Borges on Philosophy

Known as one of the most influential and revered writers of the twentieth century, Jorge Luis Borges’s stories seem tailored to encourage readers to philosophical reflection. In numerous works (all short stories – Borges never wrote a single novel) and through the recurring use of symbols like mirrors, labyrinths, and old books, he addressed questions of ontology, solipsism, idealism, eternal recurrence, and the Will. In an interesting brief interview from 1976, Borges discusses some of the philosophical influences he drew upon for his work.

Not surprisingly, solipsism and particularly the philosophy of Bishop Berkeley is a major source. This is never clearer than in the popular (and magnificent) story “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” where Borges describes a world without concrete objects but only constant movement and processes. As he explains “the whole thing was based on the theory of idealism, the idea of there being no things but only happenings, of there being no nouns but only verbs, of there being no things but only perceptions.

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