Ultimate Egoists – Is There A Solipsist In The House?

by John Holbo on March 2, 2018

I’m going to try a series of posts in which I crowdsource, if I can, SF stories on highly specific philosophical themes. It seems appropriate that the first thing I should ask a crowd is: how many of you are solipsists? Which ones?

The SFE doesn’t have an entry on the subject. Seems worth drafting one.

I’m not looking for virtual reality Time Out of Joint, Truman Show stuff, although I guess I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it: stuff in which the theme is that only one person – the protagonist – matters. The world is focused on just this one soul.

There are also stories in which the continued existence of the whole universe depends on one person’s prolonged life, even if there are others in the universe. Sure, gimme that.

But gimme the hard stuff. True solipsism. The accidental god theme. I’m the only one! I made this! I’m in charge of the place. Or: I’m the only one in the place (and there is no sign of anyone outside the place.)

I’ll start us out. Theodore Sturgeon, “The Ultimate Egoist”, available inexpensively in an anthology of the same name [amazon]. Yep, that fits.

Heinlein “’All you zombies’-”

Fredric Brown, “The Solipsist” [not very good, and not quite about solipsism, but short].

OK, I’ll accept stories in which there are fewer people than it looks, maybe not just one. Heinlein’s “They”, then. The thing is: a lot of these stories are ‘pocket universe’ stories, which is sort of its own thing. So don’t just gimme a pocket universe! I got a pocketful already. (Or I’ll make a post later if I want one.)

Gimme what you got! Solipsists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but … oh, never mind.

{ 71 comments }

1

Doug 03.02.18 at 6:16 am

Quantum Night, by Robert Sawyer, is about a scientist discovering that over half of all people in the world are philosopher’s zombies: the lights are on, but nobody is home. Not quite what you’re looking for, maybe, but a related idea.

2

John Holbo 03.02.18 at 6:28 am

I’ll count that as solipsism-lite. Fewer than we thought.

3

John Holbo 03.02.18 at 7:19 am

I guess there’s also the stories in which it turns out that all (some?) of the characters are projections of aspects of the protagonist’s personality. But the protagonist doesn’t know it. Robert Bloch, “The Big Binge”, if I recall.

4

David Duffy 03.02.18 at 7:26 am

Fritz Leiber You’re All Alone (1953)
Hawkwind Master of the universe (~1972)
“I am the centre of the universe/The wind of time is blowing through me/And it’s all moving relative to me/It’s all a figment of my mind…” (not by Michael Moorcock).

5

Hidari 03.02.18 at 7:34 am

6

Raven Onthill 03.02.18 at 7:37 am

Sturgeon’s “It Wasn’t Syzygy” is about halfway there. I can think of a few others… Fantasies where there are only a handful of real people or just one or two gods and everyone else are just NPCs come to mind. Morton Golding’s Night Mare – now there’s an obscurity! Fredric Brown’s Martians, Go Home

Shouldn’t there be more? It seems like there ought to be more. (“I was expecting an earth-shattering kaboom.”)

7

MFB 03.02.18 at 7:38 am

The climax of Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man is pretty good solipsism.

I don’t quite remember the author, but there was a 60s short story called Marianna which is essentially solipsistic.

8

John Holbo 03.02.18 at 7:47 am

This s going to be good. Keep it coming! Thanks, everyone.

9

David Duffy 03.02.18 at 8:19 am

Jack Vance Languages of Pao – a common problem for those entering the Emeritus state.

10

James Grimmer 03.02.18 at 8:42 am

Look at the various version of Twain’s “The Mysterious Stranger.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mysterious_Stranger

I read, when I was fifteen or sixteen, one of the versions of this story that ends with a solipsistic vision. Life and the cosmos you’re experiencing couldn’t be like they are were it not for the fact that they emanate from your brain alone–your limited and self-deceiving and selfish and stupid, however otherwise well-intentioned, brain.

Here is a Wiki-Summary of the story version I’m sure I read:

“In 1590, three boys, Theodor, Seppi, and Nikolaus, live relatively happy simple lives in a remote Austrian village called Eseldorf (German for “Assville” or “Donkeytown”). The story is narrated by Theodor, the village organist’s son. Other local characters include Father Peter, his niece Marget, and the astrologer.

