In this paper I want to propose that we see solipsism as arising from certain problems we have about identifying ourselves as subjects in an objective world. The discussion will centre on Wittgenstein.
Current computational psychology, especially as described by Fodor (1975, 1980, 1981), Pylyshyn (1980), and Stich (1983), is both a bold, promising program for cognitive science and an alternative to naturalistic psychology (Putnam 1975). Whereas naturalistic psychology depends on the general scientific framework to fix the meanings of general terms and, hence, the content of thoughts utilizing or expressed in those terms, computational cognitive theory banishes semantical considerations in psychological investigations, embracing methodological, not ontological, solipsism. I intend to argue that (...) computational psychology cannot individuate thoughts as it promises. For, semantics is fundamental in fixing an important subset of the computational relations that, according to the computational theory, are supposed both to obtain among thoughts and, thereby, to determine their identity conditions. If what I contend is correct, then contrary to what its advocates maintain, computational psychology is not preferable to naturalistic psychology as a research strategy in cognitive science. (shrink)
This paper is a discussion of the tenability of methodological solipsism, which typically relies on the so-called Explanatory Thesis. The main arguments in the paper are directed against the latter thesis, according to which internal (or autonomous or narrow) psychological states as opposed to noninternal ones suffice for explanation in psychology. Especially, feedback-based actions are argued to require indispensable reference to noninternal explanantia, often to explanatory common causes. Thus, to the extent that methodological solipsism is taken to require (...) the truth of the Explanatory Thesis, it, too, can be regarded as untenable. (shrink)
This paper addresses a recent argument of the Churchlands against the "linguistic-rationalist" tradition exemplified by current cognitive-computational psychology. Because of its commitment to methodological solipsism--the argument goes--computational psychology cannot provide an account of how organisms are able to represent and "hook up to" the world. First I attempt to determine the exact nature of this charge and its relation to the Churchlands' long-standing polemic against 'folk psychology' and the linguistic-rationalist methodology. I then turn my attention to the Churchlands' account (...) of what it is for computational psychology to be methodologically solipsistic. I argue that there is no reason to suppose that methodological solipsism commits one to a purely syntactic theory of the mind (of the kind that Stephen Stich has recently advocated): the formality constraints that methodological solipsism imposes on psychological explanation do not exclude 'essential' reference to the representational content of mental states, as long as this content is construed in the 'narrow' sense. I conclude by raising a problem for computational psychology that may provide some real cause for concern. (shrink)
Meaning Solipsism says that it is possible for there to be a meaningful state without any other meaningful state. The meaning of such a solo meaningful state should be non-natural. The best strategy for establishing Meaning Solipsism is to argue for the determination of the meaning of a possible solo meaningful state via the set of entities the meaning of the state fits. Embracing merely possible and impossible entities is the most straightforward way to do so. Also, a (...) good way to honor analayticities the meaning of a solo meaningful state gives rise to is to insist on certain facts about impossible entities as non-negotiable brute facts. (shrink)
This paper argues that an ecological approach to psychology of the sort advanced by J. J. Gibson provides a coherent and powerful alternative to the computational, information-processing, paradigm. The paper argues for two principles. Firstly, one cannot begin to understand what internal information processing an organism must accomplish until one understands what information is available to the organism in its environment. Secondly, an organism can process information by acting on or manipulating physical structures in its environment. An attempt is made (...) to show how these principles can be extended to cognition as a whole. It is suggested that these principles may have a foundation in evolutionary biology. (shrink)
A person skeptical about other minds supposes it is possible in principle that there are no minds other than his. A person skeptical about an external world thinks it is possible there is no world external to him. Some philosophers think a person can refute the skeptic and prove that his world is not the solitary scenario the skeptic supposes might be realized. In this paper I examine one argument that some people think refutes solipsism. The argument, from Wittgenstein, (...) is grounded in a thesis about language. Some people believe that in using language a person necessarily is linked to persons other than himself. Some people think a person can use the ‘communalist’ principle to refute forms of solipsism. I show that people do not refute solipsism with the Wittgensteinian, language-necessarily-is-shared principle. (shrink)
Of all the enigmatic remarks running through Wittgensteinís Tractatus, none are a greater source of puzzlement to this reader than the endorsement of solipsism in 5.6-5.641. Wittgenstein writes ìI am my worldî, but, even though ìwhat solipsism means, is quite correct...it cannot be said, but it shows itselfî (5.63; 5.62). More intriguing still, he writes.
