ASK A QUESTION

RECENT RESPONSES

CONCEPT CLOUD






  • Panelist Login

I have a practical question that arises from my Solipsistic views. The more negatively I view my life as a whole, the more disturbed I am by the prospect of my own suicide. When I feel my life has meaning, the option of eventual suicide, though not in the near future, becomes attractive. Conversely, when I feel helpless and depressed, I would rather let nature kill me. However, this tendency reverses when I entertain the thought that people exist outside of my mind. Even coming from a Solipsist who holds that nothing outside of the mind can be known, my attitude towards suicide depends upon the reality outside the mind. Since I have to make the decision of whether to live or die, I have to also take a stance on what exists apart from the mind. How do I choose which potentiality to base this decision upon? Can there be any reason to prefer one potential scenario to another? The scenario where others exist apart from my mind comes more naturally, but is this reason enough to continue entertaining it, hence avoiding suicide?

July 22, 2010

Response from Charles Taliaferro on July 22, 2010
I am not sure there has ever been any actual solipsist. Keep in mind that a solipsist thinks that only he /she exists. There is no one else. This is as radical a view as possible, though perhaps NYU professor Peter Unger went slightly further in a paper of his called something like "Why I don't exist"! If you are a solipsist, you are committed to holding that none of us exist --you are not in communication with any person outside of yourself. The difficulty of actually holding such a position comes out in an encounter that Bertrand Russell once reported. Russell tells us that he met a woman who thought solipsism was a great philosophy and she was surprised more people aren't solipsists. The reason this might be funny is because if the woman was truly a solipsist, she would not recognize that there are any other people at all.

You may be conflating solipsism and radical skepticism. A skeptic may claim not to know about "the external world" or "other minds," but that is different from claiming that only one person exists and that person is me or, in your case, you, which means I do not exist.

Your reflections on suicide are worrisome and if this is something you are seriously contemplating, I strongly urge you to receive help asap especially as your decision on such matters may be more influenced by psychological feelings of depression and helplessness rather than, say, philosophical reflection on arguments about suicide. Some philosophers have defended the permissibility of suicide under extreme conditions (Stoics, David Hume...) while some have argued against it (Socrates, John Locke...). I think one of the best cases against suicide, and I urge you to read it sooner rather than later, may be found in the early chapters of Augustine's The City of God.


Print PRINT Send2friends E-MAIL
E-MAIL THIS ENTRY

Recipient's e-address: required
(separate multiple e-addresses with commas)
Your name: required
Your e-address: required

Track TRACK

TRACK THIS ENTRY

If you provide your e-mail address, you will be automatically notified whenever this question receives a response. Your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose, and it will not be given or sold to anyone.

E-mail:

SHARE
SHARE THIS ENTRY

del.icio.us
Digg! Digg
Facebook
Twitter
reddit
StumbleUpon