Solipsism and Agnosticism

Most everyone has heard of solipsism, even if he or she doesn’t know what the word means.  Anyone who has watched the Matrix movies has been introduced to the concept.  The basic idea is that we all live in our heads and only in our heads, and we don’t have any way of knowing if the world we sense is “truly real”.

Our senses report data to our brains, but we don’t really know if what our brains perceive is a reality that is objectively true.  This is not just because our senses and our brains are imperfect, which they are.  It is because we have no way of knowing what is real in an absolute sense because we have no absolute reference point by which to judge.  There is always the possibility that our reality is some sort of dream or hallucination that is being imposed on us by someone or something that lives in a reality that is “actually real” (or at least more so than ours).

A consideration of the implications of solipsism tells us that we can never “know” anything with absolute certainty.  There is always some possibility that we are wrong, even if that possibility is very, very remote.  The question that faces us then, as we go about our lives trying to make important decisions, is choosing the degree of certainty that we are comfortable with when deciding that we “know” something.

The religious continually use solipsistic reasoning to try to corner atheists into thinking we are actually agnostic.  Their goal is to pressure most atheists into admitting doubt and thus make religious beliefs seem respectable.  They also wish to paint atheists into the “strong atheism” corner–to get them to take the seemingly unreasonable and affirmative position that they are 100% certain that there is no god.  Consequently, they present the “doubt” brought on by a consideration of solipsism and complete, affirmative certainty as the only two options.  Either admit you are agnostic or you are a “strong atheist” claiming certainty that god doesn’t exist.

They do this by confusing the question of the universe’s origins with the question of god’s existence.  These are obviously two different questions to any objective, logical thinker.  To the religious, however, they are the same question because in their minds they have already accepted the idea that god is the only possible explanation.  They accept it so thoroughly that they are not even aware that they are confusing the two questions and that doing so shows they are engaging in circular reasoning.

The reason the religious try to make non-believers choose between “agnostic” or a “strong atheist” is to make it easier for believers to argue that they do not bear the burden of proof.  They are desperate to get out from under this burden because they know they cannot bear it in any way.  If a non-believer makes the mistake of choosing one of these two options in this false dichotomy, then he or she has implicitly taken on the burden of proof.

Any argument based on solipsism or an attempt to get you to say you are agnostic–such as by calling atheism a religion–has this goal in mind.   But, the argument fails for many of the same reasons that the argument from existence fails.  The lack of evidence for an extraordinary proposition that cannot be disproved meets whatever burden of proof we have.  All atheists should make this point whenever the burden of proof comes up as an issue in a debate: 

The complete lack of evidence for such an extraordinary proposition meets whatever burden of proof we atheists have.

Clarifications can be added either before or after that statement: 

“The existence of god cannot be disproved–ever.”

and

“The god hypothesis is essentially a belief in magic.  Such an extraordinary proposition needs to be proved by those who believe in it.” 

One of the good things about solipsism/agnosticism based arguments is that you can turn their reasoning on them because it applies with equal validity to every proposition imaginable.

For example:  If god does exist in some fashion, then even he cannot know for absolute certainty that he exists and is not merely a hallucination or magically constructed phantasm made by another, greater magical being. The rather obvious reason for this is that there is no objectively verifiable standard for “absolute certainty”.

If one of them tries this argument with you, you can say:

“But, using your reasoning, even god himself, if he existed, would be agnostic as to his own existence.  Because there is an extremely remote possibility that he is merely the imaginary construct of some other being in some plane of existence that is more “real” than his own.”

The religious would define agnosticism with reference to the most ridiculous reaches of solipsism, which stretches the concept to and beyond its breaking point.  Under that definition, I would have to say that I am agnostic as to the question of whether I am really sitting in my office chair typing on my computer keyboard because there is a chance, however slim, that I might be just imagining it.

