I’m not sure how to frame this.
Imagine that you’re talking to someone about imagination, and you exclaim, “I’m not even convinced that you are not a figment of my imagination!”. Now, it is easy to imagine saying something like this. But can you imagine saying it convincingly?
The best way to sound convincing is to be convinced. And since you’re simply trying to convince yourself and the listener that solipsism can’t be ruled out, it ought to be easy. And perhaps it is easy. Most people can probably imagine it being easy.
But you would also be able to easily tell the difference between rehearsing the statement to an imaginary person and making the statement to a real person. That is, you wouldn’t feel any urgency to also convince yourself that you were unable to tell the difference between the two activities, while convincing yourself that solipsism can’t be ruled out.
This itself is not very puzzling. Rehearsing and performing are two separate things, whether your target is an imaginary person or real. And you can rationalize the difference in other ways. What is puzzling is the fact that people so naturally straddle this fence. It’s practically automatic.
I want to get a firm grasp of that process. What happens in our brains that allows us to so easily hold conflicting public and private truths while being convinced of both? What is the mechanism? And why is it so natural? What are the factors that might cause this split to be more or less easy to achieve?
Maybe it’s linked with the way that our mirror neuron system is able to tell the difference between our own face in the mirror and the faces of others. Or maybe it’s linked with the way the frontal lobe continuously inhibits mimicking behavior. We probably just don’t know.