GAME SHOW HOST: Charismatic, quick-tongued, and artificially
cordialólike a salesman except you like him.
JOE FREESTYLE: Joe is a rapper.
EUDORA PENDLETON: A bright young woman who doesnít exist.
THE UNEXPECTED HYPERACCELERATED RADIO-LOCKING LATERAL-JOINTED VANADIUM-TOOTHED PLASMA HIPPOPOTAMUS: Just what it sounds like.
HOST: Hey hey hey! Welcome, welcome to each and every possible combination of individuals here at Chelsea tonightódisallowing multiple permutations, of course. This is none other than Quandaries Unplugged, the famously frivolous forum for fantastically fanatical formulations of philosophical foibles! This week, weíre venturing into the mystical domain of metaphysics in search of the answer to a favorite subject of Bertrand Russellóthe status of non-existent, and especially, self-contradictory objects! Letís hear it for self-contradictory objects, folks! (Gestures enthusiastically and waits for applause.) Thatís right, thatís right. So, letís bring out our first contestant! Fresh from NYC and basking in sweet notorieTEE, letís give it 90% of the way up for Joe Freestyle!
HOST starts clapping for JOE. Enter JOE, putting on the moves. He calms down after the applause, but still has rhythm.
HOST: Howís it going, Joe?
JOE: Go, go, howís it gonna go? Well I donno, I mean, hey! itís goiní O.K.
HOST: Thatís great, Joe! Are you familiar with todayís paradox?
JOE: Hey, a paradox, a paradox, I LOVE a good paradox. Donítcha know that a paradox is just what mocks the buildiní blocks of logical thought. Yeah man, it rocks.
HOST: Well, letís summarize for our audience. Famously, when trying to determine the logical rules and syntax of the existential quantifier, philosophers have come up against the problem of whether itís okay to attribute properties to objects, such as unicorns or factitious notions like the King of a kingless country, which are suspected or even known not to exist.
JOE: Yeah, those peeps Dissed what donít exist.
HOST: But whatís the twist?
JOE: Well I know what they missed.
HOST: Oh really?
JOE: Yeah, itís like fruit. Fruit, yeah you know what I mean, like an orchard peach or a tangerine, or a canteloupe with a nice round shape, or a prickly pear, or a Concord grape, or a grapefruit, good like a plum or a bowl full of date fruit, fruit like a mandarin orange or a coconut, like a ripe persimmon or an apricot, like a pomegranate, donít want to can it, like an apple, pineapple, lemonade Snapple or a cherry, strawBERry, elderberry, gooseberry, blackberry, blueberry, loganberry, boysenberryó(HOST interrupts.)
HOST: Excuse me!!
JOE: Huh, what?
HOST: What does all that fruit have to do with non-existent objects?
JOE: UhhhÖ well sleuth, tell you the truth, it donít. You know, itís just fruit. Groove it.
HOST: Uh, yeah, Iíll do that. But anyway, before we get off track, Joe, why donít you introduce our next contestant?
JOE: Uh, yeah. Yeah, well, just backstage, we got a big round mammal datís all da rage. Well itís a quick-moving critter, but it ainít bitter, no it ainít no griper, just kind of hyper, got two big joints that move like a windshield wiper. Well, itís radio-locked, so you canít reject it, and itís all accelerated so ya donít expect it. Yo, itís got metal-plated vanadium teeth, and when it spits plasma, donít stand beneath. Showed up this morning on the 8:16 autobus, letís all sound out a call to the Unexpected, Hyperaccelerated, Radio-Locking, Lateral-Jointed, Vanadium-Toothed Plasma Hippopotamus!
Enter HIPPO, waving its arms in circles. HOST and JOE clap, and HIPPO revels in the attention, calming down when applause stops.
HIPPO (facing audience): Howís everybody doing!?
HOST: Iím sure theyíre all quite contemplative. Now, as I recall, Hippopotamus, last week you left the show chasing madly after the other contestants after they failed to predict which door you were hidden behind. Did you ever catch them?
HIPPO: What are you talking about? This is a fake game show. Thereís no reality to the characters on the show when weíre not on the air!
HOST: Well, you may have a point, but on the other handÖ is there any reality to the characters even when they are on the air?
HIPPO: Um, wellÖ
JOE: Yo, yo, like the answerís no!
HOST: No? But why not? After all, I didnít suggest they were real peopleÖ just real characters.
JOE: Oh, whoa. Whoa. Now youíre gettingí crazy, my mindís gone hazy.