One day, a handsome teenage boy named Satan appears in the village. He explains that he is an angel and the nephew of the fallen angel whose name he shares. Young Satan performs several magical feats. He claims to be able to foresee the future and informs the group of unfortunate events that will soon befall those they care about. The boys don’t believe Satan’s claims until one of his predictions comes true. Satan proceeds to describe further tragedies that will befall their friends. The boys beg Satan to intercede. Satan agrees but operates under the technical definition of mercy. For instance, instead of a lingering death due to illness, Satan simply causes one of Theodor’s friends to die immediately.

In the village and in other places around the world where Satan transports them magically, the boys witness religious fanaticism, witch trials, burnings, hangings, deaths and mass hysteria. Finally, Satan vanishes with a brief explanation: “[T]here is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream – a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought – a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!”

I remember reading criticisms of this version of the story that especially disliked the angel Satan’s speech at the end advocating the solipsism hypothesis. This may have been my first exposure to literary criticism and scholarship. These critics thought Satan’s solipsism speech was cheap, a non sequitur, and so forth. For me, it was my initial introduction to the problem of evil as a young Mormon boy reading Twain and going to high school and reading the news and, well, reading Twain alongside the Book of Mormon and Shakespeare and Heinlein.

It is now a flashbulb moment, for what that’s worth: In light of everything else in the story, I thought: How true, how true . . . It has all to be a projection of my own stupid imagination. I think I know the very room I was in, my high school bedroom, when I read the ending, pre-dawn, and thought, this reminds me of the Twain story, “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven,” which I’d probably read earlier that week.

11

SusanC 03.02.18 at 9:09 am

Roger Zelazny, [i]The Sign of the Unicorn[/i], chapter ten. Solipcocsm is a running theme in the Amber books.

12

SusanC 03.02.18 at 9:14 am

I can’t remember the author, but there’s a Sf short story where the protagonist is refused life insurance by an AI that calculates premiums, and it turns out that the reason is the universe will cease to exist when he dies. (So the AI knows that a payout on the policy is impossible).

13

SusanC 03.02.18 at 9:19 am

At a slight risk of spoilers for the movie, Source Code strays a bit into this territory from its basic La Jetee/Twelve Monkeys crossed with Inception premise.

14

Ivo 03.02.18 at 9:31 am

I think Ursula LeGuin’s “The Lathe of Heaven” can be read this way. Only the protagonist has the power to change the world.

15

Phil 03.02.18 at 9:38 am

Arguably Fritz Leiber’s “Mariana” ends up going beyond solipsism.

From the sound of it I’d class “The Mysterious Stranger” less as solipsism than as theophany – stories where the protagonist discovers there’s only one thing really going on but it’s not him/her, like Dick’s “Faith of our Fathers”.

16

Phil 03.02.18 at 9:40 am

SusanC @12 – then again, Kate Atkinson’s Life after life isn’t solipsistic. Not sure how I would categorise it.

17

David Duffy 03.02.18 at 9:51 am

Mariana, mentioned above, is another Leiber short (1960).

PKD The World She Wanted (1953) [a plot summary is available online]

18

painedumonde 03.02.18 at 10:15 am

Could not Dune be considered especially with the advent of Leto, may his water be blessed, may his passing cleanse the way.

19

Jim Buck 03.02.18 at 10:17 am

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch .
Upon the Dull Earth (also PKD)

Both snapshot solipsism as apocalypse.

20

Rabscuttle 03.02.18 at 10:20 am

Maybe not quite what you want, but Lem’s Futurological Congress has a character discovering he is a lot more alone than he thought he was, to the point where maybe there is nobody else. Been a while since I read it.

21

casmilus 03.02.18 at 11:06 am

“Time Out Of Joint” is not “virtual reality” as the term is understood today. It is set in a physical micro-world in which humans have been trained to play out roles in an illusion. Characters other than Ragle Gumm figure out the phoniness of the set-up. “A Maze Of Death” is an example of a PKD story that is “virtual” in the current sense.

22

Left Outside 03.02.18 at 11:07 am

The chronicles of thomas covenant have got to fall into this category.

Leper is abandoned by wife and society and gets pretty cranky about it in the 1980s. Gets injured and transported to a magical land where he is reincarnation of a long dead hero who must fight Lord Foul.

Almost everything he does fucks things up time after time and he only very slowly starts treating everyone like they’re real people and saves the day, for about nine books. Including a rape storyline which if I reread now I’m sure I’d find mortifyingly problematic.

