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Philosophy where? Win a book in our competition!!!

Andrew Dodsworth asks a few questions about who wrote what.

1. Which American writer, better known for work in a very different vein, is here getting indignant with the Christian God?

We hear much about His patience and forbearance and long-suffering; we hear nothing about our own, which much exceeds it. We hear much about His mercy and kindness and goodness – in words – the words of His Book and of His pulpit – and the meek multitude is content with this evidence, such as it is, seeking no further; but whoso searcheth after a concreted sample of it will in time acquire fatigue. There being no instances of it. For what are gilded as mercies are not in any recorded case more than mere common justices, and due – due without thanks or compliment. To rescue without personal risk a cripple from a burning house is not a mercy, it is a mere commonplace duty; anybody would do it that could. And not by proxy, either – delegating the work but confiscating the credit for it. If men neglected God’s poor and God’s stricken and helpless ones as He does, what would become of them? The answer is to be found in those dark lands where man follows His example and turns his indifferent back upon them: they get no help at all; they cry, and plead and pray in vain, they linger and suffer, and miserably die. If you will look at the matter rationally and without prejudice, the proper place to hunt for the facts of His mercy, is not where man does the mercies and
He collects the praise, but in those regions where He has the field to Himself.

2. And out of whose imagination has this Berkeleyan planet come?

Hume declared for all time that while Berkeley’s arguments admit not the slightest refutation, they inspire not the slightest conviction. That pronouncement is entirely true with respect to the earth, entirely false with respect to Tlön. The nations of that planet are, congenitally, idealistic. Their language and those things derived from their language – religion, literature, metaphysics – presuppose idealism. For the people of Tlön, the world is not an amalgam of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts – the world is successive, temporal, but not spatial. There are no nouns in the conjectural Ursprache of Tlön, from which its“present-day” languages and dialects derive: there are impersonal verbs, modified by monosyllabic suffixes (or prefixes) functioning as adverbs.For example, there in no noun that corresponds to our word “moon”, but there is a verb which in English would be “to moonate” or “to enmoon.” “The moon rose above the river” is “hlör u fang axaxaxas mlö,” or, as Xul Solar succinctly translates: Upward, behind the onstreaming it mooned.

3. Which poet is here advancing (in the mouth of one of his characters) a defence of suicide?

He there does now enjoy eternall rest
And happie ease, which thou doest want and crave,
And further from it daily wanderest:
What if some litle paine the passage have,
That makes fraile flesh to feare the bitter wave?
Is not short paine well borne, that brings long ease,
And layes the soule to sleepe in quiet grave?
Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life does greatly please.

4. And who, here, is bidding a bittersweet farewell to his philosophical education?

And then they taught us philosophy, logic and metaphysics,
The Negative Judgment and the Ding an Sich,
And every single thinker was powerful as Napoleon
And crafty as Metternich.
And it really was very attractive to be able to talk about tables
And to ask if the table is,
And to draw the cork out of an old conundrum
And watch the paradoxes fizz.
And it made one confident to think that nothing
Really was what it seemed under the sun,
That the actual was not real and the real was not with us
And that all that mattered was the One.
And they said “The man in the street is so naïve, he never
Can see the wood for the trees;
He thinks he knows he sees a thing but cannot
Tell you how he knows the thing he thinks he sees.”
And oh how much I liked the Concrete Universal,
I never thought that I should
Be telling them vice-versa
That they can’t see the trees for the wood.

5. And finally, who supplied one of his characters with this comfortable ethical system?

Pastor est tui Dominus.” You find
In these the pleasant pastures of this life
Much you may eat without the least offence,
Much you don’t eat because your maw objects,
Much you would eat but that your fellow-flock
Open great eyes at you and even butt,
And thereupon you like your friends so much
You cannot please yourself, offending them –
Though when they seem exorbitantly sheep,
You weigh your pleasure with their butts and kicks
And strike the balance. Sometimes certain fears
Restrain you – real checks since you find them so –
Sometimes you please yourself and nothing checks;
And thus you graze through life with not one lie,
And like it best.

Send your answers to: Spot the Author contest, Philosophy Now, 25 Blandfield Road, London SW12 8BQ, UK, by 30th September 1999. Correct answers, or if no-one gets all five, the most correct answers, will be put into a virtual hat and a winner and runner-ups will be drawn. On offer as prizes are (i) Classical Readings in Culture and Civilization (ed. Rundell & Mennell) a collection of snippets by Kant, Schiller, Freud, Nietzsche etc (ii) Is the End Nigh? (Lyons, Moore & Smith) a monograph on Internationalism and global chaos (iii) Kierkegaard and modern continental philosophy (M. Weston).

Please indicate what you would like!

This competition was orginally set for members of Philosophy For All to celebrate the PFA’s first birthday in May.


1. Mark Twain

2. Jorge Luis Borges, in his story ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’

3. Edmund Spenser, in The Faerie Queene, I.ix

4. Louis Macneice, in his ‘Autumn Journal’

5. Robert Browning, in his ‘Bishop Blougram’s Apology’

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