HOST: Well, youíre just lazy. You lose five points. And now, letís bring out our final contestant! From the unpopulated town of Nowhere, Arizona, letís welcome acclaimed mirage artist Eudora Pendleton!
Enter EUDORA. HOST and JOE clap, HIPPO waves arms wildly.
EUDORA: Thanks, itís great to be here.
HOST: Better than the alternative! Are you ready to play, Eudora?
EUDORA: Yes, Iím readyÖ but Iím a little bothered by something. You already asked a question that Joe Freestyle answered before I even got out here. Isnít that a little unfair?
HOST: But Joe answered wrong.
EUDORA: But he could have answered rightÖ and I didnít even get a chance.
HIPPO: Are you suggesting you could have answered right, too?
EUDORA: Well yes, I am.
HOST: But you werenít on stage yet!
EUDORA: Thatís what Iím saying! If Iíd been on stage, I might have answered it right!
HOST: But now weíre talking about a parallel world in which events happened differently! Since that world never came to be, it doesnít existóright?
JOE: Hey, in her defense, it do make senseóthat world exists in the conditional tense.
HOST: Interesting take on it, Joe. To think that a world might exist in a verbal tenseÖ fascinating. You get your five points back. And now weíre even, so letís begin!
HOST: Right, youíre playing for a good, square prizeóa jackpot of zero dollars!
JOE: Zero? Zip? Man, that ainít hip. Itís kind of a rip.
EUDORA: I agree. Itís not hip at all.
HOST: Thatís why itís square, silly!
EUDORA: But if thereís no prize, we have no motivation to play!
HIPPO: Yeah, why zero dollars?
HOST: Well, we wanted the prize to be a nice, round number, and thereís no number rounder than zero.
HIPPO: So wait, the jackpot is both square and round?
HOST: Thatís right! Itís the famous round square $0 jackpot!
EUDORA: But thatís no prize at all!
HOST: Can you justify your statement? Is it really no prize, or is it just a $0 prize?
EUDORA: Iíd define the word Ďprizeí functionally, which means a promised amount you will give the winner of the contest once itís over. Since you wonít give the winner anything, I think thereís no prize.
HOST: Wrong-o! By your own definition, the prize is an amount. And zero is most definitely an amount! So there is a prize. Note that under a different functional definition, however, you might have been right. So you only lose two points.
EUDORA: I donít have any points to lose!
HOST: Well well, thatís an interestingÖ what shall I call it. An interesting POINT!
HOST: Right then. Next question: is it possible, even theoretically, for an object to be both round and square? Aside from puns, that is.
HIPPO: Ooh! Ooh! We donít know if we have the capacity to imagine every possible kind of geometry. So the answer is yes, there could be a round square thing.
JOE: Yo, yo, youíre insane, you know? In the plane, there ainít no provision for that kind of vision. Sure, there may be some wack geomeTREE all fuzzy and free, but that donít make use of our definitions! We got prohibitions, restrictions. A circle, it be the set oí points equidistant from the middle, like a pancake on a griddle. A square, well thatís more like a waffle than a falafel, aní dat bodes awful, cause you donít want to tangle with four right angles. An angle it be sharp, it donít be smooth, and thatís why a circle donít fit the groove. Solid truth.
HOST: So the key point is that to decide whatís possible and whatís not, we have to go back to our definitions and analyze them. Good answer, Joe.
EUDORA: Hold on! What if youíre working in a spherical plane and you stretch a square until itís covering a grand circular cross section? The angles would smooth out and it would be a circle!
HOST: Aha! I guess it just goes to show, Joe, definitions can be trickier than they seem.
JOE: Yo, thatís gotta blow. Hey Eudora, way to go!
HOST: Eudora gets six points and Joe gets three. Next question: you may be familiar with a particular work of the twentieth century French painter Rene Magritte. This painting depicts a pipe, and below, in French, are the words ďThis is not a pipe.Ē Is the painting correct?
JOE: Well heck, do you gotta check? Take a look at that painting and take a swipe, try to wipe off that pipe, does it come clean? Not that Iíve seen, and my eyes are keen. No, thatís just canvas and paint, but a real live pipe is what it ainít. Pipe, pipe, I know the type. When you smoke a pipe you ainít got no gripe. Pipes are slick, kinda thick, not like a candle wick, they smoulder and steam. Hey, hey, water pipes and steam, now thatís a team. Pipes mean more than they seem, and I do deem, a nice solid pipe is a tool supreme. Yo, one time I had a pipe dream, I was bathing in cream, I even hear pipes are this weekís theme.
