solipsism |ˈsälipˌsizəm|

nounthe view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist.DERIVATIVESsolipsist |ˈsoʊləpsəst| |ˈsɑləpsəst| |səˈlɪps1st| nounsolipsistic |ˌsälipˈsistik| |ˈˈsoʊləpˈsɪstɪk| |ˈˈsɑləpˈsɪstɪk| |-ˈsɪstɪk| adjectivesolipsistically |ˌsälipˈsistik(ə)lē| |ˈˈsoʊləpˈsɪstək(ə)li| |ˈˈsɑləpˈsɪstək(ə)li| |-ˈsɪstɪk(ə)li| adverbORIGIN late 19th cent.: from Latin solus ‘alone’ + ipse ‘self’ + ism ._____I came across this word yesterday and was reminded that every time I come across this noun, or its daughter, “solipsist,” I pause and remember that I always forget what the word means. I always remember that I don’t want to be one, I just can’t remember exactly which vice, sin, habit, or other foible I might be giving in to if I were to subscribe to solipsism. Writing in general, and writing any kind of journal especially, I suppose takes this potential out of the philosophical and into a very practical risk category. More importantly, I see lots of academics practice solipsism while adamantly denying its philosophy. We say, as academics, that we’re contributing to a font of knowledge that is greater than any individual, that is refining the details of some truth outside of ourselves. Yet we also get trained, in graduate school and in the hallways of our ivory towers, to become so focused on our own research agenda and our own specialized knowledge that we tend to disregard a greater context, or even the work that’s been done before us. Interesting for me, I think that the natural sciences (the field in which I’m housed) does a great job on the whole of avoiding this pitfall. However, in the field where I practice (education), I think we do a particularly poor job of figuring out what everyone else is doing, not to mention what everyone has done before us. Ironically, we advocate integration of multiple subjects and cooperative groups in our classrooms, but in our own research pursuits we are the isms of self-centeredness. And those of us who can’t admit this and see outside of ourselves are probably those most guilty of this.

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