Classical solipsism doesn’t go far enough.

Descartes had things going for him to be sure. While his whinge about God managed to create an absurd mind/body dualism debate that we’re still coming to grips with, he did also manage to kick start a sort of proto-scientific understanding. The phrase “ergo est cognito sum”, that is, “I think therefore I am” has often been misunderstood as some sort of superiority regarding thinkers above others. That’s not the case of course, rather it has to do with Descartes quest to question everything possible. Briefly here, he believed that he could say a devil was pretending the world existed, that his own feelings and body could all be a falsification (think Matrix). However, he could not think of a way in which his ability to think could not exist, as he is thinking of it- ergo est cognito sum.


The philosophy to directly arise out of this Cartesian understanding is called solipsism, and has had a big influence on philosophy. Solipsism by and by, ignored Descartes’ future meditations about God that I’ve previously referred to.  Its already been pointed out that solipsism is not only highly unlikely, but arbitrarily wasteful. It is far more likely, given the complexity of sensory phenomena, that the mind did not create it, and that it is at least a meaningful representation of what the world is.


But even then I reckon they make a fundamental error. When Descartes says that he cannot conceive of any possibility of thought being extinguished (and therefore his existence), a true skeptic should ask “so what?”. So what if one man’s (or indeed the entire human race) can’t think of a way in which you cannot exist and think at the same time? What makes Descartes reasoning powers something worthwhile? A true solipsist would confer that there is now way of knowing that they exist, or indeed if they think, or indeed if existence, nonexistence or anything (or nothing) is there or not. The basis that you cannot conceive of it happening is far from a suitable point of delineation, given that we are talking about the most fundamental of all metaphysics. In short, if you really want to doubt the world and science, you need to lose a lot more than a conceived fanciful attachment to reality, you need to lose yourself.


~ by freeze43 on July 26, 2011.

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