On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects

On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects

On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects

On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects

Synopsis

Caspar Hare makes an original and compelling case for "egocentric presentism," a view about the nature of first-person experience, about what happens when we see things from our own particular point of view. A natural thought about our first-person experience is that "all and only the things of which I am aware are present to me." Hare, however, goes one step further and claims, counterintuitively, that the thought should instead be that "all and only the things of which I am aware are present." There is, in other words, something unique about me and the things of which I am aware.



On Myself and Other, Less Important Subjects represents a new take on an old view, known as solipsism, which maintains that people's experiences give them grounds for believing that they have a special, distinguished place in the world--for example, believing that only they exist or that other people do not have conscious minds like their own. Few contemporary thinkers have taken solipsism seriously. But Hare maintains that the version of solipsism he argues for is in indeed defensible, and that it is uniquely capable of resolving some seemingly intractable philosophical problems--both in metaphysics and ethics--concerning personal identity over time, as well as the tension between self-interest and the greater good.


This formidable and tightly argued defense of a seemingly absurd view is certain to provoke debate.

Excerpt

The short work you have before you is quite remarkable. Not just for the penetrating clarity of its philosophical prose, and not just for its uncompromising determination to follow the argument wherever it leads.

The work announces that there is someone among us who is absolutely special, who has no peers, or “no neighbors” as Ludwig Wittgenstein once put it, by way of describing solipsism. the character of this person’s mental life is graced by a feature— “presence”—found in the mental life of no other.

As it turns out, we readers are particularly fortunate in that the author, Caspar Hare, is ideally well placed to describe the special one whose experiences are the only experiences that are present. For, as it happens, Caspar Hare himself is the special one.

He is not kidding, at least not in any simple way. On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects is a profoundly serious provocation. It works to deny us any coherent part of logical space in which to locate our commonsense conviction that we are all on a par when it comes to presence. Even if the tongue is sometimes in the cheek, this never interferes with the beautifully continuous line of argument from things we all believe to things all but one of us will find unbelievable.

In setting out this line of argument, On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects offers the philosophically most sophisticated form of solipsism (from solus ipse—oneself alone) that I have encountered. This is not the crude, almost universally rejected, solipsism that denies the existence of other minds. Hare himself insists that distinct functional systems of mental events and states are located in other bodies; so much is the result of any reasonable inference to the best explanation of the behavior of others. This inference to the best explanation of the behavioral evidence is widely regarded as having refuted solipsism. Yet, as Hare’s monograph shows, accepting all that is entirely compatible with a deeper and more disturbing solipsism to the effect that the experiences of others are just not present.

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