A collaborative search for wisdom, at Middle Tennessee State University and beyond...
"The pluralistic form takes for me a stronger hold on reality than any other philosophy I know of, being essentially a social philosophy, a philosophy of 'co'"-William James
MAN: Pussy pussy pussy . . . coochicoochicoochi . . . pussy want his fish? Nice piece of fish . . . pussy want it? Pussy not eat his fish, pussy get thin and waste away, I think. I imagine this is what will happen, but how can I tell? I think it's better if I don't get involved. I think fish is nice, but then I think that rain is wet so who am I to judge? Ah, you're eating it.
I like it when I see you eat the fish, because in my mind you will waste away if you don't.
Fish come from far away, or so I'm told. Or so I imagine I'm told. When the men come, or when in my mind the men come in their six black shiny ships do they come in your mind too? What do you see, pussy? And when I hear their questions, all their many questions do you hear questions? Perhaps you just think they're singing songs to you. Perhaps they are singing songs to you and I just think they're asking me questions. Do you think they came today? I do. There's mud on the floor, cigarettes and whisky on my table, fish in your plate and a memory of them in my mind. And look what else they've left me. Crosswords, dictionaries and a calculator. I think I must be right in thinking they ask me questions. To come all that way and leave all these things just for the privilege of singing songs to you would be very strange behaviour. Or so it seems to me. Who can tell, who can tell.
. . . .
MAN: I think I saw another ship in the sky today. A big white one. I've never seen a big white one. Only six small black ones. Perhaps six small black ones can look like one big white one. Perhaps I would like a glass of whisky. Yes, that seems more likely.
. . . .
Perhaps some different people are coming to see me.
. . . .
FORD PREFECT: Er, excuse me, do you rule the Universe?
MAN: I try not to. Are you wet?
FORD: Wet! Well, doesn't it look as if we're wet?
MAN: That's how it looks to me, but how you feel about it might be a different matter. If you find warmth makes you feel dry you'd better come in.
. . . .
ZAPHOD BEEBLEBROX: Er, man, like what's your name?
MAN: I don't know. Why, do you think I ought to have one? It seems odd to give a bundle of vague sensory perceptions a name.
ZARNIWOOP: Listen. We must ask you some questions.
MAN: All right. You can sing to my cat if you like.
ARTHUR DENT: Would he like that?
MAN: You'd better ask him that.
ZARNIWOOP: How long have you been ruling the Universe?
MAN: Ah, this is a question about the past is it?
MAN: How can I tell that the past isn't a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate physical sensations and my state of mind?
ZARNIWOOP: Do you answer all questions like this?
MAN:I say what it occurs to me to say when I think I hear people say things. More I cannot say.
. . . .
ZARNIWOOP: No. Listen. People come to you, yes?
MAN: I think so.
ZARNIWOOP: And they ask you to take decisions—about wars, about economies, about people, about everything going on out there in the Universe?
MAN: I only decide about my Universe. My Universe is what happens to my eyes and ears. Anything else is surmise and hearsay. For all I know, these people may not exist. You may not exist. I say what it occurs to me to say.
ZARNIWOOP: But don't you see? What you decide affects the fate of millions of people.
MAN: I don't know them, I've never met them. They only exist in words I think I hear. The men who come say to me, say, so and so wants to declare what we call a war. These are the facts, what do you think? And I say. Sometimes it's a smaller thing. . . .
. . . .
MAN:But it's folly to say you know what is happening to other people. Only they know. If they exist.
ZARNIWOOP: Do you think they do?
MAN:I have no opinion. How can I have?
ZARNIWOOP: I have.
MAN: So you say—or so I hear you say.
. . . .
ZARNIWOOP: But don't you see that people live or die on your word?
MAN: It's nothing to do with me, I am not involved with people. The Lord knows I am not a cruel man.
ZARNIWOOP: Ah! You say . . . the Lord! You believe in . . .
MAN: My cat. I call him the Lord. I am kind to him.
ZARNIWOOP: All right. How do you know he exists? How do you know he knows you to be kind, or enjoys what you think of as your kindness?
MAN: I don't. I have no idea. It merely pleases me to behave in a certain way to what appears to be a cat. What else do you do? Please I am tired.
. . . .
Note: This philosophical dialogue is excerpted from the final scene of the original radio series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This sequence can also be found in chapter 29 of the novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, with more narrative description and slightly expanded dialogue.
Adams, Douglas. The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts, edited and with an introduction by Geoffrey Perkins (who produced it), with another introduction by Douglas Adams, largely contradicting the one by Geoffrey Perkins (New York: Harmony Books, 1985), from “Fit the Twelfth,” pp. 243-245.
Adams, Douglas. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (New York: Harmony Books, 1980), chapter 29, pp. 177-184.
And while you're here, something completely different: a cartoon view of Aristophanes' fable in Plato's Symposium: