When I Die, You Will Cease to Exist

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“Beyond Solipsism” ©2010 Casey Kotas

I am not a solipsist.

I am not a what? What the hell is a solipsist?

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, solipsism is a doctrine that says, in principle, my existence is only that which I experience — physical objects, other people, events, and processes — anything that would commonly be regarded as a constituent of the space and time in which I coexist with others and is necessarily construed by me as part of the content of my consciousness.

For the solipsist, it is not merely the case that he believes that his or her thoughts, experiences, and emotions are the only thoughts, experiences, and emotions. Rather, the solipsist can attach no meaning to the supposition that there could be thoughts, experiences, and emotions other than his or her own.

Another interesting way of looking at solipsism is the way the Urban Dictionary, of all places, defines it:

Solipsism is the belief that the person holding the belief is the only real thing in the universe. All other persons and things are merely ornaments or impediments to his or her happiness.

Solipsism versus Nihilism

Just to be clear, solipsism is not the same as nihilism. The solipsist believes that his or her own life has meaning and value, whereas the nihilist believes that life itself, including his or her own, has no intrinsic meaning or value. It’s the belief that a single human, or even the entire human species, is insignificant, without purpose, and unlikely to change in the totality of existence.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to solipsism.

René Descartes proved his existence by saying “cogito, ergo, sum,” or “I think, therefore I am.” The solipsist prefers “cogito, ergo, omnia sum,” or “I think, therefore, I am everything!”

Based upon these definitions and descriptions of solipsism, I again say that I am not a solipsist. But I may be close.

I don’t deny the existence of anything else in the universe outside of myself, or claim it to be non-existent or not real except in my own mind. I know that each and every one of you who may be reading this post exists. You are real. You have your own minds, your own lives, and your own very real experiences.

I know that the couch that I’m sitting on, the iPhone that I’m typing on, the screen I’m looking at, and the WordPress app on which this post is being published all exist. You and these items are not just figments of my imagination, not mere ornaments or impediments, not constructs of my mind.

That said, if I don’t exist, neither do you. If I don’t exist, nothing exists.

Wait. What?

Okay, let me put it another way. If I didn’t exist, nothing would exist — for me. So everything that exists for me is dependent upon my existence.

From my perspective, when I die, when I cease to exist, you will all cease to exist. This couch, my iPhone, and WordPress app will no longer exist — for me. My wife, my kids, my pets, my home, my city, my country, this planet will no longer exist — for me — because I will no longer exist.

Yes, you and everything else and everyone else will continue to exist to and for each other. The sun will continue to rise and set every day. The tides will continue to ebb and flow. People will continue to go about their business.

There will continue to be strife and violence across the globe. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and forest fires will not cease. Congress will continue to be totally dysfunctional, Vladimir Putin will continue to be a total douchebag, Trump will continue to be an asshole, and people will continue to argue about whether or not God exists.

But not for me. Because I will not exist. So for me, nothing will exist.

Therefore, everything that exists is dependent upon my existence. For me. From my perspective.

Does that make me a solipsist?

Or just a little narcissistic?

22 thoughts on “When I Die, You Will Cease to Exist

    • Fandango September 8, 2017 / 2:36 pm

      I’m not familiar with “Phenomenology.” I’ll have to Google it.

      Like

  1. Sue Vincent September 8, 2017 / 3:02 pm

    Superbly written. Mind you, it all goes to pot if you happen to continue existing after life 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fandango September 8, 2017 / 3:24 pm

      True. Good thing for me that I don’t believe that! 😇

      Like

        • Fandango September 8, 2017 / 5:07 pm

          True. We can take comfort in believing whatever helps us get through our lives as best we can. But that doesn’t mean that what works for you is right for others, so no one who follows their own heart is wrong.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Sue Vincent September 8, 2017 / 11:00 pm

            I agree… and just wish people would allow and respect the beliefs of others, even when they are not shared.

            Liked by 3 people

  2. Frank Hubeny September 10, 2017 / 3:01 pm

    I have two problems with Descartes’ phrase: “I think therefore I am”.

    First, the notion of “thinking” suggests that this is a “rational” as opposed to an “emotional” activity involving motivation. This I don’t think can be maintained given modern science. See Antonio R. Damasio’s “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain”. We are not “thinking” as Descartes claimed, but intuiting or rationalizing as Hume suggested. I am getting that idea from Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”.

    Second, we assume the “I” is individuated. This may allow us to be modeled as points on a mathematical line, but is that model reality? We have belly buttons–we are not isolated biologically. We can empathize with others–we are not isolated emotionally. Psi phenomena has scientific evidence justifying its existence. For that last one, see Dean Radin’s books. That psi phenomena suggests that we are not isolated in our objects of awareness. By the way, that is why we need double and triple blinding of test procedures. If we were truly individuated points we should not need any of that.

    Solipsism and nihilism both stumble on a similar assumption. They assume there is an individuated “I” that exclusively owns some rational activity called “thinking”. Reality may be far more unexpected and interesting than a solipsist, a nihilist or a cartesian philosopher expects it to be.

    Just my current thoughts on the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango September 10, 2017 / 4:39 pm

      I’m going to have to do some homework, since I’ve never read Damasio. I’ll get back to you with my thoughts after I have some time to think about what you wrote.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Frank Hubeny September 10, 2017 / 6:10 pm

        I don’t agree with everything I’ve read in those books, but they changed my view of what being “rational” is about. Good post by the way. I am glad Sue Vincent reblogged it or I would have missed it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fandango September 10, 2017 / 10:00 pm

          So I read a little bit of Damasio’s book. I’d say that emotions, particularly fear, survival, and perhaps even love, might have preceded rational thought in primitive man, but as he evolved, he became capable of rational thought, which is what it would take for someone to have thought that the act of thinking, more so than intuiting, is what makes someone who he is. Such a notion could not even be conceived without rational thought.

          As to solipsism, it doesn’t suggest that we are isolated or lack empathy toward others, as much as that the existence of others is dependent upon our own existence. If we, as an individual, didn’t exist, neither would anything else exist. And the solipsist does not belief that life is empty and meaningless, as does the nihilist.

          Anyway, an interesting discussion that has motivated to dig a little deeper into this topic. Thanks.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Frank Hubeny September 11, 2017 / 4:08 am

            I agree with your distinction between the solipsist and nihilist, but underlying both (and Descartes) is an over-individuated “I”. That’s the part that is not easy to see because it seems obvious that we are individuated. Rational thought without the intuitive part would lead to the brain damaged people Damasio studied, not the Mr. Spock character in Star Trek.

            Like

  3. Audrey Driscoll September 10, 2017 / 5:08 pm

    Hmm. So what was the situation before you came into existence? And, for that matter, how did you get here, if nothing existed before? Does everyone have their own personal Big Bang?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango September 10, 2017 / 5:25 pm

      Everything existed, as well as everyone alive at the time, before I was born. Just not for me. Before I existed, nothing existed…from my perspective. For me, everything and everyone came into existence the instant I came into existence.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marilyn Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 11:05 am

        My mother pointed that out. When she was dying. Personally, not MY best moment.

        Like

    • Fandango January 9, 2018 / 11:12 am

      It may be a sacrifice I’ll have to make.

      Like

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