There was once a man who said `God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the Quad.’
The 18th century Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753) believed that matter does not exist except in the mind of an observer, and called this belief Idealism. This view of the world was mocked by many, perhaps most effectively by Monsignor
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1888-1957), scholar and priest, in the above ‘Limerick on Idealism‘
This riposte was offered by Anon:
Dear Sir, Your astonishment’s odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by Yours faithfully, God.
It may sound as if these are abstruse points of philosophy. But we all know people who can be described as what would now be called solipsists, that is they appear to believe that they are the centre of a universe which exists only in their minds –