The Problems of Consciousness

A note on "solipsism"

The word "solipsism" comes from the Latin "solus" (alone) and "ipse" (self). It can be used to refer to any doctrine that gives primacy to the self.

Moral solipsism (or egoism) holds that self-interest is in some sense primary in moral calculations.

Metaphysical solipsism holds that only the self exists; anything besides the self has only some secondary existence, for instance as a mental construct posited by the self.

Epistemological solipsism is a family of doctrines that hold that we can know only facts about the self, and that other facts cannot be known, or can be known only in some secondary sense.

Here, we are concerned with solipsism about consciousness; any doctrine which holds that only the self has subjective consciousness, and that no entity in the external world does.

Metaphysical solipsism tends to imply all the others, but it is possible to endorse one of the other kinds without committing to the metaphysical kind. I might, for instance, believe that the external world exists independant of me (denying metaphysical solipsism), but believe that no entity other than myself has subjective experience (endorsing solipsism about consciousness).

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David Chess accepts all the blame, but Steve White gets some of the credit. If you're lost, see the site map. This page last updated January 8th, 2000.