Solipsism is an irritant to all philosophers. Some call it a nonsense argument, but I disagree.
What is solipsism? In a nutshell, it suggests that no one can prove to certainty anything outside of their own mind. I take it further, and suggest we should doubt even that.
Madness? Perhaps. It shines an interesting light on reality, though.
Consider this-name something that exists that you are certain of, that you have absolute evidence does, in fact, exist, without at some point you having to rely on belief.
Many will suggest all kinds of things. I suggest that few of those have seen anything like “The Matrix” or “Total Recall”.
Consider the chair you like to sit in while at home.
You believe it exists. You could give the evidence that you can move it, or try to sit down in a place where you choose to believe it is, and will fail to sit in it if it is not there, and will only succeed if it is real.
Sounds good, right?
What evidence do you have that you attempted to sit?
You felt your body moving in such a way that would tell your brain that you did so, correct?
What evidence do you have that that information is real and actually happened?
You have your memory of the event, as well as visual clues. All kinds of sensory information.
How do you know you did not hallucinate it?
This is where some will turn to an angry rant at the madness of solipsism, my insanity for using it in argument, or whatever, but the argument is an effective tool to make one point.
Everything you know, everything you experience, it all starts with you choosing to believe it exists on some level.
Got struck by a car? On some, undefined level, you believed that both you and the car existed.
Won the lottery? You had to believe a number of things for that to be true.
Solipsism, I think, should be pointed to more often, especially in the world of mental health. You have to choose to believe you exist in order to choose to take any action. It may not occur to you consciously that you made this choice, but a choice was made, by you, regardless.
Poof! You have power.
You control one thing in your universe. You have chosen to believe that you exist. If you choose to consciously disbelieve that you exist, then you will take no actions of any kind, and you will cease to be conscious after enough time has passed.
Your choice in what to believe means that you also control the choices you make on other things. IE-if you exist then you have to decide how to sort out what internal signals should be acted upon and which should not, but you are in control of that. You choose the action you take based on these signals, good or bad.
For someone who has hallucinations, this allows for a simple test-if something extraordinary happens, or you are told something you are experiencing is not real, then try to act as though it does not. If you see a being of fire chasing you, let it catch you. If you develop burns and are rushed to the hospital or die from interacting with it, then you can now lay claim to the idea that you see things that are real that others do not see or experience. Otherwise, the next time you see it, you know you can go on and not pay attention to it.
For me-this works. I see and hear things all the time. If they are things that I can use an outside source to verify that someone else believes in it, then I use them. Without an outside source, all I can do is try to recognize whether these things occur in what I see as “normal people’s” lives. If no, then I try to interact with them to a point. Some things, I will experience on other levels. Some things, however, I will not. Those things I experience a sensation by interacting, I make a note of, and quietly try to feel out others and see if they have any reaction to them. If no, then I can safely ignore them. If yes, then I know that someone else has a reaction, and they have to become “maybe” at least.
Is it complicated? Yes, but probably no more complicated than baking a cake, if you have a system. Perhaps this is what psychiatry is missing. People need a system of thought, and the one they have isn’t working. Whether we’re discussing suicide, hallucinations, bipolar, antisocials, borderline personalities…
It may not work for everyone. Some people may need an assortment of pills to keep them from running nude through the streets chasing laser wielding squirrels. Then again, maybe we all need to start somewhere. Some point which we can take control of and hold up as something we have control over. From there, we can build a system of thought.
Of course, it all begins with the basic belief that we exist… I have chosen to believe that I do. Everything follows from this.