Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tracking down the Russell joke about solipsism

"As against solipsism it is to be said, in the first place, that it is psychologically impossible to believe, and is rejected in fact even by those who mean to accept it. I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others. Coming from a logician and a solipsist, her surprise surprised me." (Russell, p. 180). Russell, Bertrand., Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits,London: George Allen & Unwin, 1948.

1 comment:

  1. Russell exposed the logical paradoxes of solipsism beautifully. But it is interesting that in this passage he says it is untenable psychologically. Recognition that other people exist may be justified by an argument of analogy, but in terms of evolution it must have been prior to any rational argument: it comes to us as intuition out of the experience of empathy.
    Could it be that empathy emerged from the mirror neuron system which has recently been discovered? If so, we might confront the possibilities that empathy may not occur in every human being and may not be restricted to human beings.