Such an all-encompassing definition renders the term “agnosticism” meaningless–except to the extent that you can use it as armor to fend off the horrible social pressures exerted on us non-believers by the theists. If you can’t bring yourself to accept the ultimate intellectual violation and simply join the deluded, then, rather than face their wrath, you can use the “agnostic” label as a subterfuge that allows you to allow them to save face.

At the end of Orwell’s “1984” the protagonist had his ability to think independently so thoroughly destroyed that he couldn’t even bring himself to admit that he knew 2 plus 2 equals 4. Well, this sort of agnosticism is similar to that scenario. We all know that 2 plus 2 equals 4, but there is an infinitesimal chance that we are wrong. After all, how do we know that we really exist? How do we know that the universe we live in is real and that we have observed its rules correctly? Where is the ultimate mathematical yardstick by which we can judge the correctness of our calculations? How can we ever know that we have achieved a true observation? If knowing requires some absolute, objective standard be found and met, then we can never “know” anything.

Solipsism is a “trick” of philosophy.  It is a tool used to teach the importance of epistemology, ontology, open-mindedness regarding new evidence, and skepticism.  It’s implications, when taken seriously as the religious would have us do, however, are not worthy of consideration.  It can be very quickly reduced to the absurd.

What I am getting at is that the true lesson of solipsism is that there is no such “absolute” standard and that we don’t need to find it and meet it in order to say that we know something. Those who say we can never know anything, have taken the absurd negative example of solipsism seriously and thus mistaken the Socratic question for the lesson they were meant to learn from the futility of trying to answer it.

Some things are simply beyond proof. The nonexistence of all gods is one of those things because the god concept is far too malleable (as is any concept with “magic” at its core) to be disproved empirically. Thus, the “proof” can only consist of 1. a lack of evidence for the positive, opposite hypothesis; 2. the mountains of evidence showing that gods are man-made constructs (the clear history of fakes, the sheer impossibility of the claimed entity); and 3. the fact that logic leads inexorably from these observations to the conclusion that gods don’t exist.

When there is no evidence at all for a thing, then it almost certainly doesn’t exist (with the exception of probable variations of similar things that have been proven to exist–i.e., previously unknown types of flora or fauna that are within normal parameters of form and function). There is no evidence for any god nor for any magical entity of any sort. The claimed attributes are extremely improbable–so much so that one should require not just evidence but more evidence than normal for such claims. Everyone knows that the improbable magical creatures in the Harry Potter books don’t exist, even though disproving their existence would be almost as hard as disproving the existence of gods. It is only when the question of gods comes up that people suddenly lose their ability or their will to think logically.

As I have pointed out before, the lack of evidence for gods meets whatever burden of proof required to conclude they don’t exist.  Reserving judgment, calling yourself agnostic implies that you think you have the burden of proving conclusively that gods don’t exist, even though it is literally not possible to do that.  I think that is exactly why the religious try so hard to get atheists to say they are agnostic–so they can get us to implicitly accept that we have the burden of proof.

If you click on this link, it will take you to a very good defenses of agnosticism.  The author does a very good job of defending and explaining his position, but I can’t help but see that he has fallen into the trap of the theists.

The author doesn’t distinguish between the question of the origins of the universe and the issue of whether the god hypothesis has merit.  Whenever this happens, whether you are speaking to a believer or an agnostic, you can say:

“We don’t know how the universe came to be, but being agnostic on the question of the universe’s origins doesn’t mean you have to be agnostic on the question of whether “an invisible magic man in the sky did it” is a reasonable theory.”

The author also implicitly accepts that he has the burden of proof with regard to the god hypothesis and must meet it before declaring himself an atheist.  And, most telling, he ends by saying that he calls himself agnostic because that is what makes him most comfortable–even though he is about a certain as anyone that there is no god.  Obviously, this lack of comfort level helps explain why he embraces that label and fails to see the problems with his reasoning.

I am repeating myself here, so I will simply rephrase my primary points on this subject:

1. The point of solipsism isn’t that we can’t know anything but that knowing something requires less than an absolute certainty that we can’t define in any event.

