I was at Ye Olde Bull and Bush on Montgomery 76107 (please, no direct correspondence; all mail will be summarily returned), caressing mentally the main premises of the ontological argument, as formulated by St. Anselm of Canterbury in 1077, when The Bobby Stubbs asked what was on my mind.
"I am weighing the possibility of a Being greater than which cannot be conceived," I said.
"I'm thinking about God and whether He must exist."
"You could have just said that the first time."
"You didn't say anything about whether you think God exists."
"I did not say I was considering whether God exists. I said I was considering whether He must."
"I thought we agreed that He does and He is an accountant, looking forward to a vacation after tax season."
"That He exists does not entail that His existence is necessary."
"Oh,” said The Stubbs. “What else are you thinking about?"
"How I can delay getting around to my Big 12 Power Rankings, due tonight before midnight, as The Barry Lewis, pedant he is, insists. And once I do get around to it, how to actualize it."
"Do you have a plan?"
"I am awaiting the arrival of my dear friend, the Immortal J. Ratigan, Esquire."
At which point the dear Immortal man himself made his entrance, taking a seat beside me at our round wrought-iron table. A non-smoker and teetotaler by principle, J. was more than magnanimous to join us on this particular occasion, as he felt the need to remind me by pretending to cough out both lungs, and even a third had he the extra to spare. When he finished his feigned fit, after no less than fifteen minutes, perhaps more, I asked what he made of Anselm's ontological argument.
"Run it by me again," he said. “But slowly.”
"That all rational beings are perfectly capable of imagining a Being greater than which cannot be conceived, which supposes that such a Being exists in the understanding. But in order for that Being to be greater than which cannot be conceived, it must also exist in reality. For, if we were to consider a Being greater than which cannot be conceived only subsisting in the understanding, that would be absurd, as we can still imagine a Being greater than which cannot be conceived subsisting in both the understanding and reality, which would be greater than that greater than which cannot be conceived. An absurdity. Thus a Being greater than which cannot be conceived cannot exist only in the understanding, as then it would definitionally not be that greater than which cannot be conceived. Thus, that greater than which cannot be conceived exists in both the understanding and reality, and we call this Being God."
"Are you on drugs?" asked The Stubbs, unnecessarily in my arrogant opinion.
"I don't do drugs."
"Are you high on something else?"
"On the great ideas of our venerable philosophic tradition."
"I recommend valium," said The Stubbs.
"I decline the recommendation. At any rate I could always read Ayn Rand, my favorite soporific. What do you think, J?"
"I don't like it," said the J.
"You heretic blasphemer! Why not!"
"I can conceive of a unicorn existing in reality and the imagination. Does that make it exist? Similarly, I can conceive of a perfect island. Does that make it exist in both reality and the imagination? How are we to define greater? How are we to cover the territory of existence by pure logic?"
"Man, I've had too many drinks for this stuff," shouted The Stubbs.
"We are having a very important intellectual conversation, you philistine. You are welcome to listen. No questions, and even fewer comments," I said. "To your point, J: Erroneous!"
"For one, we are to consider a necessary Being as against a contingent being, a necessary one existing in all possible words, a contingent one existing only in a possible or imagined one. By its very definition that greater than which cannot be conceived must exist in all possible worlds, otherwise it would only exist in limited possible ones, absurd by the very terms in which it is considered. This is not the case with your unicorn, nor your island."
"The Good Lord told me that there does exist a perfect island. Its name is Maui," said The Stubbs.
"Further, you are applying an a posteriori objection to an a priori argument, which amounts to saying a perfect circle does not exist because you've never found the perfect donut."
“I perceive a perfect circle and it is currently being articulated,” said the J. He continued: “But to suppose something existing in reality is necessarily to make a claim about the world, which requires empirical proof . . ."
And so forth.
After an hour of this discussion, we were alone at the pub, though it was only 10 pm, virtually all the patrons having decided our discourse was too unbearable to be avoided simply by not listening, and the bartenders themselves having taken what scant tips the patrons provided them, absconding to some other place to be at peace--hopefully not the grave.
"I guess we will not agree to this issue, nor resolve it," said the J.
"It's a fine observation,” said I.
"So what next?"
"I thought we already covered that."
"Big 12 Power Rankings, J."
"Oh. That can't be so hard."
"So YOU say. I can't make heads or tails out of any of it."
"Well, let's think through it logically."
"It's college sports, J. There's nothing logical to it. Otherwise it would not be college sports, as you would know were you to read my Rules Reconsidered."
