by James Burr
“You, sir, have spilled my pint!”
All eyes in the pub turned at the sound of breaking glass, a pool of foaming ale rapidly spreading out at the feet of the furious Academic.
The Professor eyed his accuser angrily. “And I contend that I did not spill your pint, as all property is theft. Ergo, if a pint was spilled, it was certainly not yours.”
The Academic jabbed the Professor in the chest. “But a pint was indeed spilled, as we can see from the shards of glass and pool of beer at my feet.” His companion, an elderly man in a tweed jacket tried to restrain him, weakly muttering, “Leave it. He’s not worth it.” The Academic continued. “And the pint was indeed mine for does not First Occupancy theory proceed on the basis that it does not particularly matter how I took possession of it or what sort of use I intended to make of it; what matters is that I am acting as the owner of said beverage.”
The Professor snorted at him. “Well sir, I could proffer Liebniz’s contention that everything is contingent: that is that, logically, it is quite possible for the pint to not even exist!”
“But something can be said to exist if it has a place as part of objective reality?” the Academic replied.
“But what is ʻreality?’”
“ʻReality’ is real existence, what is real, what underlies experiences.”
“But what is ʻreal?’” the Professor asked.
“Something can be considered real if it exists as a thing or occurs in fact. I can determine the existence of the former pint through my eyes and the stickiness under the soles of my shoe. A pint has been spilled. Such a fact can be undeniably determined through the sense organs. The fact that the pints exists – or at least did until you spilled it – is an undeniable, objective fact.”
“Very well,” said the Professor. “I shall accept your objectivist observation that the presence of an ex-pint before us means that a pint was spilled. However, I counter your assertion that it was I who spilled said pint as that would require conscious agency on my part. Without such deliberate intention, the very best that can be said is that your beer was spilled – the result of mere accident or act of God.”
The Academic puffed out his chest. “Pah, but God does not exist. A claim that is further evidenced by the fact that if He did exist, His omnipotence and omniscience would ensure that He did not go around accidentally spilling pints.”
“And yet, my slippery-fingered friend, you contend that God does not exist when the adherents of scores of faiths and religions would argue that their personal experience of God is very real. Billions of souls have experience of whatever deity they worship, so by your own definition, God must exist and so be real, as is evidenced by the fact that we are talking about Him.”
“Rubbish! Liebniz believed that it is possible to describe the essence of a person or thing whether they are real or imaginary. God has an essence, in that his qualities and personality and station can be described, yet he does not exist. The fact that an entity has an essence does not necessarily imply existence! The pint was not spilled by accident or through some act of God. Ergo the pint, if not spilled by a non-existent deity, must have been spilled through some agency, and I contend that that agency was you, hence my original assertion!” The Academic angrily pushed his face into that of the Professor.
His companion turned and cried, “Someone, call the Police!” to the other patrons.
“Nonsense!” said the Professor. “We may have determined that there was a pint and that it has now been spilled. We may have even decided that it was not spilled through some act of God. However, I cannot yet be sure of your existence, as your existence is integral to your belief that it was your pint that was acted upon. Just because you may, as proposed by Liebniz, have some essence as an argumentative, small-minded buffoon, the fact that such an essence can be described does not necessarily mean that you exist. Using your own argument, you, like God, may not exist, and so it was not your pint that was spilled.”
The Academic’s companion tried to feebly pull him back by the arms. “Leave it” he muttered weakly. “He’s had enough.”
“Indeed,” said the Professor. “Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. I can be certain of my own existence but not of your own.” The Professor smiled as he sought to end the barbarous altercation with a brutal strike. “And of course, as Spinoza believed that everything is ruled by an absolute logical necessity, there is thus no such thing as ʻFree will’ in psychology, or ʻchance’ in the physical world. As such, the pint was simply spilled – not by accident and certainly not through any intention of my own.”
The Academic rounded on him. “Yet you argue there is no free will! If there is no free will, there can be no independent thought. Thus, if you cannot think, using your own philosophy, you cannot exist!”
The pool of beer on the floor spread across to where the Professor may, or may not, have once stood.
The Academic cracked his knuckles, nodded at his companion, and went to the bar to buy another pint.
Jim Burr wrote Ugly Stories for Beautiful People and is working on a second collection, State of the Nation. You beautiful people can read more of his writing here and here. Ugly people can follow him on Twitter. Do either or both, depending on your mood.
Submit your bizarro flash fiction stories to FlashFictionFridaySubmissions@gmail.com.