HOST: One of them, yes. Okay, you get four points for thatÖ although the question remains whether perhaps the words should be seen as a statement within the world of the painting, under which the depicted pipe really is a pipe, and not just an image. But letís move on.
HIPPO: Wait! The painting canít possibly be correct!
HOST: Why not?
HIPPO: Because it doesnít exist at all.
HOST: No, this is a real painting.
HIPPO: But didnít you say it had ďThis is not a pipeĒ written on the bottom in French?
HIPPO: Well, those words are not French! Theyíre English! Therefore the painting is internally inconsistent, which means it canít exist!
HOST: Ah, wellÖ okay, whatever, you get two points for that. Hereís the next question. What kind of metal are the Hippoís teeth made of?
HIPPO: Ooh, ooh, I know!
EUDORA: Thatís an unfair question!
HOST: Ah, but is it a question at all?
HIPPO: My teeth are made of vanadium!!
HOST: So it seemsÖ but on the other hand, who ever heard of an unexpected, hyperaccelerated, radio-locking, lateral-jointed, vanadium-toothed plasma hippopotamus?
HIPPO: What are you implying?
HOST: I am implying that ridiculous as you are, you donít exist!
HOST: You donít make any sense! What is Ďradio-lockingí even supposed to mean? How can you be made of plasma while still maintaining a solid form? If youíre hyperaccelerated, why are you standing still?
EUDORA: And for that matter, who ever heard of a talking hippopotamus?
HIPPO: Well, I never!
HOST: Thatís the idea.
JOE: Yo, yo, ease up on the poor hipPO! Just cause it ainít real donít mean it donít feel! And hereís the Real Dealóits teeth are made of a bright, white, ductal metallic elementóatomic number 23óused as a catalyst and in some forms of STEEL! Thatís the truth and there ainít no appeal.
HOST: Ainít there? If the hippo doesnít exist, wouldnít it make more sense to say ďIf it did exist, then its teeth would be vanadiumĒ?
EUDORA: But is there really any way to misunderstand the statement ďThe hippoís teeth are vanadiumĒ? I donít think so, which means we might as well just say itís shorthand for what you just suggested.
HOST: Is there any way to misunderstand the word ďainít?Ē I donít think so, since Joe keeps using it and we all understand. But that doesnít make it correct English.
JOE: Yo, yo, Iím feeling faint! Are yíall so dainty you canít stand the word ďainít?Ē Well, donít come to me with no complaint. That wordís a word, and thatís insured, and if you ainít heard then youíre absurd. Word.
HIPPO (bouncing): Vanadium! Vanadium! Vanadium!
HOST: Okay, okay, thatís enough. I think youíre about right, Eudora. Joe, Hippo, you lose two points each for making an unqualified assertion. Eudora gains four points.
EUDORA: Whatís the score?
HOST: You have eight points, Joe has five and the Hippo has zero.
HIPPO: That means I donít have a score at all!
HOST: Well, now your score is minus one. Happy? Itís time for the last question, and itís a doozy worth five points.
EUDORA: Iím ready!
HIPPO: Iím ready!
JOE: Ready, and a little heady.
HOST (dramatically): What is the sound of one hand clapping?
HOST: HmmÖ any answers from the audience? Feel free to raise your hands.
HOST calls on audience members. If anyone has answers, HOST repeats them out loud for everyone and considers them, but makes no judgment on them. When there are no more answersÖ
HOST: No more answers? Well then, do any of our contestants have an answer? What is the sound of one hand clapping?
HIPPO: Yes, I think youíre right!! ďWhatĒ is the sound of one hand clapping! The sound of one hand clapping is ďWhat!Ē
HOST: HmmÖ well, okay, that answerís as good as any. So, at final count, Joe has five points, the hippopotamus has four, and Eudora is the winner with eight!
EUDORA: Hooray! I win the zero dollar jackpot!
HOST: You certainly do.
EUDORA: Well, where is it?
HOST: Itís already in your pocket.
EUDORA: Oh, okay.
HIPPO (running around excitedly): What?!? Itís in her pocket?? FOUL! This game show is FIXED! SCANDAL! SCANDAL!
JOE: Yo, yo, yo, letís go, or this hippo is gonna blow! And the plasmaís gonna flow!
EUDORA: Letís get out of here!
JOE and EUDORA run offstage while HIPPO rages.
HOST: Right then! Time to run away from the angry non-existent animal! See you next week on Quandaries Unplugged, and until then, remember: everything and anything you can imagine exists for somebody! Goodbye, everyone!
HOST runs off-stage, followed by raging HIPPO.