The Instigator
3RU7AL
Pro (for)
Winning
12 Points
The Contender
Taust
Con (against)
Losing
2 Points

Solipsism is fundamental to any rational belief system

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
3RU7AL
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/2/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 923 times Debate No: 99551
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (4)

 

3RU7AL

Pro

Thank you for participating in this debate. I will be arguing in favor of the view that solipsism is fundamental to any rational belief system.

Before any belief system can be properly analysed for internally consistent logical integrity, you have to figure out where the actual starting point is. What exactly is the unassailable cornerstone that you expect your perfect edifice to rest precariously upon? This pursuit includes confronting some of the most basic epistemic questions such as "how do we know what we know", "what is knowledge" and "can we even know anything?" This search for the origin of knowledge leads inevitably to solipsism. The inevitability of solipsism cannot be ignored without indulging in some anti-intellectual fancy footwork.

Definition of solipsism
noun
The view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist.

Common objections to solipsism include:

a) Solipsism is false because one mind cannot possibly contain a lifetime of information.

This statement is flawed because solipsism does not assert that all information comes from a single mind. In fact, the existence of a mind is not even a question within the scope of solipsism. The only assertion made is that "something" that you identify as your own ability to reason, cannot be doubted to exist. It says nothing about the nature of your ability to reason or about any mechanism or material that may be in some way related to your ability to reason.

b) Solipsism is false because it leads to selfishness and other bad behavior.

This statement is a classic logical fallacy known as "appeal to consequences". This approach attempts to completely ignore the logical integrity of an argument and instead jumps to the conclusion that, based solely on a personal opinion, if anyone took the argument seriously, they would inevitably act in an undesirable manner. Not only is this presumption completely lacking evidence or any other rational basis, it employs fear in order to distract the other party with an indirect ad hominem.

c) Solipsism is false because other people exist.

This statement shows a very poor grasp of the subject at hand. The only way you know that other people exist is because of your sensory perceptions. Because your senses can be fooled with either hallucinations or mental illness or the unreliability of memory or even something as simple as a dream they can be doubted. Solipsism is derived from a logical analysis of what can and what can't be doubted. If you are unable to imagine the possibility of doubting the existence of other people, you are incapable of exploring this particular topic.

d) Solipsism is false because most people think it sounds ridiculous.

This statement is a logical fallacy known as "appeal to popularity". It should go without saying that when applying rigorous logical analysis to a subject, the mere suggestion that the vast majority of some significant group of people may hold a contrary viewpoint is an utterly meaningless and completely off topic assertion.

Feel free to expand upon any of the counter arguments described above or add your own. I look forward to having a civil conversation regarding the topic at hand.
Taust

Con

It is true that it is impossible to know anything other than the fact of your own existence for sure, but this doesn't mean this fact is fundamental to any belief system.
What solipsism shows us is that if is always necessary to make certain assumptions, such as the assumption that the world around you really exist, because you can never reach any conclusion without making these basic assumptions. We are justified in making assumptions when if is much more likely that they are true than false. No belief system can even exist without making certain assumptions, so belief systems are the opposite of solipsism. Any rational belief system assumes the most likely option when an assumption is necessary, and making this assumption is a rejection of solipsism in favor of a more useful belief that is highly likely to be true.
A rational belief system cannot be founded on solipsism because solipsism makes it unfalsifiable. For example, if I believe there is nothing outside of the United States except an infinite void, you could disprove me by taking me out of the US. However, since nothing can be known for sure, I can claim that I could have been just hallucinating about the world outside the US. This is extremely unlikely to be true, but because of solipsism, it can't be proven false, so my claim could never be disproven. This is why to gain any knowledge, we must abandon solipsism and make the most logical conclusion from the evidence we have. If the chances of being wrong are nearly infinitesimal, we can assume that we are right.
Basically what I'm trying to say is that, while all your arguments there are correct and solipsism is technically true, having a rational belief system requires taking the slight risk of making some basic assumptions that are almost 100% certain. Although this means there is a chance that we could be wrong about anything, it is an extremely miniscule chance, and if is better than knowing nothing at all and having no belief system.
Debate Round No. 1
3RU7AL

Pro

You make some excellent points and I realize I completely forgot to address the "solipsism is obviously true but, totally meaningless and not related to any practical worldview in any way whatsoever" objection.

