[Pathways] Ask a Philosopher: The paradox of anti-solipsism

The paradox of anti-solipsism

Samuel asked:

"To what extent is solipsism a relevant philosophical theory in modern society?

"I have determined it to be irrelevant in an ethical sense but not in a philosophical one."

Answer by Geoffrey Klempner:

In a nutshell, ethical solipsism would be the view that other people simply don't count in my deliberations. They are tools to use, or obstacles that get in my way, nothing more. By contrast, 'philosophical' or what I would term ontological solipsism is the view that I am the only entity that exists. You are just one of the characters in the story of my world — which is the one and only world.

For the ethical solipsist, people are 'real' in the sense that they are actually existing entities outside my own consciousness. I might or might not believe that these 'things' have something 'inside' — consciousness, a view of the world, desires and feelings — or not.

If they don't have anything 'inside' then their apparent 'pain' or 'suffering' cannot give me sadness or pleasure. They are just pieces of malfunctioning biological equipment. But if they do have something 'inside' then, so what? So what if their suffering is real? Pain is bad when it's in me, but if it's in you then it doesn't hurt me at all [...]

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          RIP. Dr Geoffrey Klempner (1951-2022).           Absolute pleasure to have known and work with you since 2003. ...