2. Atheism is not a claim to absolute knowledge. One can reach a conclusion without closing one’s mind. (Though in some cases, such as creationism, one might well conclude that re-examining the subject repeatedly is worse than a waste of time).

3. A lack of empirical evidence for a thing is evidence (though not conclusive proof) that the thing doesn’t exist.

4. If the thing is also highly improbable and not subject to disproof, that lack of evidence is all one will ever have and is sufficient to reach a conclusion.

I can more than understand why one would call oneself an agnostic when dealing with religious people. I have done it myself on numerous occasions. But non-believers should resort to this sort of tactic only when necessary for their self-protection.  Otherwise, the implication is that atheists have the burden of proof, which is simply not true.

Three Stages of History

Notwithstanding the above remarks, it appears that Stirner presented his account of the ages of man in earnest, for he next proceeds to describe human history analogously. The ancients, like children, were realists. Modern Christians are idealists, like youth, while men of the future will be egoists, like adults.

For the ancients, the world of nature and blood kinship was the highest value, and they accepted it as unquestioningly as a Christian accepts the mystery of the divine word. This observation was already made by Feuerbach, but Stirner adds that the ancients also tried to subvert or get behind supposed natural truths.

In particular, he praises the Sophists, who used the mind as a weapon against the world. The Sophists lived by their wits to attain the most pleasant life, rather than accepting natural or customary norms. They used the mind as an instrument for getting behind traditional ethics, yet without elevating the mind to the status of a new master or conscience. They cultivated the understanding, but not the heart, which was still free to pursue its most voracious appetites unhindered. Thus, for all their superior understanding, the Sophists remained enslaved to the world through their sensual desires.

Socrates perceived that the heart as well as the mind must be purified. It is not enough to have understanding, but that understanding must also be directed to a worthy cause. Stirner considers this purification of heart to be a further liberation of the mind, freeing it from worldly desires. What is this purification? According to Stirner, just as the Sophist mind had elevated its own interests over the interests of others (i.e., what is “natural” or customary), so does the Socratic heart disdain all worldly things, so that even family and country are given up for the sake of the heart’s own blessedness.

“Daily experience confirms the truth that the understanding may have renounced a thing many years before the heart has ceased to beat for it.” [p.21.] While the Sophists had made themselves masters over “the dominant, ancient powers” in their understanding, it remained to drive these powers out of the heart. Socrates began this war, which would last until the end of the classical age.

The final purgation of the heart was achieved by the Skeptics, who “threw all contents out of the heart and let it no longer beat for anything.” [p.22.] This purgation, stripping man of all bonds to the world even in his desires, effectively detaches man from the corporeal world. He now sees himself as spirit, i.e., as pure thought, a development that would facilitate the reception of Christianity. Continue reading

Thirty-Ninth Communique of the Individualists Tending Toward the Wild

Following the latest criticisms and responses that the anarchic nuns have spit out to people to defend their anarchist “comrades” who live in Chile along with us, we want to express some irrefutable points to situate the debate a bit.

We would like to speak of an “insurrectionary anarchist affinity group of tension,” or whatever they call themselves, that made amoral indiscriminate attack their own. FINALLY THEY ENTERED INTO OUR MADNESS! Or rather, they did so some time ago, and now they want to resurface.

It was 2014 and their target was what seemed to be the office of Chilean prison officials (conveniently without anyone present). That’s what they thought, since it was not clear what they thought they were burning. What is known is that they left a backpack with an explosive device in the street. They didn’t set up the famous anarchist guard of morality that makes sure innocents aren’t hurt.

And they shit the bed on this one by their standards since they became the first indiscriminate anarchists. A young drug addict named Sergio Landskron picked up the backpack and died due to the explosion. Finding this out probably made the anarchists fall off their bike, vomit up their vegan burgers, and start praying to St. Bonnano or Sister Bakunin asking for forgiveness for their sins.

