August 2, 2007



[sol-ip-siz-uh-m] -noun

1. Philosophy. The theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist.
2. extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc.
Related forms
ipsismal [sol•ip•siz'•mal] adj.
ipsist [sol'-ip-sist] noun adj. solipsistic [sol-ip-sis'-tic] adj.


sol alone + Latin ips(e) self + ism] Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2006.

The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy defines
solipsim [as the] belief that only oneself and one's experience exists. Solipsism is the extreme consequence of believing that knowledge must be founded on inner, personal states of experience, and then failing to find a bridge whereby they can inform us of anything beyond themselves. Solipsism of the present moment extends its skepticism [that knowledge or even rational belief is possible] even to one's own past states, so that all that is left is me, now. [Bertrand] Russell reports meeting someone who claimed that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that more people were not so as well.


Samuel Johnson, circa 1772 Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Samuel Johnson LL.D. (1709-84) or Dr. Johnson, as he is most often regarde, is one of England's best known literary figures. He was a poet, essayist, biographer, lexicographer, literary critic, wit. He is the most quoted English writer after Shakespeare, and is the subject of the famous biography Life of Johnson (1791) by James Boswell.
[Left.] James Boswell (1740-1795) author of the famous biography the Life of Johnson. He is also the eponymous source of three English words: Boswell, Boswellian, and Boswellism, which stand for "constant companion and observer."

Here, from the
Life of Johnson (1791), Boswell speaks, recounting Johnson's famous refutation of solipsism sans the term solipsism, however, because it will not appear in print until 1880:
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus."

To readers who prefer the visual channel for learning, take a look at the three Venn diagrams below. They were
designed to explain solipsism by a blogging philosopher who uses the .

A philosophical adventurer—
nom de blog Xocxoc—at the website titled "Xocxoc's Irreverent guide to Philosophy" devised the following Venn Diagrams to illustrate his understanding of philosophical solipsism. It may take a bit of mulling (as it did me) to make sense of the diagrams, but they made good sense me and may prove useful to you.

This first diagram represents the philosophy of solipsism. It is the view that everything we can see (R) and prove (P) is just an illusion. Reality (A) has a whole separate existence. What if our dreams are the reality and the waking world is illusion?
This diagram represents the Objectivists / Empirical view that everything we see (A&R) is in fact real. Just not everything has been proven (P). Anything we cannot observe, however, such as Heaven and Area 51, must be set aside as myth.
This is the largely popular middle of the road view, which says that what we think to be true (R), is for the most part true. That everything we can prove (P) is true absolutely (A). There is also room for stuff that is proven true, but does not seem to be true, like quantum physics, and Dick Clark's real age.
Assuming that the last one is the case, there is a large chunk of absolute truth we cannot even fathom. This provides a big loophole for all sorts of weird beliefs. I mean, hey, we can't prove everything, can we?


A peculiar, detailed invention of solipsistic behavior appears in "A Voyage to Laputa," Chapter Two, of Johnathan Swift's satirical critique of human behavior, Gulliver's Travels (1726). Laputa, interpreted by visiting Lemuel Gulliver to mean the Flying or Floating Island, is an island detached from land and sea, afloat among the clouds. It is a fitting locale for people whose minds are preoccupied exclusively with theories of music and mathematics, which, to disadvantage of all Laputians, they are unable to translate into reality, by, for instance, composing a sonata or designing a bridge. They are, as we say it today, psychologically ungrounded.

Although Swift's book (of 1726) does not use the word "
solipsistic" (which was first recorded in 1880) to describe the speculative scholars of Laputa, they are most certainly are:

Their heads were all reclined either to the right or to the left; one of their eyes turned inward, and the other directly up to the zenith. Their outward garments were adorned with the figures of suns, moons, and stars, interwoven with those of fiddles, flutes, harps, trumpets, guitars, harpsichords, and many more instruments of music, unknown to us in Europe. I observed here and there many in the habit of servants, with a blown blatter fastened like a flail to the end of a short stick, which they carried in their hands. In each blatter was a small quantity of dried pease or little pebbles (as I was aft . With these bladders they now and then flapped the mouths and ears of those who stood near them, of which practice I could not then conceive the meaning. It seems the minds of these people are so taken up with intense speculations, that they neither can speak, nor attend to the discourses of others, without being roused by some external taction upon the organs of speech and hearing; for which reason those persons who are able to afford it always keep a flapper (the original is climenole) in their family, as one of their domestics, nor even walk abroad or make visits without him (153).Jonathan Swift. Gulliver's Travels. New York: Washington Square Press, 1969.

Pen & Ink Drawing by Bloggin'John

On the Untoward Effects of Solipsistic behavior among
the Men of Laputa in Their Relations with women.

