty feeling into our stomachs when we’re being a tad villainous. This means, no matter the logic you apply to the situation, you’ll still feel bad if you’ve been taught to recognise bad behaviour when you see it... or act it out. So it’s easier to sleep at night if you fake caring about what the empty shells in front of you are going through.

The Easy Approach: You laugh, tell them that it’s just something you think about occasionally and you don’t really know what you believe in, push your thoughts and feelings down with another vodka coke, and wait to get home where the philosophical forums on your laptop wait with open arms to remind you that whether you’re a solipsist, buddhist, or anything in between, it’s no one’s business but your own and as long as you’re happy and contented, it really doesn’t matter if they "get it."


Essential Literature

On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects by Caspar John Hare

The World as Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer

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Solipsism: The Easy Version
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