Vox has his promised follow on post up: Why solipsism matters. In it he offers both a definition and a practical test for it. Check it out.
Commenter Cail Corishev made a point on Vox’s post which I think is very relevant:
There’s a common occurrence in Internet discussions. Someone presents a theory that some people aren’t comfortable with. The uncomfortable ones claim that terms need to be defined or proof needs to be offered — reasonable-sounding requests — and they divert the thread to a quest for perfect definition and proof, throwing up complex requirements and bulleted lists of points that must be satisfied before the theory itself can be discussed. By the time that’s done (if ever), everyone’s gotten sick of the discussion and moved on.
And a bit further down:
Empirical data has its place — I’m certainly not anti-science — but so do intuition and gut feeling. A guy comes into the group and says, “Hey, there’s this term that really fits something women do that guys need to understand,” and the other guys slap themselves on the forehead and say, “Holy crap, that’s it! I kinda understood that, but I didn’t have a way to think about it better than, ‘She be crazy.’ This really helps me understand how to deal with women/my woman.” A discussion begins as they explore the new concept.
I agree with this. The truly interesting things we discuss in this sphere are the ones which are contrary to conventional wisdom. The insistence on a conventionally accepted term for an unconventional idea can only serve to stop the discussion. This doesn’t mean there isn’t value in searching for data, the best possible term, and most coherent definition, but the search shouldn’t be allowed to automatically preclude the discussion. It should instead be part of the discussion. In addition, those who add the most value to the discussion tend to be the ones in the best position to influence terms and definitions. If you want to wield the power of an opinion leader, you need to start by becoming the opinion leader. Don’t complain about the lack of data; find data and share it. Don’t complain about the term, coin another one and if people like it better and the old term hasn’t solidified they will use it instead. Don’t complain about the lack of definition; offer a definition which is so good others will be inclined to reference it, or even better accept it. For bonus points, perhaps offer a practical test.
Lastly, while the rationalization hamster is a different concept than female solipsism, the two are clearly related. This is perhaps best demonstrated by Badger’s excellent post from March of last year: Scientific Evidence for the Rationalization Hamster. In that post Badger quotes a UC Santa Barbara brain scientist describing how one part of the brain can invent information to avoid mental inconsistency:
Patients with “reduplicative paramnesia,” because of damage to the brain, believe that there are copies of people or places. In short, they will remember another time and mix it with the present. As a result, they will create seemingly ridiculous, but masterful, stories to uphold what they know to be true due to the erroneous messages their damaged brain is sending their intact interpreter. One such patient believed the New York hospital where she was being treated was actually her home in Maine. When her doctor asked how this could be her home if there were elevators in the hallway, she said, “Doctor, do you know how much it cost me to have those put in?” The interpreter will go to great lengths to make sure the inputs it receives are woven together to make sense—even when it must make great leaps to do so.
Edit: See also Ian Ironwood’s The Tangled Chains On The Swing Set of Solipsism