Now if you admit difficulties in the way of knowing the transcendent as such, those difficulties as difficulties of logic apply to the fellow being. I admit readily the infinite regress as the result of an attempt to prove a positive solipsistic doctrine, but the infinite regress occurs there because it must occur with every attempt to know a transcendent object. The infinite regress simply illustrates that aspect of the situation which I call attention to. What one gets in any case of knowledge is experience characterized as cognitive, and the presumed agreement between such cognitive experience and its assumed transcendent object can not be got at. We can not go back of the cognitive experience, although we can go from one cognitive experience to another. To be sure, I have continually a cognitive experience of my fellows, but this does not settle the question of their transcendent character in any logical way. It does satisfy me practically,—this whole discussion is academic if you like, and this sort of practical satisfaction is a decidedly important phase of experience. But logically we are left with a sort of negative solipsism on our hands which we can not get rid of. Actually, we simply toss it away. We can not stand that kind of suggestion. Our whole being rebels. We simply banish solipsism out of court. But I submit that this is not a logical nor a philosophical way of escape.
I am not here, however, to argue the claims of one metaphysic or another. I wish simply to observe, if I can, what motives determine our philosophical decisions.
Perhaps the most common way of attacking solipsism is to enumerate the many dreadful consequences which ought to follow. Such argument does, perhaps, make him against whom it is directed feel rather foolish, but it is no better as logic than the argumentum ad hominem ever is.
It seems as though the consequence of defining the object of knowledge as a transcendent object whose reality does not depend on being known brought one into a logical impasse. It is not that I think I am the only self in the universe, but that I do not see any way to prove that I am not the only self. Of course I know there are other selves all about me; that is the way my experience is characterized; but if I once realize that my experience can not go beyond itself, and that my fellow is regarded by me as in his very essence a transcendent fact, I then observe that my knowledge of other selves as transcendent is not a logical knowledge, but rather a biological attitude.
Meanwhile this discovery makes absolutely no difference to experience. It continues to be as social as ever. One goes about one’s work and lives out one’s life in the world among one’s fellows. One has observed, perhaps, that one can not prove that solipsism is