You mention that certain assumptions are necessary and I agree. However, the explicit or implicit nature of those assumptions and the number of and rational criteria for those assumptions is of utmost importance if one is to conduct a serious rational self examination. Let's not assume that all assumptions are created equally. For example, the assumption that someone might believe that they are free of assumptions is a particularly dangerous assumption because it means they are not cognizant of the critical weak points in their own belief structure.

Facing solipsism as a cold hard fact is important because it serves as an excellent lens with which to reveal a person's unacknowledged and/or not rigorously examined assumptions.

You mention something to the effect of "You can never reach any conclusion without assuming the world around you really exists." This would only seem to be a true statement if you subscribe to a philosophy of naive realism. Transcendental idealism and constructivism are some examples of alternative philosophical viewpoints that promote more of a "working theory" view of reality that does not require an unquestioning faith in one's perceptions.

Belief systems are not "the opposite of solipsism". Belief systems are constructed from axioms and assumptions strapped together with an often flimsy web of logical extrapolations. Solipsism is probably the most unassailable of those axioms.

The fact that solipsism is unfalsifiable does not automatically exclude it from being integrated into a rational worldview. The hilarious thing about the unfalsifiable objection is that the reason most claims that are unfalsifiable are considered logically unsound is because they are almost inevitably faith based. Solipsism is the only thing that is 100% verifiable. It is probably the only position one can hold that requires zero faith and is therefore impervious to the unfalsifiability objection.

I agree that when conflicting assumptions are inevitable you should choose the one that has more evidence and is more logically sound than the available alternatives. However I disagree with you about your assumption that you must necessarily assume your assumption approaches something approximating 100% certainty. I generally operate with an assumption of anywhere from 50 to 80 percent certainty that my perception roughly correlates with people I interact with.
Taust

Con

I understand your arguments that solipsism can lead to open-mindedness, but it can just as easily do the opposite. I was trying to get at this when I said it makes certain beliefs unfalsifiable. What I meant here was not that solipsism itself is unfalsifiable, but solipsism can lead to unfalsifiable claims, because if nothing can be proven or disproven, any belief cannot be disproven and thus is unfalsifiable. This is why many very illogical claims still have people who believe them even when they are clearly false. Take conspiracy theories for example. Even though there is no evidence for most of the claims that conspiracy theorists make, you can't disprove them because anything is possible. Even when you find something that actually does absolutely disprove their theory, they will claim it is all part of the conspiracy. Since nothing can be known, they are able to claim that even cold hard evidence does not disprove their theories.
Solipsism also allows one to make ad hoc hypotheses that have no evidence but allow people to keep believing false claims. This is a staple of conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.
Solipsism is also the main reason denialism works. Even when something someone doesn't want to accept is proven, they can deny it because there's always a possibility, no matter how small, that it is wrong.
Things like pseudoscience and denialism are the epitome of closed-mindedness, and they are allowed by solipsism. This is why I think solipsism is interesting to think about and still technically true, but not useful in reality.
Debate Round No. 2
3RU7AL

Pro

Using solipsism as a standard of confidence is important when measuring rational justification for all other beliefs because it is the only true and objective standard available.

It does not follow, as you seem to suggest, that all beliefs are equally justified or unjustified when compared to solipsism.

Solipsism is derived from rational inquiry and it follows that other beliefs derived from rational inquiry are more likely to be accurate than beliefs that are not bound by formal logic.

A naive realist can hold any number of superstitious beliefs that may or may not be falsifiable without ever considering solipsism. Therefore solipsism is not prerequisite to unfalsifiable beliefs.

Specific claims of conspiracy theories and pseudoscience are very likely to be falsifiable and even if they are not falsifiable it does not mean they are necessarily false. Unfalsifiable claims are merely dubious if clearly faith based or lacking direct evidence such as in the classic example of the proposed tea pot in orbit around the planet Mars.

