I wrote this essay long before I ever even heard about solipsism. It's interesting to see that just a simple thought experiment is actually followed as complete belief by some.
DISCLAIMER: This essay has been written by me, it's not a cut and paste job and a pretty good english translation of the dutch original. There's only one other version around and that's the original dutch version.
Analysis of a possible perception of Reality
This essay will consist of a theory of my own design and the consequences it will have.
The theory is about a way on which someone can perceive and process his or her environment. It will begin with the theory itself and an explanation on what it exactly entails. After this, several conclusions will be drawn, assuming the theory is true.
The theory of this essay is as follows:
- Everything I experience is the only thing that exists
This theory needs a little explaining. What I try to say with this theory is that everything I perceive (see, hear, smell, taste, feel) is the only thing that exists. My complete reality
is build from my own observation
s. This can not be disproved; someone can tell me for example that he or she has been playing soccer
in the afternoon. But how can I be sure of that if I weren’t there? Every piece of evidence that might be produced for this will never be sufficient unless I was there and saw it with my own eyes.
All the data that originates from any other source than my own senses can be a forgery
. World events that I see on the television
could maybe be nothing more than the actual picture and sound that I receive from the television
itself. Even the news readers would be nothing more than just a picture on the screen. At this very moment, behind the closed door of my room, there could be absolutely nothing there! Not until I open the door will my reality
be expanded by another room.
The Reality is being built by me
Everything around me changes except for myself. Nothing of what I perceive is a constant, everything is changeable. Everything except, for the fact that I’m always present. By purely observing these facts, I can only conclude that I’m the cause of my own environment. There is nothing else that is always present besides myself.
I’m the centre of the universe
If the reality is being built by me, then I am the origin of everything around me. Like an opening flower, I create everything around me. Therefore I am literally always the center of my environment. No matter if I move to the left or the right, I will always remain in the center.
The universe = my universe
If everything stated above is true, then I will have to adjust my perspective. Instead of being an insignificant particle in the universe, I am the glowing center. I am the beginning and the end, I am the origin of everything and nothing can exist without me. Because of this, I am unconsciously the lord and master of my universe. Granted though, my universe has shrunk from thousands of light years to a room of 4 by 6 meter.
In what measure do I control my reality?
Since I can’t make houses disappear with a mere thought, or can make elephants fly with a mere frown of my eyebrow, I will have to assume that the creation of my reality is done entirely subconsciously. This doesn’t seem so strange to me as I look at my surroundings. Everything is so incredibly full of details that I am sure I will never be able to think this up consciously.
If I am the centre, then what are you?
This theory has until now held up its own when I put it to the test against inanimate objects such as rooms, chairs, computers and philosophy essays. But if everything is only temporary and fluid, then what is a person? Just like all the other things in the world, a person is only temporary. But a person lives in my eyes, a person thinks, feels and has feelings of its own. This makes me look differently at people in contrast as to how I look at, for example, a streetlight. Still, as soon as I can’t perceive a person anymore, he or she will seize to exist and will not return until I perceive him or her once again. In the mean time that person will seize existing. In other words, another person will never be my equal.
Am I then all alone?
Since no one is real, but only a thought, I am afraid that I’m all alone in this universe of mine. I will never meet someone with the same position in my reality as myself, since there can be only one center. This thought is one of the most disturbing that has evolved from this theory. Just like everyone, I feel the need to socialize with others. But the thought that none of them are real, makes the chasm between them and me unbearably large.
If I have complete control over myself, then I will have complete control over my reality
If I am the origin of everything around me, then I will be the one who exerts control over my reality. If I could control myself enough, then I would also be able to control my reality to a certain extent. In a way I am already doing that by performing every day actions. Making a sandwich is also a form of exerting my control. But if I could control myself completely, then I would also be able to control my reality completely. I would know no boundaries anymore, the possibilities of what I would be able to do would be limitless.
I just want to make clear that I don’t accept this theory as the truth. It’s just interesting to look at everything from a completely different angle. Sometimes this will create interesting perspectives on all kinds of problems. The most important statement that I want to make with this essay is that the way people perceive something is not necessarily the correct way to look at it. Since there are a thousand and one different angles which are just as valid as the one you use yourself.
Therefore I want to encourage that everyone should always appreciate unknown or unorthodox ideas, not just because they could be practical, but because they provide fresh insights.