His real body and the magical world seem related and even the onset of his leprosy seems linked to the history of the world. For a long time its not clear the world really is real. Questions throughout on doing the right thing and selfishness and selflessness (lots mediated through that rape) and why people would owe decency to one another.

Loved this when I was a teenager, not sure I’d still love the books now.

23

MisterMr 03.02.18 at 11:53 am

IIRC in Tezuka’s Phoenix ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(manga) ) there is one story where some guy is cursed, outlives the whole universe, and ends up creating a new one.

Question: some religious beliefs (and certainly many fantasy/SF stories) have this idea that all “souls” (variely defined) are really part of or reflections of The One (variely defined again).

Would you count this as “solipsism”?

24

NomadUK 03.02.18 at 12:01 pm

Surely Asimov’s ‘The Final Question’ qualifies at least as well as some of these, at least by the end.

25

Doug Weinfield 03.02.18 at 12:25 pm

David Gerrold’s ” The Man Who Folded Himself ” is a much more elaborated exploration of the solipsistic themes in Heinlein’s “All You Zombies.” Hugo and Nebula nominated.

26

Henry 03.02.18 at 12:51 pm

But there are bits in Time Out of Joint that are weirder. When the soft drink stand disappears and a piece of paper saying ‘soft drinks stand’ is left in its stead.

Robert Charles Wilson’s short Divided By Infinity, which I am 90% sure is a response to Heinlein’s ‘Elsewhen’ published as part of Assignment in Eternity. Both are stories in which the universe is based on human perceptions, and since human beings are incapable of imagining their death, they end up in increasingly improbable universes, which in the Wilson story is creepily solipsistic.

Gene Wolfe, “Melting.” Arguably, too, Peace if looked at from a particular angle.

27

steven t johnson 03.02.18 at 1:20 pm

L. Ron Hubbard, Typewriter in the Sky, counts I think because that’s a solipsistic universe, albeit not the narrators. Which really hits even harder on the solipsist as God, especially if He’s wearing a dirty bathrobe.

Heinlein’s Waldo too, I think, with the universe as the consensus of solipsist Gods.

The comments make it very clear there is a divide in “solipsism” between “I’m dreaming the world and I’ll never wake up” and “I’m God.” I think, contra the OP, the former is hard solipsism too, I think. Leibniz’s monads don’t have to be coordinated, because after all, if they aren’t, which monad would know?

28

Larry Hamelin 03.02.18 at 1:42 pm

Greg Egan’s Permutation City is arguably in the solipsist genre, and Distress is built around solipsism (“anthrocosmology”, the idea that the physical universe exists because a (the?) mind requires it), but eventually subverts the idea.

And I’m surprised no one has mentioned Philip K. Dick, whose entire oeuvre is his struggle with solipsism.

29

oldster 03.02.18 at 1:44 pm

If you get a pocketful of solipsistic stories, will you have apocket-lips now?
Or is that too a pocket-lipstick?

30

Gabriel 03.02.18 at 2:12 pm

SusanC, excellent point about Amber. Shadow vs Substance, etc. It’s never actually clarified how the Amberites (or anyone else) can discern the two, and the ability to walk Shadow seems to engender a sense of unreality and solipsism amongst the family. As it would.

31

Adam Roberts 03.02.18 at 2:12 pm

Van Vogt’s Weapon Shops of Isher is famous today because it’s the NRA’s favourite sf novel (“THE RIGHT TO BUY WEAPONS IS THE RIGHT TO BE FREE” and so on), but I’ve always been more interested in its minor character McAllister, a luckless journalist who gets trapped in a temporal pendulum, swinging between increasingly far futures and increasingly distant pasts, picking up “temporal energy” as a kind of friction as he does so, until he ends up scooting right back to the beginning of time and exploding as the Big Bang. That’s always struck me as a kind of rebus for Solipsism Absolute.

32

Jake Gibson 03.02.18 at 2:14 pm

PKD played around with solipsism quite a bit.
It has been a long time since I read it, but isn’t Eye in the Sky something of a solipsism?
Libertarianism is pretty much solipsistic.

33

Ume 03.02.18 at 2:47 pm

In Tomoyuki Hoshino’s ME, the initial protagonist discovers that there is more than one of him, and towards the end of the novel the viewpoints of the various MEs swirl and interchange until you have no idea who is who, or if in fact almost everyone else is really ME as well.

34

Alan White 03.02.18 at 3:01 pm

I Am Legend seems to go there.