"What team has not beaten anyone?"
"To tell the truth, J, I don't know of a team that has won or lost at all."
"It's an unfortunate set of circumstances, I agree. But nothing to fear. I am here. So let's look at some stats."
“Teach me, Socrates.”
At which point he opened his computer and we looked at a lot of colors and logos and mascots, which presumably also existed in reality, though I have no immediate experience to verify the fact.
"Well, as we can see here, Kansas has won 4 games and lost 20. So we have our number 9 position," said The J.
"Is it not absurd that a Big 12 league comprises 9 teams?"
"Consider the implications of that statement to your defense of Anselm at your leisure. In the mean time, we can see that Baylor has a 7-17 record, almost as abysmal. So they must be 8. We can similarly see Kansas State has an 8-16 record. So they are 7."
"Excellent. Now we only have to similarly infer the positions of the other six," I said.
"Here it gets complicated."
"Oh Lord! That wasn't complicated enough?"
"The rest of the teams have similar records. So we have to take into account who lost to whom and who beat whom."
"Simple. TCU beat all of them."
"Not true. We can see by investigation that TCU lost twice to Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. Further, they lost to Baylor, whom we have already determined to be number 8 in the conference, which does not bode well for TCU. However, they swept Tech and won the series against Oklahoma State."
"So we have to see whom Oklahoma and Texas defeated."
"Can't we just return to Anselm and the question of the necessary existence of the divine?"
"Only if you do not mind losing your current status of employment."
"Employment is overrated. Ask anyone collecting unemployment. Or better yet, anyone employed, not least of all yourself."
"So Texas lost twice to Texas Tech, whom we swept, so I would propose TCU being above Tech and Texas," J continued over my adamant protestations. "Further, they were swept by Oklahoma State, whom we beat twice. So I would place them beneath TCU, Tech, and Oklahoma State. Now let's look at Oklahoma."
"Oklahoma, having won their series against us, lost theirs to Texas who we have already established are beneath Tech and TCU and Oklahoma State . . ."
"When did we establish that?"
"When we said they lost to Texas Tech whom we swept."
"We dusted them. That's the word for defeating a team three times in a row."
"Did you blackmail someone for your job? Or did you just threaten them with further discussion? To continue, this would place Oklahoma, in my view, above Texas but beneath TCU, Oklahoma State, and Tech. Now there is West Virginia to consider."
"Because they beat us twice. They lost their series to Oklahoma State. Further, they lost theirs to Tech and Texas. Most importantly they lost to Kansas, whom we established earlier is the worst team in the Big 12."
"Kansas or Kansas State?"
"What's the difference?"
"Two wins and four losses. So that puts West Virginia, in my mind, at Number 6."
"What about in reality?"
"If they're in your mind at Number 6, where are they in reality?"
"That leaves Texas at Number 5, Oklahoma at Number 4, Texas Tech at Number 3, and Oklahoma State at Number 2. So there you go. Your rankings. Complete."
"Who's Number 1?"
"Who's Number 1? If all those teams are 9 through 2?"
"TCU, you ignoramus."
"Oh, of course. So, upon investigation, I was right simply to have faith."
"Sure you were. But for all the wrong reasons. Anyway, there are your rankings. You can send them to your friend at your leisure."
"You're putting me on."
"Nope. You're finished. Congratulations."
"I'm confused, my brain hurts and I need a drink but there isn't a bartender around."
"Would you like me to imagine one into existence for you?"
"When you do, just make sure she has great boobs, obviously a necessary precondition to being that greater than which cannot be conceived."
At which point, we were greeted by Kent the Lutheran.
"Not exactly what I had in mind," I said.
"What's that?" Kent asked.
"Nothing. The earth is flat,” I said. “And so is everything else.”
"It's only 11:30," he said. "Where did everyone go."
"The disreputable sellouts abandoned us two hours or so ago."
"Where are the bartenders?"
"They joined them in perdition."
"I see," Kent said, shrugging. He pulled out a hip flask and a cigar. "Want a sip?"
"Indeed," I said.
And right when I was about to partake, the flask was gone, swiped it seems by the last patron whom we thought had abandoned us.
"Nothing to fear. Hang on," said the Kent, whereupon he went to his truck and returned with a bottle of Paddy's, a box of Ashton cigars and a chess set.
"Anyone care to play?" he asked.
Thus, over the course of four hours of chess, I introduced my best friend to the joys of Irish whiskey and Lutheranism and smoking.
He has yet to thank me.
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