It is the men of Laputa who are engaged in self-absorbed contemplation, not the women, who, in Gulliver's view, "have abundance of vivacity." Having been dismissed sexually by their husbands, the wives "contemn [disdain] their husbands, and are exceedingly fond of strangers," from among whom they
choose their gallants . . . for the husband is always so rapt in speculation, that the mistress and lover may proceed to the greatest familiarities before his face, if he be but provided with paper and implements, and without his flapper at his side (159-60).
May all cerebrally intensive solipsists — male and female — take heed, then, of their partners' corporeal appetites and needs.
SOLIPSISM in the vernacular,
i.e., in everyday English
Thus far we have considered solipsism as a philosophical stance. We will now move on to consider the vernacular, every-day, meaning of solipsism.
Recall that the American Heritage Dictionary defines solipsism in the vernacular as
"extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc."
Put another way, solipsism is
"a perspective based on one’s own individual situation rather than a miltiperson perspective. It is an act of solipsism to assume that others enjoy the things that you enjoy."—The Urban Dictionary Submitted by bpw on Oct 5, 2003.


From The New Yorker
f [Michael] Bloomberg's media tease turns into the full-blown affair of an independent Presidential campaign, who would benefit? New York, for starters. Or, at least, the glittering constellation of news and entertainment companies, Wall Street firms, political consultants, civic boosters, paid gossips, columnists, pundits, publicists, and solipsists who feed — and turn batten
* on — the impression that unless something happens in New York, it doesn't happen. —George Packer, Comment. Mr. Independent. "The Talk of the Town" The New Yorker, July 2, 2007.
*To feed gluttonously on, glut oneself; to gloat or revel in.Online OED

These New York solipsists are not totally self-absorbed as are the mind-manacled characters afloat on Laputa. These lusty Big Apple urbanites are outgoing, mutual participants in the cosmopolitan experience, interactive with each other in the middle of "The New York moment," whether the moment be quotidian or extraordinary — as only New York can exhibit the extraordinary.

Note the opening words in the Random House definition of vernacular
solicism: "
extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc." (emphasis added). It would take "total preoccupation" or "complete preoccupation" to reach the domain of philosophical solicism.


"Nixon's Solipsism: Has Bush Gone Too Far?"
By Richard Lacayo
President Bush will start the new year [2006] preoccupied for a while with a fight over whether his responsibility to prevent another attack gave him the power to push aside an act of Congress - or, to use the terms of his harshest critics, to break the law. Bush and his supporters say that the President has the power to take extraordinary steps to protect the nation and that sometimes nothing less will do. His opponents say that the war on terrorism can be fought just as well, if not better, without novel interpretations of the law and that the White House reasoning sounds all too much like Richard Nixon's famous exercise in Oval Office solipsism: "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."

CNN Editorials, Jan. 2006

By a communications consultant
FROM: Lee Hopkins' Better Communication Results

September 12, 2005.

Podcast-Related Syndromes:

"Further cause for concern: Podcast Solipsism"
By Lee Hopkins

Professor Sallie Goetsch has found evidence of a deeply disturbing phenomenon she has nicknamed, “Earbud Isolation”. With the more formal title of ‘Podcast Solipsism’, Professor Goetsch has uncovered yet more proof of the potentially life-threatening spread of podcast-related diseases.

[Professor Goetsch notices] that sufferers of this ravaging disease can be found with earbuds in place during shopping trips, errand running and even Parent Teacher exchanges. . . .

This new world of podcasts is a dangerous place - be careful out there, and when ever concern strikes, see a qualified medical expert, like your local family doctor. Or me.
—Lee Hopkins

A Response to “Further cause for concern: Podcast Solipsism”
Laura Says:
September 12th, 2005 at 11:48 pm
I’ve actually seen signs of solipsism in unlikely places….in the office, where professionals in their 30’s are so plugged in, they won’t answer their ringing phones! And on the sidewalk, a 60-something, white-haired lady was so “into” her iPod, she nearly knocked me over as she hummed tunelessly while power walking. Let’s be careful out there, people.

From an essay in Blogcritics Magazine, by Dawn Olsen, April 08,2006:

Our society is getting fatter, while we are being bombarded with unrealistic versions of what's normal and healthy. Where's the disconnect? Hollywood and the fashion industry are mostly to blame. A perfect example is that whack job Lindsay Lohan.
Once a healthy-looking attractive teen, she has now become the embodiment of yo-yo weight loss and weight gain.

She even admitted to having an eating disorder (but of course later denied it) in an interview that, as far as I am concerned, showcased her spiral into dangerous self-obsession and solipsism.

Lohan (with a similarly drained Nicole Richie at right) is just one example, but there are dozens who show a lack of concern for their health in an industry that forces them to choose between an attractive, healthy weight and an emaciated, anorexic frame.
Written by Dawn Olsen. "Harry Potter Author Rowling Takes On
Hollywood's Ultra-Thinness Message,"
Published April 08,2006. (
(Photo from



Recent sighting, April 29, 2010
"But the appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was her first television interview since the scandal erupted. And it was a surreally solipsistic and New Age-ish account, in which Ms. Hunter’s “truth,” as she put it, trumped all other concerns, including all the lying. “Our hearts were louder than the minds,” is how Ms. Hunter explained her decision to have an affair with a presidential candidate whose wife has cancer."  — ALESSANDRA STANLEY, "One woman's 'truth':  Rielle Hunter Talks with Oprah," The New York Times, April 29, 2010.


1 comment:

  1. I love this (my) new word for me and my vocabulary.

    It's good to see some original artwork amongst the graphics! Nice going Bloggin'