35

steven t johnson 03.02.18 at 3:20 pm

Larry Hamelin@28 shamed me by remembering Egan, who I’ve read much more recently than Heinlein.

Not sure Joanna Russ’ The Female Man isn’t solipsistic in the sense that it’s all one character and there’s no real world. Though I suppose it could be argued it’s about a struggle against male solipsism, not sure that doesn’t double down on the solipsistic nature. Alternatively I suppose you could just say, “meta.” But isn’t meta literary solipsism?

So far my takeaway is that writers do solipsism better than philosophers. Must be reading it wrong.

36

Plarry 03.02.18 at 4:09 pm

SusanC @ 11 mentioned Zelazny, and although I don’t think the Amber novels are the best examples of solipsism in Zelazny’s work, a lot of Zelazny’s work does have a strong solipsist thread running through it. There are several short stories and novellas in this vein. The best one these that I can think is “Go Starless in the Night” (collected in Unicorn Variations), about a man who is “revived” from cryogenic suspension by having his body pushed to absolute zero so that his brain becomes a superconductor. It is quite short. Other examples from Zelazny are the novella He Who Shapes and Today We Choose Faces.

37

NickH 03.02.18 at 4:39 pm

One possible interpretation of Haruki Murakami’s “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World,” is that it takes place entirely within the mind of the main character as his life ends…

38

GrueBleen 03.02.18 at 4:58 pm

‘They’ written by Robert Heinlein

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_%28Heinlein%29

39

Farah Mendlesohn 03.02.18 at 5:05 pm

Joanna Russ, The Female Man (all the Joannas are the same person and they are all her).
Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life (closed loop)
Possibly Adam Roberts, New Model Army where one interpretation is that this is actually someone who is constructing their own solipsistic interpretation of the universe.
Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder”–because seriously, we aren’t that important.
Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps” (tho it’s really only practice for the stupendous “All You Zombies” which you already have)
William Sleator, The Last Universe–Susan has to navigate a maze which exits into different universes in which she has to make choices that affect herself and her brother, who is dying. This is not a cute story.

40

Jim Harrison 03.02.18 at 5:22 pm

There are a huge number of stories about the previous lives of Gautama Buddha. I’ve often wondered if anybody ever extrapolated these Jataka tales to their limit by suggesting there has ever only been one sequence of rebirths that coils back and forth through time like a snake. The no-self doctrine (anatman) asserts that no-one possesses a substantive identity; but if there is no real same, there is no real difference between you and me and all sentient creatures. Viewed with the Buddha eye, reality is an enormous plate of spaghetti with only one strand. I guess the Pastafarians would be pleased, though this mystic version does leave out the meatballs..

41

Ron McNew 03.02.18 at 5:54 pm

Night of Delusions – Keith Laumer (1972)

https://www.amazon.com/Night-delusions-Keith-Laumer/dp/0399110119

Good, could have been great.

42

P.D. 03.02.18 at 7:06 pm

Through the Looking Glass isn’t SF, but the king dreaming all of the characters is solipsism. It’s not even clear that it’s true in the story that Alice is his dream, but that’s what Tweedledee and Tweedledum say. Foremost theorists of solipsism, or they would be if they weren’t figments.

43

Paul McAuley 03.02.18 at 7:58 pm

Poignant solipsism: at the end of James Blish’s Earthman, Come Home, the last in the Cities in Flight series, each of the surviving protagonists is seperated from the others by a cosmic rip and creates his or her own universe. Mayor Amalfi, for one, has to blow himself to kickstart his new Creation, suggesting an interesting new heresy answering the question of what God did after the sixth day.

44

Thomas P 03.02.18 at 7:59 pm

Jams Blish series “Cities in flight” ends in a rather solipsist way with the universe collapsing and the protagonist(s?) getting to shape the new universe.

Not really what was asked for, but Iain Banks “Against a Dark Background” has a hilarious group os solipsist assassins. Scary guys, because they don’t care about their victims, as those doesn’t really exist anyway, and neither do they worry about their comrades getting killed off.

45

DaveL 03.02.18 at 9:17 pm

Heinlein, “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”
Heinlein, “They”
Heinlein, “By His Bootstraps”

Notice a theme here?

46

peep 03.02.18 at 9:51 pm

It’s a big theme in Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. Main character believes everyone else is a robot.

47

steven t johnson 03.02.18 at 11:03 pm

A comment thread can serve as a staircase?

