Idealism: Bishop Berkeley

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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 –

The illustration is copyright: Lightspring via Shutterstock
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About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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3 Responses to Idealism: Bishop Berkeley

  1. It is a thing most wonderful that both these quatrains are in Christopher Ricks’ Oxford Book of English Verse (1999 I think, the successor to Helen Gardner’s New Oxford Book of English Verse, which supplanted Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch). Do they call them squibs? In any case, I’m pleased that such short, humorous, highly memorable verses which pack a lot into a few lines have Official Recognition.

  2. Oops. Limericks. Not quatrains. I’ve ordered a numeracy first aid pack.

  3. L’ha ribloggato su Chris Fewingse ha commentato:
    2 limericks

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