Thursday, December 3, 2020

Trumpty Dumpty: Solipsism 101

George Berkeley (John Smybert, 1727)

In one of his recent interviews Barack Obama used the expression “truth decay” to refer to the current state of politics. If Trump were a professor, the course he might be teaching is Solipsism 101.“The view or theory that the self is all that is known to exist” is how the term is defined. It’s a perfect description of the president’s world view. Subjectivism of course, has a long line of advocates including Bishop Berkeley who famously stated, “esse est percipi,” to be is to be perceived. But Berkeley believed in God whose existence   absorbed the responsibility for being. Trump appears to be on the golf course while others like Joe Biden are going to church. Solipsism is a philosophy that also informs episodes of The Twilight Zone, like the one where Dennis Weaver plays the part of a condemned man who warns that the world will disappear once the switch is pulled ("Shadow Play," 5/5/61). The plot might be reconstrued as an election where the casting of doubt on reality causes the eradication not of the world, but simply democracy. How can you have elections, when one party cries "rigged" before the voting has even begun? Of course, there are those who wish they could go to sleep and wake up to find out that Trump was no more than an idea in someone else's mind.

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