L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 299, November 28, 2004
"Just minding your own business"
The Solipsist Fallacy? Wazzat?
Exclusive to TLE
A reader, "AB" (initials changed to protect privacy) sent me the note below about my use of the term "solipsist fallacy" in my article of 11/21/04, TLE issue 298. My reply follows.
Thank you for your thoughts. I think that what you have to say is quite important.
I will refer here to "psychopaths", for the most part, in terms of politicians, rather than the uncontrolled criminally insane, such as Jeffrey Dahmer.
I am trying to present a view of a mental function for which I do not yet have any other name. It has aspects of both solipsism and transference (actually, projection) and is not a symptom of mental ill-health. It is, instead, a combination of lack of information and an error in thinking. We find it among most people at least some of the time (including me!), and many people all of the time, both the healthy and the "mad".
I am not completely happy with "The Solipsist Fallacy" either. That is just my "working copy" of a new term for the projection of one's own values, attitudes, feelings and state of mental health onto another person or group for any of various reasons; and with the result that one responds inappropriately to thembecause they are much more different from the observer than he thinks they are. If you or someone else comes up with a better term I will use it. With attribution, of course, at least in the early stages. "Transference Fallacy" or "Projection Fallacy" might work, but do not sound quite right.
One that comes close, though I do not think close enough, is "provincialism". Also from the AHD "2. [N]ot fashionable or sophisticated. 3. Limited in perspective; narrow and self-centered." I have seen people who are of broad perspective, worldly and sophisticated in many subjectsfall flat as a pancake for this Fallacy.
The problem seems to be not a lack of understanding of the normal personal or cultural differences among people or groups, but rather a lack of understanding of the diseased minds of people who are corrupted by power lustand their differences from the sane. A provincial person cannot understand the differences of culture, style or goals in other people due to a lack of experience outside his own narrow background (such as the American or British government-school-and-TV cultures), and so has trouble communicating with them. A person suffering from this Fallacy usually is mentally healthy (although politicians have it as well) and cannot understand the thoughts, goals and perceptions of a psychopath. He therefor projects onto the sick mind his vision of a healthy onewith whom he may have a difference of opinion. The psychopath projects onto the healthy person his own sickness, lusts and fears; and therefor treats others as though they were like him.
There is a large element of the AHD's definition of solipsism "2. The theory or view that the self is the only reality." in both the provincial person and the one using the Solipsist Fallacy. The provincial attitude is that "all cultures are basically similar to mine because my customs are the laws of nature" and the "S. F." attitude is that "all people are mentally healthyand think and feel like me".
The healthy person has respect for himself and others. The politician does not know what respect is because he has never experienced it. He equates it with fear or conceit, because in this areathat is all he knows. The closest thing he can see or feel is "self esteem" which is only arrogance. That is why he believes that other people; not of the class "politician" and therefor "commoners"; are not really human or have rights, like him, and so he takes slaves.
The healthy person has self control. He can and does put-off some satisfactions in order to get something better later. He saves for the future for himself and his family; instead of living high on debt. He has moral standards for his behavior and restrains his emotional impulses according to those standards. These are some of the bases for honesty and self respect. The politician has little self control and no morality. His self restraint is based on fear. He will do whatever his impulses tell him that he thinks he can get away with. Because he has so little control over himself he projects that lack of control out onto his environment and other people; and this frightens him. Seeing that he does not control his environment or other people; and thinking that they want to hurt and kill him in the same way that he wants to hurt and kill them; he tries to control everything he can see, especially other people. These are the reasons, along with sadism, for his attempts to disarm all "commoners" and to commit genocide. These are the reasons for his eternally mounting debts and bureaucratic regulations of all aspects of human action and life. It is also why he believes there can never be enough laws.
The healthy person wants what he can earn; and if he sees another person's property and wants it, he decides to work to earn "one of those" for himself. He does not steal because he respects the other person's property rights. The politician, having no respect for other people's rights or humanity (which he believes do not exist) sees the other person's property and decides to steal it. That is why we have taxes and forfeiture.
The healthy person experiences sex in terms of physical desire, love and reproduction; while the psychopath experiences it in terms of pain, fear, domination and submission. To the politician, love is having others worship him as a god, and sex is generally sadism, the infliction on others of pain, fear and degradationand the ultimate sexual thrill is killing people. That and his fear, due to the S. F. fallacy, that all others want to do the same to him are why he commits genocide, the ultimate form of control.
One of the most extreme examples of the Solipsist Fallacy in literature is good, old, Pollyanna.
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