Large boulder on sand beach.


...I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it - “I refute it thus.”

James Boswell (1791)

Boswell is probably a little self effacing when he writes ‘ingenious sophistry’, he would have seen that there was more to Berkeley’s proposals than a stone could refute: the hardness of the stone is no different from the grey of its colour, both are sensations the origins and processing of which are to us nearly as complex and opaque as they were to Plato. The objects of our world are at least partially created in our minds, Berkeley’s merit was to pursue the point thoroughly and ask what else could there possibly be except these perceptions. Three hundred years later we can see a little more clearly how near to contemporary neuropsychological proposals his theory has come, and how wrong Johnson was.


A stone on an Icelandic beach benefiting from the extraordinary lucid light of high summer in high regions. In ‘The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D’. Boswell wrote: ‘After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal [made up of ideas]. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it...’ [continued above]


Saturday 29th June 2019

Murphy on duty

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