Under the moral parameters of these crybabies, ITS was already in Chile in 2014. This couldn’t possibly have been anarchists. “It’s a set-up!” they should have cried.

But we know this isn’t the case, since the Mafia isn’t anti-prison, and at most eco-anarchist groups were already conspiring who share our hatred. But they don’t focus on prisons, as is well known. Landskron’s murderers never took responsibility for the attack, so much was their shame at violating their standards of the moral of attack.

This indiscriminate attack – let’s call it what it is – was a great SIN of the action group in question. Gallons of ink and saliva of anarchist morality burned that marginal youngster, who we recognize as one of the worst results of this rotten civilization, and, we could even call him a “victim”.

The anarchists kept quiet! They didn’t utter a peep about his death, there was no communique asking for forgiveness or explaining why they didn’t hit they intended target, as was the case with the prisoners of war Juan, Nataly, and Guillermo, to justify why they indiscriminately attacked a bus station.

Even less likely was the existence of a communiqué saying, “yes, we did it, it was an accident.” They hid their snouts out of fear of the cops. They were afraid to end up like savages without anarchist morality. Look at them killing the last victim of the system!

So now that it is all the style to threaten an anarchist war against the Eco-extremist Mafia, snitching included, we gave some clues about these nuns to the friends and family (some of them criminals) of Sergio Landskron, so that they’ll know who to shoot and stab to get even. They’re looking in freed squats around site of the indiscriminate attack and they’ll know who took their son-uncle-brother from them. They’re squats full of shitheads who have gotten out of the explosives game because of this anarcho-Christian sin, but we know that they have this hidden sin on their chest and it won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Do the moralists consider this snitching too? It’s all the same to us, it’s not for nothing that we are egoists, criminals, and amoral. But let it be known, what we have just stated is just one demonstration that we know quite well those behind certain things, we know where the campaign in Chile against eco-extremism comes from. We thus state that if they continue with this pathetic campaign they shouldn’t be surprised when we respond.

In their anarcho-civilized morality, killing that Landskron kid was a sin so great that the Chilean anarchist movement kept quiet out of shame. They shouldn’t criticize the Tendency with their moral standards, since we aren’t up for being judged by their crooked scales. More than that, people will see that the emperor has no clothes.

Prowling Port Changos (ITS-Chile)

Words following unmentioned Misanthropic Nihilist attacks

With success or failure, sometimes it is difficult to know for sure. But who cares? The experimentation on indiscriminate attack continues because I crave it. Consult your ideologies to figure out why, or even better… ask your conscience.

Nothingness conforms to my senses as my senses conform to Nothing. Sleepless projection manifests in the Descent. I am having sexual intercourse with Chaos. I penetrate it and it penetrates me. How powerful it is to experiment on the destruction of the human notion and the interment of idealism! How petty they all are in the face of nihilistic pure experience and the Negation of the value of value! I rejoice in the Moment and I don’t hold myself back. I hate humans pungently!

My will bursts out of overflowing of Hate and it wants to become the axe with which I will penetrate the imbecility of human societies. Egomania arises and becomes the fuel channeling my black blood towards carrying out the strike of the Nihilist Misanthrope, Defiler of the notion of social training and Violator of the holy spirit of progress.

In the brothel of human existence I laugh nihilistically and I offer my hatred freely. I deny the sickness of freedom in any ethical context. My freedom might be to commit atrocities. Who is going to tell me what is freedom? Who knows what this dictator of the mind is?

Against every sanctimonial self-renunciation, Nihil arise! May the Abyss become the amputation of human existence. Terror align with my power to retaliate on this septic world. Blood flow through my veins, with every attack give me a new birth, the birth of the neverending End.

Complicity with Nihilist Terrorist sects, Criminalistic Nihilists, Antisocial Misanthropes, GITS and with ITS!

To spread the plague of the misanthropic tendencies of Nihilism and Eco-extremism!

Nihilist aggressor, Misanthropos Cacogen