The computer SHALMANESER V in John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar is a solipsist, convinced the world is his illusion. He is impressed with the fertility of his imagination.

48

dilbert dogbert 03.03.18 at 12:52 am

Number 10!! You must be my doppelgänger or I am yours. I read The Mysterious Stranger and Capt’n Stormfield back in the 4th grade, mid 1940’s. My mom got a box of books from a friend and I read them all. Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard. The two Twain books are the only ones by him I have ever read.

49

Joseph Brenner 03.03.18 at 3:55 am

David Duffy@4:
> Fritz Leiber You’re All Alone (1953)

That was one of my first thoughts too– though I think the original story is from 1950– but as I remember it, it might not quite qualify as “hard solipsism”– despite the title I think the premise is that *most* people you meet are effectively phony automatons, but there’s a smattering of “real people” out there. So you’re not quite *alone* but it might be difficult to make contact with another authentic self.

There’s a relative of the “accidental god” theme which is something like the amnesiac god– the culmination of the story has you realize that you’ve been fumbling around in a world of your own creation. There’s an A.E. van Vogt and a Phil Jose Farmer, titled respectively “Universe Maker” and “Maker of Universes” (and Amber is another in that chain, though the amnesia is conquered earlier). The anime “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya” is another story of this type, though interestingly the god never wakes up, and remains amnesiac throughout…

Algis Budrys had an interesting reading of Heinlein’s “Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, pointing out that the AI (“Mike”) is essentially living alone in a solipsistic universe (the reason it stops communicating at the end of the novel is not that it was in “shock” but that it had gotten what it wanted out of the humans, and there was no need to continue manipulating them).

The AI in Gibson’s “Neuromancer” is essentially in the same position, and after the halves merge together it resolves the problem by intentionally fragmenting into the shards of god inhabiting the net in the sequel “Count Zero”.

50

Joseph Brenner 03.03.18 at 4:14 am

steven t johnson @47:

Good point about “Stand on Zanzibar”. For what it’s
worth, that was from 1968 and “The Moon is a Harsh
Mistress” was from 1966. (And the Budrys review was out in Galaxy in the same year.)

51

Joseph Brenner 03.03.18 at 4:15 am

“how many of you are solipsists?”

Just one.

52

Doug Weinfield 03.03.18 at 4:54 am

While I feel uncomfortable gainsaying Farah. I read The Female Man as having variant characters from multiple parallel universes, rather than all being the same character moving from universe to universe.

53

Raven Onthill 03.03.18 at 5:37 am

Somewhere in the Amber Chronicles – book 3, Sign of the Unicorn, I think – the protagonist explicitly rejects solipsism. This is perhaps harder for the protagonist Corwin than most people, since the princes of Amber can magically walk to anywhere or anything they can imagine.

There is, I think, a separate but related category: the “small world” story, where our world is only a shadow of the real world, which is usually much smaller and has a much smaller population than our world. Amber is the obvious example, and “It Wasn’t Syzygy,” but I am thinking of a novel by a French or French-Canadian author where the real world is small and flat, and god is steadily expanding it. Oh, what is the title? I remember quite a few scenes and characters, and the phrase “Heroes of the void” but not either title or author.

“Where’s the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!”

54

dax 03.03.18 at 6:43 am

“I can’t remember the author, but there’s a Sf short story where the protagonist is refused life insurance by an AI that calculates premiums, and it turns out that the reason is the universe will cease to exist when he dies. (So the AI knows that a payout on the policy is impossible).”

Something is seriously wrong with this story. If the world ceases to exist when the protagonist dies, a company would want to sell him life instance, since it would collect the premiums, but not have to pay out on his death.

55

Neville Morley 03.03.18 at 7:35 am

Bester again: ‘Oddy and Id’, in which it’s discovered that the universe is rearranging itself to fulfil the unconscious desires of a single individual.

Also notable as the occasion of Bester’s hilarious meeting with John W. Campbell, who explains that the Freudian underpinnings of the story have been rendered obsolete by Dianetics, and demands that the young author regresses to a past trauma in the middle of a works canteen.

56

John Holbo 03.03.18 at 7:39 am

“Something is seriously wrong with this story. If the world ceases to exist when the protagonist dies, a company would want to sell him life instance, since it would collect the premiums, but not have to pay out on his death.”

Yeah, that would really take the ‘actual’ out of ‘actuarial risk’.

