Q: What is a solipsist?

A: Why are you asking me this? You know what a solipsist is.

Q: Well, yes, but this is for the benefit of the readers, some of whom don’t know what solipsism is.

A: It can’t benefit them. The readers don’t really exist.

Q: Fine, point taken, but just for a moment – pretend they do, and that they want to know what solipsism is. Solipsism isn’t the belief that readers don’t exist, is it?

A: No, of course not. It’s the much broader belief that no one but me exists. It’s the belief that no other minds exist, to be exact.

Q: Why do you not believe that other people’s minds exist?

A: It’s quite simple, really. I can be quite certain of my own existence – it’s the whole “I think, therefore I am” thing. But as for the existence of other minds, well, that’s a much trickier thing to prove. I can see that there are these funny-looking things that walk around and talk to me and generally do things that would indicate that they have minds like me, but I can’t really be sure. There’s nothing to distinguish my econ professor, for instance, from a robot that could pass the Turing test. Just because people act like they have minds doesn’t mean that they aren’t basically just machines responding to stimuli.

Q: But can’t you look in someone’s eyes when they’re hurting and see that they really feel that pain?

A: Furbies could make some pretty convincing displays of pain. People are just really complex Furbies.

Q: Isn’t it at least probable that other people have minds? It seems far-fetched to believe that such multifaceted creatures are nothing more than big Furbies.

A: How could something possibly be probable if it’s indistinguishable from something else? If you can’t tell them apart, it seems to me that you have to give them an equal likelihood. So on one hand I have the Theory of Other Minds, and on the other hand I have solipsism. And since solipsism is much funner, I choose to believe in it.

Q: Do you have any more wacky beliefs?

A: Yes. For instance, I don’t believe in the material world, only in perceptions. You’ll find that when you see a chair, all you have really is a perception of the chair. The chair’s actual existence is quite unnecessary. Of course, since only my mind exists, only my perceptions exist. The world is created entirely in and by my own mind.

Q: Your mind is capable of creating such epic works of art as Romeo and Juliet, the Mona Lisa, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

A: Yes. I must admit that I am quite impressed with myself.

Q: You’re crazy.

A: Not really. The whole only-my-thoughts-exist is quite out there, I admit, but solipsism itself is actually quite common. You hear it referred to sometimes in psychology as “Ego-centricism.” All infants are solipsists.

Q: If you’re the only existing being, how can all infants be solipsists? Doesn’t that imply that they have minds?

A: Well, if there’s only been one infant ever (i.e., me), and he was a solipsist, then obviously all infants are solipsists. It’s quite simple, actually.

Q: Is it true then that all people are Duke basketball fans?

A: Yes. Also, contrary to popular opinion, all people like The Matrix Revolutions.

Q: I find that hard to believe.

A: I find it hard to believe in things like Canada, but that doesn’t mean that Canada doesn’t exist.

Q: If the world is merely a figment of your imagination, why can it be such a crappy place sometimes?

A: Ah, the old problem of evil. It’s all “Cancer exists, therefore God doesn’t” and “Humans can’t be basically good because a psychopath killed my mom, my dad, my brother and then peed on my dog Rufus,” blah blah blah. The answer is quite simple: Creed. Creed is the cause of all evil. Why does Creed exist? I wish I knew.

Q: Isn’t writing an article to explain your solipsist position basically like admitting you’re wrong?

A: Is If I Did It basically like O.J. Simpson admitting that he killed his wife? Of course not. He’s doing it just for the money, and I’m doing this just to remind the various figments of my psyche that I exist solely for my own gratification.

Q: But aren’t you lonely?

A: Yes.

Q: Then is your belief in solipsism useful to you in any way?

A: Yes. For instance, from my solipsism, it follows that I can never die. This is because I can never observe my own death. And, since the universe consists entirely of my own observations, it follows that my demise could never occur.

Q: Aren’t you going to look silly when one day you try to cross the highway in front of a semi-truck and end up as a rather tragically artistic splotch on the asphalt?

A: You will be sorely disappointed if you’re waiting for my demise, because I’ve got proof that this belief is correct. I’ve survived numerous situations which the figmentary beings of my imagination could not. For instance, I once swallowed a chocolate chip pancake whole. It was so big that I couldn’t even chew it, so I had to swallow it, and it got stuck in my throat. I was choking for quite a while, but eventually peristalsis forced it down my throat.

Q: I know plenty of people who could eat a chocolate pancake and not die.

A: I also once chugged vodka for 27 seconds, passed out, didn’t throw up, and lived.

Q: I have a friend in T.I. who could drink even more than that.

A: The vodka was Popov.

Q: Oh.

A: Now you see.

Q: I have a Colt .45 over here. Care for a practical demonstration of your immortality?A: I’d prefer not to have to spend the next month or so in the hospital, and I don’t want to have to explain this to my mother. She doesn’t believe in any of my philosophic theories.

Q: But your mother is really yourself, isn’t she?

A: Yes, we’ve been over this.

Q: Then aren’t you saying that you don’t believe in your own solipsism?

A: Oh. I never thought about that.

Do you enjoy reading the Nass?

Please consider donating a small amount to help support independent journalism at Princeton and whitelist our site.