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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

Chapter 19 - Borges and the Dialectics of Idealism

from Part II - The Western Canon, the East, Contexts of Reception


In dialogue with the British empiricist tradition of Berkeley and Hume, Borges engages in an illuminating critique of their idealism, in the early essays ’Berkeley’s Crossroads’ and ’The Nothingness of Personality’ and especially in ’Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’. This chapter juxtaposes ’Tlon...’ with passages from ’A Treatise on Human Nature’, observing that in Hume a sceptical outlook hardly ever gives way to gloomy melancholy; indeed, it is balanced by humour and moderation. In ’A New Refutation of Time’, Borges carries Berkeleyan immaterialism to its ultimate consequences, using the arguments of idealism to deny temporal series. This portrayal of time highlights human life rooted in contradiction, reflected in the very Borgesian qualities of paradox and irony.