Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blogs and 'Community Solipsism'

Update (26/9/06): This post is now dedicated to Moksha and her harpies.

The concept of solipsism is an odd one. However, it is one that shows up from time to time as a philosophical limiting concept.

In a classic formulation, solipsism comes in two varieties. Perhaps the most extreme of the two kinds is Ontological solipsism. This is roughly the view that you alone exist. In a technical sense, ontology is a sub-field of metaphysics, that is concerned with what exists. The second kind of solipsism is so-called Epistemological solipsism. This is roughly the view that all that can be known is your own mind and its contents. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that concerns itself with what we know and how we can know it. It is not unusual to find both kinds of solipsism mixed together in the views of a single philosopher.

Now, on the face of it, you might say 'wait a moment, these ideas seem kind of nuts'. You might have a point, but think about things a little further. You certainly know the contents of your own mind. However, how certain can you be about the rest of the apparent world? You may think that you are looking at your computer screen and reading a blog, but can you be certain that this is really what is happening? After all, you could be asleep and just dreaming this experience, or it might just all be a figment of your imagination. Can you definitively prove otherwise? These are the kinds of considerations that can lead to a solipsistic position.

Whilst meandering around the blog arena, I have noticed an odd phenomenon, which has some strong solipsistic propensities. Let us be frank, most blogs are pretty uninteresting. Who cares what this person did at work today? Why should the antics of some person's dog, or cat be too thrilling? Why should I care about the latest twists and turns of your relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse? This is probably the reason that many blogs do not get read by too many people. However, every once in a while, one will run across a little 'nexus of blogs'. These are people who clearly read and comment upon each other's work in an almost obsessive manner. These can be interesting and even quite fun. The 'movement' to post Fall related material (see yesterdays post), might fall into this category.

There is another type of blog 'nexus' though that is whole pile odder and more solipsistic. This kind of nexus arises when a bunch of people appear to be working together to create, or propagate a particular world view. There are often common themes to these memetically mutant blogs. Everyone is politically correct, against (or for) X, or Y, advocates the same cause, and so on. When there are clearly problems, or falsehoods in the world view, these bloggers will support each other against anybody who has the cheek to challenge their world view. They will say 'right on, sister/brother' and things like that. The problem is that they seem to be supporting one another in a totally ficticious world view. By working together, the members of these groups work to strengthen what amounts to a group hallucination.

I have seen this group solipsism a few times. It is very weird. It makes one worry about whether the members of these cliques either forgot to take their medications, or are doing too many drugs. However, one of the features that really stands out about these solipsistic communities is the way they deal with their commentators. If one reads a few of these blogs -- following the links from one to another and then returns back to the beginning, it is common to find that comments have been either changed, or deleted. This I believe is one of the hallmarks of this mutant blog type. Anyone who has questions about the group world view, or who challenges it, is deleted. This often happens not just on one blog of the group, but will happen on many in the group.

I find this all very curious. Why do people use blogs to support their own odd reads of the world and, possibly, find support for their mental problems? Keep an eye out for this phenomena. In order to do so, you will have to be quite nimble. Comments are frequently deleted quite quickly. However, what puzzles me is why people wish to live in twisted and ersatz worlds like this? Why do they indulge in community solipsism? Solipsism is an odd philosophical concept. It can be useful as a limit case. However, philosophers know that that is all it is. When the philosophy is done, solipsism is put to one side so that normality and practical goals can be achieved. Imagine trying to drive home from work, whilst in a fully solipsistic rapture! Why do these community solipsists not do likewise? Is the attraction of these curious views connected to what happens to cults? Whatever the answers to these questions, I am sure that it is most unhealthy for all those involved. Should you be a comment deleter (of the kind described), or know of any communities of solipsists, have studied them, and have an explanation for their bizarre mentations, I would really like to hear more.

What concerns me most about this phenomenon is that it seems to be very similar to the kinds of things that must go on between members of The Ku Klux Klan, or Knights of The White Camellia. Are blogs a nurturing ground for this kind of sad stupidity even when the putative stated goals of the community hallucination is the exact opposite?

The CP


Blogger ToastedSuzy said...

I'm reading, but I'm reading through a haze of freshman paper induced stupid brainedness.

It's impairing my ability to talk...good.

I'll be back around, though, and I'm reading.


11:10 AM  
Blogger Clampett said...


I feel that I'm involved in such a nexus.

In retrospect, I was chided in a forum where I had already been banned as a 'troll', and so couldn't respond, so I feel the responses I recieved were punishing, not enlightening.

That has been a learning experience for me in terms of people who have forgotten how to think and consequently attack those who deviate from their party line.

9:59 PM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

Hi Clampett,
Good to have you back. I wrote you a long reply that I just nuked by mistake. So, this is a short second version.

Keep your bullshit detector on high gain in the blog arena. These people mean well, but are ideologically engaged. It is a shame. The topics under discussion are extremely important. It would be much better if they could be discussed in a rational manner.

As I know that you have interest in race and related issues, then let me recommed to you
Geoffrey Philp's
blog. There you will find some real information.

I am really sorry that you got crapped on so bad in the blog arena. That is why refereed journals, where real academics publish are a better place to look for answers than this free for all. The blogs have no quality control. So, idiots get to look and sound the same as knowledgeable people. This is why (elsewhere) I have recommended talking to your professors who share your interests. Ask them for their recent publications. If they have none, ask someone else. This is the way ahead.

The CP

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey CP, you linked this on Slashdot.

I think that you might want to re-read some of the anthropological literature on tribal membership. It might complement your understanding of the contortions people undergo to live in a particular kind of solipistic world.

5:05 PM  

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