Everything but a Feeling

LichtenbergWhen at different periods in life one speculates about solipsism (which considers all material bodies as nothing more than just our ideas), it usually happens as follows:

  1. First, as boys, we laugh at the absurdity of this idealism.
  2. A little bit later, this theory seems to us witty and presumable; we discuss it eagerly with people who in terms of age or education, are still in the first period.
  3. At a more mature age, we consider it to be very accurate, we annoy ourselves and others with it, but we think it is unworthy of disproving and against nature. Man believes that it is not worth brooding over it, because it seems to him that he had thought enough about it.
  4. In the end, however, after deeper deliberation this idealism becomes the truth quite invincible for him.

Please only think that even if there are any items outside of our mind, we know nothing about their objective reality. Everything we receive is solely through our impressions and ideas. The belief that these impressions and ideas are caused in our mind by external objects, is after all nothing more than just our idea again. There is no way to overcome idealism, since we would always be only idealists, even if there were material objects around us, because we could know absolutely nothing of the essence of these objects.

Everything is but a feeling; knowledge of external things would be a contradiction: man cannot go beyond himself. By judging that we perceive material external objects, we are clearly in the wrong, because we only see ourselves, i.e. our imagination. Nothing in the world can we know except ourselves and except changes which occur in us. Also, we cannot feel for someone else or as them, as we say sometimes: we only feel for ourselves. This sentiment seems strange, but on closer deliberation ceases to be such. No one loves a father, mother, wife and children, but only loves pleasant feelings that these people cause; these feelings flatter either our pride or our self-love; we love ourselves, i.e. ourselves in someone, but not that someone. It cannot be otherwise, anyone who denies this assertion, does not understand it.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Vermischte Schriften

Published by Diogenes

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