Its all a bit Emperor's new clothes to me. If the answer is simple and not tied up in a gorgon knot with convoluted and complicated academic arguments, philosophers don't like it. But I rather like simplicity and I find all this intellectual wrangling a bit unnecessary.
So I thought I'd share this with you. The first verse summarises the concerns of a philosopher called Bishop Berkeley who spent his time pondering on the nature of existence and wondering whether existence is dependent on perception. (He's the bloke to blame for the whole tree falling in a forest making a sound or not dilemma).
Actually in case you are confused, I will clear that one up for you. Of course existence isn't dependent on perception. Do you really believe that everything in the world pops in and out of existence depending on whether anybody is watching at the time? Of course not, its just pretentious nonsense. (Or as an excellent if somewhat crude friend of mine puts it, “intellectual wanking"...)
The second verse was published years later in one of the broadsheets in answer to the original limerick. And it rather neatly puts the poor Bishop's worries to rest.
Of course if you happen to be an athiest (and I'm looking at you Richard Dawkins, its only a matter of time before the degu witch turns her attention to you....) then this probably won't clear up the problem for you at all. But the rest of us can get some sleep tonight while you lie awake in a sweaty heap worrying whether that tree in your back garden will start to disappear when you close your curtains.....
There was a young man who said, " God
Must find it exceedingly odd,
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there's no one around in the quad.
Dear Sir, Your astonishments odd,
I am always around in the quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be -
Since observed by, yours faithfully, God.
I won't add anything else, I'll let God have the last word today....