Denialism is not dependent on solipsism in any way. The ability to deny any particular evidence as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable conclusion requires no rational logical analysis whatsoever and this can be accomplished without any reference to solipsism. Denialism requires no justification whatsoever and is more of a knee jerk reflex than a justifiable rational belief.

So you might ask, how do we know what we know? Well, contextualism seems to leave enough room for elements of empiricism, idealism, rationalism, scepticism, phenomenalism, reliabilism, coherentism, hedonism, utilitarianism and scientism. The more of these that apply to your belief, the more rationally justified your belief is. But if you don't begin your analysis with solipsism, you aren't digging deep enough.

Your objections to solipsism seem to hinge on conflating skepticism with a paralyzing lack of confidence. There are many levels of justifiable confidence based on both the amount and logical consistency of evidence available for any particular belief.

I hold some beliefs with a high (but not unassailable) level of confidence and others with a medium or lower level of confidence. There are some beliefs I am highly skeptical of but do not qualify as provably false and there are also beliefs I categorize as logically incoherent and still others that are provably false.

I offer an example of a general forced to make critical decisions in the fog of war. He may not know exactly how many enemy forces there are and he may not know exactly where they are but this lack of certainty is not paralyzing. The general takes a calculated risk and commands his forces based on what is deemed to be the best evidence available at the moment. He might order more reconnaissance, but by the time that information arrives, the situation will have likely changed once again. If the general naively believes perfect confidence is justified he is more likely to commit too many forces to a single action, risking disaster if his intelligence is outdated or inaccurate. My point here is that you have to know how much confidence is justified in order to mitigate risk. If you treat confidence like a toggle switch, either on or off, you are likely to be alternatively paralyzed and overconfident.

If you're trying to say that the assertion "life is but a dream" trumps all rational analysis, I would have to disagree with your position. To borrow from your examples, even if I am willing to grant the premise that my experience is currently part of a dream, there is still evidence within that dream that the United States exists and that other geographical locations beyond the United States also exist. The possibility that your current experience may be a dream does not automatically level the field for all logical and illogical beliefs.

Also it seems appropriate to note that it is possible for a conspiracy theory or pseudoscientific claim to be true even if a specific claim lacks compelling and coherent evidence. A poor argument is only evidence of a poor argument, it is not evidence that the claim is in fact false. Although the burden of proof would seem to be generally on the claimant challenging the status quo. And even though personal opinion and anecdotal evidence are not rigorous or scientific, they may still be considered compelling to certain sympathetic audiences and yet they are still not rationally justified.

In order to properly gauge your level of justified confidence in any particular belief it is important to keep in mind a benchmark for truth ranging from unquestionably true to absolutely false. "Cogito ergo sum" represents one end of this scale and "1+1=6" lies somewhere on the other end.
Taust

Con

Sorry for not having a counter-argument, but you've convinced me that you're right, so I guess you've won.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by 3RU7AL 1 year ago
3RU7AL
Standards of evidence:

It appears that the more severe the potential punishment, the higher the standard of evidence is raised. This may relate to philosophical standards of belief, raising the bar of evidence in proportion to perceived stakes.

Preponderance of Evidence - Burden of proof falls to plaintiff
If the court determines that the evidence is even slightly (a weighted 51%) in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant will be fined.

Clear and Convincing Evidence - Burden of proof falls to plaintiff
If the court determines that the evidence of a crime is unambiguous the defendant will be convicted.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt - Burden of proof falls to plaintiff
If a reasonable person can doubt the guilt of the defendant they must go free.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Edlvsjd 1 year ago
Edlvsjd
3RU7ALTaustTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Ff
Vote Placed by Mharman 1 year ago
Mharman
3RU7ALTaustTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by Ragnar 1 year ago
Ragnar
3RU7ALTaustTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession.
Vote Placed by The-Voice-of-Truth 1 year ago
The-Voice-of-Truth
3RU7ALTaustTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Consession by Con to Pro, thus the rewarding of the args point to Pro and conduct to Con.