so·​lip·​sism | \ ˈsō-ləp-ˌsi-zəm How to pronounce solipsism (audio) , ˈsä- \

Definition of solipsism

: a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing also : extreme egocentrism

Other Words from solipsism

solipsist \ ˈsō-​ləp-​sist How to pronounce solipsism (audio) , ˈsä-​ləp-​ , sə-​ˈlip-​ \ noun

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French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) can be blamed for the idea that if one whittles away beliefs about which one cannot be certain, one will eventually land at the existence of the self as a singular certainty; however, he cannot be blamed for either the word solipsism or the theory it refers to. (Descartes avoided falling into solipsism by positing that ideas known with the same clarity as the existence of the self is known must also be true.) Philosophical application of the word likely owes something to the French translation of a satiric work written by Venetian scholar Giulio Clemente Scotti in 1645 called Monarchia Solipsorum —in French, La Monarchie des Solipses. The pertinent term is a composite of the Latin solus ("alone") and ipse ("self").

Examples of solipsism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Popular fiction can do the billionaire’s work for him, playing on our national fantasy in a way that a billionaire memoir — inevitably a work of singular solipsism — can never quite manage. New York Times, 5 Apr. 2022 One way to avoid confirmation bias—meaning your expectations are rooted in believing your worldview is definitive, also known as solipsism—is by arguing against your own beliefs. Kenneth R. Rosen, Wired, 30 Mar. 2022 That solipsism makes her protagonists capable of immense selfishness, casual cruelty and unrecognized negligence, a combination which gives real insight into the Anthropocene. Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2022 Vampire’s Kiss is a tour de force of rabid solipsism, but even those who admire it feel the need to add an asterisk. Dan Piepenbring, Harper’s Magazine , 18 Jan. 2022 Ironically, this also becomes her route out of solipsism. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 3 Dec. 2021 The parts are in place for a staggering amount of literary solipsism. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 3 Dec. 2021 To reveal yourself in this way, at the megastar or folk-club level, is always to invite charges of solipsism… as if there was ever very much classic pop music made that didn’t involve some level of navel-gazing-turned-profound. David Viramontes, Variety, 25 Nov. 2021 Anything less carries the risk of solipsism, and self-absorption. New York Times, 18 Oct. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'solipsism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of solipsism

1836, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for solipsism

Latin solus alone + ipse self

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Last Updated

10 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Solipsism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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