Solipsism is the view that we cannot be reasonably sure that anything exists outside our minds. Its advocates may accept Descartes “I think, therefore I am”, but they reject the absolute certainty of the claim “there exists things outside our conscious thoughts”. This is because they consider such a claim either false or impossible to prove sufficiently. As such, it is an extreme form of skepticism.
Critics say that it’s a philosophical dead end. After all, if nothing exists outside our minds, where can truth-seeking go from there? Why bother with trying to seek answers to things that are illusions?
I can certainly appreciate what both sides are talking about. In the Solipsists’ favor, each of our minds may well be hardwired to see the realm outside our minds in fundamentally different ways. Because it seems difficult if not impossible to disprove this, I see no actually fatal flaw in Solipsists’ thinking. Mainstream philosophers apparently handwave away this point of view as “absurd” to the core without any evidence conclusively proving it absurd.
On the other hand, the Solipsist so far failed to disprove the existence of the realm outside of our minds (as if one can prove a negative). Also, they cannot prove that our minds do, in fact, create all of reality, or even a small part of it – as though our thoughts are the products of a Matrix-like regime and nothing more. Hence, the Solipsists claims are impossible to prove or even outright false. This means that mainstream philosophical thought in this regard still remain respectable.
Yet at the same time, neither have mainstream philosophers proved that anything outside our thoughts does in fact exist. So who’s right? When you get right down to it, it’s a matter of faith for either position.
In the end, as a matter of practical application, I side with mainstream – there is, in fact, a realm outside our minds. Even assuming the solipsists are right, I cannot in the slightest way will any changes in the basic laws of the reality I experience (e.g., I cannot reverse the laws of gravity in my mind, nor can I make glaciers on volcano tops remain frozen during an eruption.)
Therefore, it is best to treat my perceptions as if it they were real. After all, that outside world I perceive has considerable bearing on how my state of mind is, so it is best to learn how that reality (real or not) operates. I can only do so if I ignore other Solipsists claims entirely.