My title1 is taken from one of the most obscure, and most discussed, sections of an already obscure and much discussed work, the discussion of the self, the world, and solipsism in sections 5.6-5.641 of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus.2 Wittgenstein writes: 5.6 The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. 5.61 Logic fills the world: the limits of the world are also its limits. We cannot therefore say in logic: This and this there is in (...) the world, that there is not. For that would apparently presuppose that we exclude certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case since otherwise logic must get outside the limits of the world: that is. (shrink)
In this paper I want to propose that we see solipsism as arising from certain problems we have about identifying ourselves as subjects in an objective world. The discussion will centre on Wittgenstein’s treatment of solipsism in his Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus. In that work Wittgenstein can be seen to express an unusually profound understanding of the problems faced in trying to give an account of how we, who are subjects, identify ourselves as objects (...) in the world. We have in his compressed remarks, the kernels of a number of arguments which all come together to form what can be called the problem of self-identification. I want to argue that the solipsism of the Tractatus arises at least in part as a solution to, or – to put it less optimistically – as a symptom or articulation of this problem. In approaching Wittgenstein’s early discussion of solipsism in this way I will obviously be in disagreement with some other interpretations of the work. For example, there are those who think that there is no ‘solipsism of the Tractatus’.1 In fact, the Tractarian arguments presented below as motivating solipsism have been seen as fulfilling the quite opposite function of refuting it. I do not intend in this piece to engage with alternative interpretations. Let me say a little bit about why I have granted myself the licence not to do so. First, the focus of my concern with solipsism is on how it connects with what I have called the problem of self-identification. While it is a concern that emerged in an attempt to make sense of Wittgenstein’s remarks in.. (shrink)
This paper considers whether Hegel's master/slave dialectic in the Phenomenology of Spirit should be considered as a refutation of solipsism. It focuses on a recent and detailed attempt to argue for this sort of reading that has been proposed by Frederick Beiser ? but it argues that this reading is unconvincing, both in the historical motivations given for it in the work of Jacobi and Fichte, and as an interpretation of the text itself. An alternative reading of the dialectic (...) is proposed, where it is argued that the central problem Hegel is concerned with is not solipsism, but the sociality of freedom. (shrink)
Solipsism, Individualism and Cognitive Science  "Artificial Intelligence cannot ignore philosophy" - John McCarthy (McCarthy 1988) I shall challenge the claim that Good Old-Fashioned Artificial Intelligence, or GOFAI (Haugeland 1985) is solipsistic while more recent neural or "brain-style" approaches to AI are not. (Rumelhart et. al. 1986) After distinguishing GOFAI from connectionism, I will first show that GOFAI is not committed to solipsism but rather to what is more properly called individualism.
This paper presents the content of the unpublished notes that the Dutch mathematician Arend Heyting wrote in different periods of his life on solipsism and that are preserved in Heyting's archive at the University of Amsterdam. Most of the notes are quoted here and translated into English. Their study shows the originality of Heyting's reflections on a subject that was typical of his master, L. E. J. Brouwer, the father of intuitionism.
Spinoza, as a monist and a rationalist, seems unlikely to have occasion to confront any form of the solipsism problem. However, a close examination of his epistemology reveals that he does in fact confront a very radical form of this problem, and offers an equally radical solution to it, derived from the very epistemological premises that make it a potential problem for him. In particular, we find that the conception of the mind as the “idea of the body,” premised (...) on the strict identity of mental modes (“ideas”) and extended modes (“bodies”) forecloses any possibility of awareness extending “beyond” the confines of the finite body, or of any idea being able to be about anything other than its own bodily mode: ideas can only be ideas “of” the body of which they are the idea, and hence the mind, as the idea of the body, cannot have any ideas “of” anything outside of the body. The solution comes from the “Common Notions” which establish the existence of the world outside the body not by “reaching” that world, but merely by establishing immanently the nature of the finite body qua finite body. This manner of instantiating an infinite externality of the body within the body itself, though highly exceptional in European intellectual history, bears interesting similarities to the solutions to distinct but parallel problems concerning the relation of the finite to the infinite found in Chinese thought, in particular in the Zhuangzi and in the Huayan and Tiantai schools of Buddhism. (shrink)
The thesis of this paper is that in dealing with problems of "mind," the philosopher of mind needs to be as well grounded in his relevant sciences (e.g. psychology, anthropology) as the philosopher of the physical sciences needs to be grounded in his relevant sciences (e.g. physics). The thesis of this paper is also that the psychological analysis of solipsism and the philosophical analysis are not independent (or at least not independent in all of their aspects), and that therefore (...) the psychological analysis sheds light on the philosophical, and vice versa. It is argued that solipsism is untenable on at least two grounds: because (1) there are no such physical phenomena as acts of "immediate perception," and because (2), that there can be no such thing as an "individual mind" without some form of a "group mind.". (shrink)
