In a phenomenal view of experience, what happens when I perceive a book is that I have a set of experiences in the n-dimensional continuum of experiences (where n is the number of types of experience; I suggest 1 for each sense and 1 for each type of emotion) which it is suitable to label as ?that book?. The reason the book appears to maintain its identity over time, even when its qualities change, giving me a different set of experiences, is that there is more than one set of experiences which it is suitable to label ?that book?.
So far, so good. But this starts to get very confusing when we consider the self. If an object?s identity is its potential for experiences of it to be labelled in a particular way, how do we develop self-identity? In other words, what is the set of experiences that it is suitable to label ?I??
The problem, you see, is that we do not experience experiences. We conceptualise experiences, for sure, and one set of experiences can cause another set of experiences (I see a snake, I get scared), but it seems very clear to me that we do not experience experiences. Perhaps what we label ?I? is the whole set of experiences, but this would provide no way of separating ?I? from what we see as being outside ?I?, and we do see ourselves as being something distinct.
It is my contention, then, that the only way we can form an ?I? is for us to truly believe that there are other entities who experience that ?I?. That is the only way in which there could be a set of experiences suitable to label ?I??that the set of experiences exists in others? minds. The existence of a concept of ?I?, then, precludes the solipsist?s conclusion that I am the only experiencing entity.