A New Refutation of Time  

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Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge, 3) observed: That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what everybody will allow.—And to me it is no less evident that the various Sensations, or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them — . . . The table I write on I say exists, that is, I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study I should say it existed—meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. . . . For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that is to me perfectly unintelligible. Their esse is percipi, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.

Foreseeing objections, he added in Paragraph 23:

But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books existing in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them. I answer, you may so, there is no difficulty in it; but what is all this, I beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call books and trees, and at the same time omitting to frame the idea of any one that may perceive them? But do not you yourself perceive or think of them all the while? This therefore is nothing to the purpose: it only shews you have the power of imagining or forming ideas in your mind; but it does not shew that you can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist without the mind.

In Paragraph 6, he had already stated:

Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, viz.. that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind—that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit—.

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A New Refutation of Time (Nueva refutación del tiempo) is an essay by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (written between 1944 and 1946) in which he argues that the negations of idealism may be extended to time. It consists of a prologue and two articles: the first one was written in 1944 and appeared in number 115 of the review Sur; the second, written in 1946, is a rework of the first. Borges comments that he did not combine the two texts into one, as the reading of two analogous texts might facilitate the comprehension of an indocile subject.

Just as George Berkeley denies that there is an object existing independently of our perception of it, and David Hume denies that there is a subject apart from a mere recollection of sensations, Borges tries to demonstrate that there is no time.

He proceeds on the assumption that if "man" is reduced, as according to Hume, to a collection of sensations, a single repeated perception, either in one man's life or in the experience of two different men, suffices to prove that time is a fallacy, since this repetition will destroy its linear sequence. Paradoxically, Borges closes the essay by refuting his refutation: "The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges."

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