The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

There is no way to prove anything exists outside of our consciousness

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/26/2018 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,343 times Debate No: 116037
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




Looking forward to a debate!


If I die tomorrow I"ll be dead. I"ll have no consciousness as I"m dead via. death:). Even though I"m dead without a consciousness my parents, brother, boss, girlfriend, etc. will all still be living and therefore exist.
Debate Round No. 1


Con's argument holds no water.

The official logical progression would look as follows::

(a) The only thing one has direct access to is the contents of one's own mind (one's mental states). What one knows most certainly are one's mental states - one's thoughts, experiences, emotions, and so on.

(b) Just because one sees an object does not mean that the object exists. One could be dreaming or hallucinating. There is no direct conceptual or logically necessary link between the mental and the physical.

(c) The experiences of a given person are necessarily private to that person. The contents of one's mind are the only things one has direct access to. One cannot get "outside" of one's mind to encounter any other objects including other persons. Other minds are even more removed.

The basic form of the argument:

1) My mental states are the only things I have access to.
2) I cannot conclude the existence of anything outside of my mental states.
3) Therefore, only my mental states exist.

Regardless of whether you are alive or not, how can you prove your parents, brother, boss, or girlfriend even exist? How do you know they aren't projections of your subconscious? How do you know that a pair of VR goggles wasn't slapped on your head the moment you were born and everything around you is a simulation created by higher beings? Perhaps this is all just a dream?

You're appealing to your default notion that this "feels" like reality. But how can you prove anything outside of your own consciousness truly exists?


Yes, physical things you can touch are things that exist. To ask those questions you are questioning reality as it is. But okay fine. Reality is not a single definition. It is simply something that everyone agrees upon. If there is nobody in the room, but everyone (including me) agrees there is a person in the room, then there is a person in the room. If everyone agrees a lion is an elephant, then that tiger IS an elephant. Nobody realizes how malleable reality is. If we agree that things exist, then they exist. Reality is simply an agreement.
Debate Round No. 2


Just because we "agree" on something doesn't make it reality. We believed wholeheartedly in geocentrism and that turned out to clearly not be reality. I'd ask con to please use real arguments and reasons rather than relatively meaningless statements like "if we agree that things exist, then they exist."

One of my favorite all-time quotes: Indeed, in a way, we're always hallucinating. “It's just that when we agree about our hallucinations, that's what we call 'reality. Please check out the TED Talk it's from here: before continuing.

There is not one thing in this universe that you can "prove" exists. You can tell me other people see it or feel it or hear it. You can tell me all sorts of characteristics of it. But you can't prove that it's "real". You can't prove that it isn't part of some elaborate dream created by a being far more intelligent than us capable of rendering such realistic simulations.

Consider Decartes' Evil Demon: The evil demon, also known as malicious demon and evil genius is a concept in Cartesian philosophy. In the first of his 1641 Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes imagines that an evil demon, of "utmost power and cunning has employed all his energies in order to deceive me." This evil demon is imagined to present a complete illusion of an external world, so that Descartes can say, "I shall think that the sky, the air, the earth, colours, shapes, sounds and all external things are merely the delusions of dreams which he has devised to ensnare my judgement. I shall consider myself as not having hands or eyes, or flesh, or blood or senses, but as falsely believing that I have all these things.

Consider the Brain in the Vat:

The Brain in a Vat thought-experiment is most commonly used to illustrate global or Cartesian skepticism. You are told to imagine the possibility that at this very moment you are actually a brain hooked up to a sophisticated computer program that can perfectly simulate experiences of the outside world. Here is the skeptical argument. If you cannot now be sure that you are not a brain in a vat, then you cannot rule out the possibility that all of your beliefs about the external world are false. Or, to put it in terms of knowledge claims, we can construct the following skeptical argument. Let “P” stand for any belief or claim about the external world, say, that snow is white.

  1. If I know that P, then I know that I am not a brain in a vat
  2. I do not know that I am not a brain in a vat
  3. Thus, I do not know that P.