Roughly characterized, solipsism is the skeptical thesis that there is no reason to think that anything exists other than oneself and one’s present experience. Since its inception in the reflections of Descartes, the thesis has taken three broad and sometimes overlapping forms: Internal World Solipsism that arises from an account of perception in terms of representations of an external world; Observed World Solipsism that arises from doubts as to the existence of what is not actually present sensuously (...) in experience; Unreal World Solipsism that arises from doubts as to the reality of the perceived world. This book attempts to give a rationally warranted refutation of all three forms. Over time, a vast number of putative rebuttals of solipsism have been proposed. The first half of the book clears the terrain for more productive investigation by showing in detail how each of these various responses fails. Among the simpler of such responses is the claim to have knowledge and certainty about everyday matters (Moore, Austin, Quinton, Pollock). Another is to appeal to pragmatic considerations dictated by the fact of one’s living in the world (Wittgenstein, Rescher, Ayer, Will, Strawson). Yet another is to undermine the skeptical thesis by applying it to itself (Plato, Hume, Russell, Johnson). All of these simpler approaches are found to be inadequate or irrelevant (Chapters 2 and 3). Other responses are more complex in that they presuppose certain basic positions with regard to the nature of cognition, meaning, language, or thought. Consequently, showing how they fail often involves showing the falsity of their underlying views. One such approach maintains that any empirical enquiry presupposes the existence of material objects (Neurath, Wittgenstein, Sellars, Quine, Gurwitsch, Williams, Rorty, BonJour), and that consequently solipsism is a problem peculiar to a mistaken foundationalist epistemology that purports to derive all warranted belief about the world from sensuous data. However, on examination, the various lines of reasoning advanced are found to be fallacious (Chapter 4). A closely-related approach is to claim that any empirical enquiry presupposes background truths, and that consequently solipsism is parasitic in the sense that it is based on truths that it purports to deny (Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Sellars, Quine). Such a self-contradictory situation is shown to obtain for only one form of solipsism, representational solipsism with its classical external world problem dating back to Descartes (Chapter 5). Another approach is to appeal to linguistic considerations in order to level charges of meaninglessness against solipsism (Wittgenstein, Austin, Ryle, Putnam, Clarke, Stroud). However, the charges are easily shown to be unwarranted (Chapter 6), a conclusion subsequently corroborated by a briefly sketched first-person account of meaning (Chapter 7). A further approach is to claim that all philosophical thinking must involve linguistic concepts, that language is intersubjective and tied to objects, and hence that solipsism is conceptually parasitic, and hence calls into question a conceptual scheme that it presupposes (Kant, Strawson, Wittgenstein, Sellars, Quine, Rorty). However, it may be shown that language is not incorrigibly wedded to objects, and in revised form it may be used to state solipsistic theses (Chapter 8). This conclusion is further supported by a refutation of various arguments against the possibility of private language (Wittgenstein, Sellars, Goodman, Rorty, Gadamer), as well as by the empirical evidence of everyday thinking that commonly takes place without reliance on the structures of public language (Chapter 9). The final chapters are more directly constructive. Following foundationalist procedure, a survey is undertaken of the sensuous data of first-person experience in its various modalities and their interrelationships (Chapter 10). An account is given of the bodily nature of the experiencing subject or self that feels, that wills, and that thinks, as well as of the spontaneity of the self or its capacity for free choice (Chapter 11). Rational warrant is then provided for thinking that items randomly perceived through a subject’s spontaneity or free will, continue to exist when unperceived, thus refuting forms of Observed World Solipsism that deny the existence of unperceived objects (Chapter 12). Finally, it is argued with regard to Unreal World Solipsism that while the scenarios it proposes cannot be dismissed as impossible, the absence of any supporting evidence whatever in their favor makes the espousal of any of them both arbitrary and an irrational leap (Chapter 13). (shrink)
Discussion of Fodor's doctrine of 'methodological solipsism' and Stich's principle of autonomy' has been concerned to show that these principles are incompatible with psychological theories which appeal to states with content (e.g. beliefs and desires). Concern with these issues, and the subsequent attempt to develop a notion of 'narrow' content which is solipsistic or autonomous, has, I believe, obscured a more fundamental issue: No theory which satisfies these principles would ever be able to explain behavior under descriptions which are (...) in fact important to psychology. But I do not simply argue that there are descriptions under which psychological theories will not in fact explain behavior; I argue that descriptions under which psychological theories do explain behavior are not compatible with solipsistic principles. I develop several thought experiments to demonstrate this. (shrink)
Little sociological attention is directed to dreams and dreaming, and none at all is directed to how people tell one another about dreams. Ordinary settings in which dreams are told mimic the conditions of “breaching” experiments and should produce anomie, but dream telling proceeds without trouble. Foundational orientations of ordinary dream talk assimilate into professional dream studies, where dream narratives are “data” and the analysis of narratives is “dream analysis.” That such practices proceed without trouble poses some interesting problems for (...) sociology in terms of how anyone experiences “constraint” in the telling and hearing of dreams. (shrink)