The Owner has a stone in her boot. I wait patiently for my walk to continue as she sits shaking the boot, but she cannot find the stone. Was it ever really there? She asks. Could she have imagined it?
I suggest that it doesn’t matter whether it was there or not as long as it isn’t there now, and can we hurry up as Caspar says there is a new duck on the pond.
She says the duck may be there, or it may not be. Like the stone it is a metaphor for the difference between what is real and what is only imagined. She shakes her boot. How do I know you are real, Hergest? She asks. And if you are not real, how do I know the stone is real?
I assure her that I am real, which is why I would like a walk but this has little impact and I realise I must engage the Mind of the Moral Dog. I suggest that, as Descartes said, ‘I can have no knowledge of what is outside me except by means of the ideas I have within me’, and also said ‘I think therefore I am’ then one can deduce that the stone is real. I must be real too, since I am thinking.
I could add that, were she to offer to share her cheese scone she would also note that I eat, therefore I am, reaffirming Descartes in a healthy and sharing manner.
She says Descartes is more complicated than that. She says Descartes thought ideas were just ways of thinking, and do not tell us whether or not the stone exists. Plato, on the other hand, thought that ideas were the most real things in the cosmos. For Descartes ideas were the way of addressing things outside us, whereas for Plato things outside us were a way of representing ideas. Plato would say that if I think I have a stone in my shoe that is reality because that is what matters, whereas Descartes would say if I have a stone in my shoe it only matters if I think it is real.
I suspect that she is quoting Plato at me to shut me up but the Moral Dog is not easily intellectually silenced. I ask what Plato would have done if he got a stone in his shoe, and she says it would have been a sandal and the stone would have fallen out, but that’s beside the point.
She shines the light from her phone into her boot. It is only by examining reality properly, she says, that you can be sure what it is.
I suggest that reality may go beyond the inside of her boot. I suggest she thinks outside the box but she tells me that if I can find a box and locate the stone in it this would be excellent but otherwise she is taking the boot liner out. I can quote Descartes all I like, she says. This, she says, is what Plato would do.
The Moral Dog is not Moral for nothing. I rise to the challenge of what Plato would do, even bearing in mind the fact that he wore sandals. I suggest that her boot is a metaphor for Plato’s Cave. A group of prisoners are chained up in Plato’s cave facing a wall. A fire casts faint shadows on the wall from the world outside. The prisoners think the shadows are real things. Then, one prisoner is released out into the sunlight. As his eyes adjust he gradually focusses on the many wondrous things outside and realises that these things are reality whilst the shadows in the cave were mirages. He returns to tell the others, but inside his adjusted eyes can no longer see the shadows. The other prisoners think he is crazy and has lost touch with the Truth. They refuse to leave the cave.
The Owner says this doesn’t answer her fundamental question about the nature of reality. Am I trying to say she should stop looking in her shoe? She asks crossly. Or am I suggesting her boot is a metaphor and she should look in a cave? Either way, she would like to be able to continue our walk without limping. Wearing a boot. Or a cave. Either will do.
I sense a certain cynicism for the applicability of the Moral Dog’s metaphors to reality. I adopt a hurt expression and say I am suggesting she puts her boot down and looks in her sock.
And there it is.
The Moral Dog. Philosophical and Practical.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.