57

Cn. Naevius 03.03.18 at 11:19 am

There’s that part in the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy (I forget which), where Zaphod goes into the Total Perspective Vortex (or something), which is supposed to destroy him by showing him his utter insignificance on a large scale, but instead tells him he’s the most important man in the universe (because it’s an artificial universe constructed for that purpose).

58

Nigel Holmes 03.03.18 at 12:04 pm

Not a perfect fit, but Bradbury’s “The Scythe” (October Country) comes quite close.

59

Collin Street 03.03.18 at 12:33 pm

Surely the question is, is there more than one solopsist in the house?

60

Nigel Holmes 03.03.18 at 12:35 pm

Not exactly science fiction (unless you want to take the speaker seriously), but this Housman poem (which is so thoroughly Housman it reads like a parody) kind of fits (as does Walter de la Mare’s “Napoleon”):

Good creatures, do you love your lives
And have you ears for sense?
Here is a knife like other knives,
That cost me eighteen pence.

I need but stick it in my heart
And down will come the sky,
And earth’s foundations will depart
And all you folk will die.

61

SusanC 03.03.18 at 4:23 pm

The ending of Dark Star (with the robotic bomb) also seems relevant.

It looks to me that there’s an afinity between:
.
– The Mary Sue, where the universe is arranged to showcaseMarySue’s excellent qualities (but this is not made explicit)
– The protagonist is God-like
– A character is a monstrous narcisist (but the reader thinks the character is mistaken)
– the apocalyptic, there used to be other humans but they’re all dead now and only the narrator is left
– the antirealist, everything is a simulation including the other people
– the Phillip K Dick, we shouldn’t have taken those mushrooms

62

Jim Harrison 03.03.18 at 4:52 pm

Has anybody mentioned the Solipsist who shows up in the Classical Walpurgis Night scene of Faust II? He only has four lines:

This time the fancy wrought by me
Is really too despotic.
Forsooth if all I see is me,
I must be idiotic.

(Traylor translation—I’m quoting from memory and can’t find my copy to check.)

63

Jim Harrison 03.03.18 at 5:56 pm

I found the German original of the quote from Faust:

Idealist:
Die Phantasie in meinem Sinn
Ist dießmal gar zu herrisch.
Fürwahr, wenn ich das alles bin,
So bin ich heute närrisch.

64

Whirrlaway 03.03.18 at 8:39 pm

Huis Clos, J-P Sartre.

65

Gabriel 03.04.18 at 2:24 am

@53

John said that he’d accept ‘fewer people’ stories, and given that:

“There is Shadow and there is Substance, and this is the root of all things. Of Substance, there is only Amber, the real city, upon the real Earth, which contains everything. Of Shadow, there is an infinitude of things.”

…I’m certain Amber qualifies. And given that it’s never really established that any but the royal family have any agency, a. twenty real people who have godlike powers over an infinity of the unreal begins to look an awful lot like actual solipsism.

66

John Holbo 03.04.18 at 5:16 am

Thanks for the Faust, Jim Harrison. That’s actually a pretty clever translation by Traylor, and you evidently have a good memory!

Thanks to everyone else, too. There are hits and misses and near-misses in this stack and that’s good enough for me.

67

Alex 03.04.18 at 6:16 am

“The Little Prince”?

68

Oliver Morton 03.04.18 at 4:16 pm

I was too late to the Total Perspective Vortex (which in book form is in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, in radio form in the second series) and it does fall into the pocket universe exception, but it’s a great gag.

The Heinlein solipsism sin’t limited to the short stories: it’s there at the end of Time Enough For Love (“try a mirror”” iirc) and ‘The Number of the Beast’ is all about it, in its way

69

Jim Harrison 03.04.18 at 6:28 pm

John, just in case you ever need to look it up, the Faust translator is Taylor, not Traylor. My typo.

70

F 03.04.18 at 6:41 pm

I’m really surprised there aren’t more of these. It seems that solipsism is tied up in the most popular version of the Copenhagen interpretation.

When did the English definition of actual (real) diverge from the Romance definition (current) and why?

71

GrueBleen 03.05.18 at 5:38 am

Cn. Naevius @57

There’s an even more solipsistic part of Hitchhiker’s Guide, mate where the protagonists get to meet the ruler of the universe and his cat (named “The Lord”). Here’s a brief description:

http://hitchhikersguidetoearth.wikia.com/wiki/The_Ruler_of_the_Universe

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