The Brain in a Vat Argument is usually taken to be a modern version of Decartes' argument (in the Meditations on First Philosophy) that centers on the possibility of an evil demon who systematically deceives us. The hypothesis has been the premise behind the movie The Matrix, in which the entire human race has been placed into giant vats and fed a virtual reality at the hands of malignant artificial intelligence (our own creations, of course).

Donald Davidson also emphasizes this aspect of metaphysical realism: “metaphysical realism is skepticism in one of its traditional garbs. It asks: why couldn’t all my beliefs hang together and yet be comprehensively false about the actual world?” (1986, 309)

The Brain in a Vat scenario is just an illustration of this kind of global skepticism: it depicts a situation where all our beliefs about the world would presumably be false, even though they are well justified. Thus if one can prove that we cannot be brains in a vat, by modus tollens one can prove that metaphysical realism is false. Or, to put it in more schematic form:

  1. If metaphysical realism is true, then global skepticism is possible
  2. If global skepticism is possible, then we can be brains in a vat
  3. But we cannot be brains in a vat
  4. Thus, metaphysical realism is false (1,2,3)

I'd highly recommend this summary on Cartesian Skepticism:

In summary, I defy con to come up with one single objective piece of reality, that they can verify the existence of anything they aren't present to perceive let alone can even prove the existence of if in plain site. Seeing a red ball doesn't mean it isn't part of a virtual reality world. Look at something as simple as the Sims video game series which has existed for decades. The Oculus Rift now.


Anil Seth literally said, "when we agree on our hallucinations it becomes reality". Most of the video was him giving a few optical and audio illusions. Reality is an axiom. It is not true nor false, it IS.
P.S. Nice to see you!:) I like debating you. We can do one of guns/gun control if you'de like.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by BertrandsTeapot 3 years ago
I'm sorry but that makes no sense
Posted by screenjack 3 years ago
just a month late to the party no big deal
Posted by screenjack 3 years ago
Alright so I have a mental state. Because of the fallibility of my senses I come to the conclusion that nothing can be known for certain outside of myself. Certainty however isn't required to know there is something other than self. If I see something but get closer and realize its something else it doesn't mean there isn't something there. If my mental state was the only factor of reality I would never be wrong. Since I can control my thoughts I would be able to control the world and disprove everyone who disagreed because my mind is the only reality. Since we know we aren't always right we have to conclude that our mental state is fallible and that truth exists outside ourselves.
the next thing to take into consideration is how our views literally change because of outside factors. When we're little we know less and will believe in a whole lot more including things like a fat man with gifts coming down the chimney. If truth existed only within our mental state we would never grow more complex thoughts because their wouldn't be outside forces for us to expand our minds with. Think of it as adding zero. Without outside force we would never have base knowledge to build upon or things to hallucinate about. The math would be 1+0=1+0+0+0+0
In conclusion we cannot know with certainty outside of ourselves. We can however know there is an outside ourselves.
Posted by canis 3 years ago
So you have been talking to yourself, and viewed the debate +130 times...
Posted by Smooosh 3 years ago
It's impossible to disprove solipsism. Hats off to con for trying, but your going up against a brick wall.
Posted by canis 3 years ago
what is conscioudness witout anything ? = nothing..
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Topaet 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's argument "There is not one thing in this universe that you can "prove" exists. You can tell me other people see it or feel it or hear it. You can tell me all sorts of characteristics of it. But you can't prove that it's "real". You can't prove that it isn't part of some elaborate dream created by a being far more intelligent than us capable of rendering such realistic simulations." argues well for his position as it leads to the conclusion that "There is no way to prove anything exists outside of our consciousness" and is never properly addressed by Con who argues that "Reality is an axiom. It is not true nor false, it IS." which actually leads to the conclusion that no proof is necessary for reality to exist but does not address whether there is any proof or whether it is possible to prove a reality outside our consciousness.

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