It is a very large octopus, I tell the owner. We have to take it seriously. It could swallow us all.
The Owner says it was only a dream.
That’s all very well for you to say, I tell her, but how do you know? You weren’t there. The octopus may still be lurking.
I know because, she says, this is reality, and you are on my bed and I am on my bed but the octopus is nowhere to be seen.
I say her claims that this is reality rely on epistemic circularity, which is when your argument depends on itself. And I think the plural of octopus is probably octopodi, because it has a Greek root.
I am on the bed too, says the Man. Although only just.
The octopus may be underneath the bed, I say, waiting for us to fall asleep. We would be most unwise to fall asleep with an octopus under the bed. Particularly one as large as that. Someone needs to check.
Come on Hergest, says the Owner. Octopusses do not live under beds. They do not like it there. You know it was a dream.
I point out that Descartes said that it is impossible to be sure, at any moment, what is a dream. If I choose to believe the wrong reality then when I wake up it may be too late. The octopus will have eaten us all.
The Owner says Descartes also suggested that it is possible that I am nothing but a disembodied brain in a vat controlled by an Evil Genius, which just goes to that not everything Descartes said should be taken literally.
I know I am not a brain in a vat, says the Man, because not even a brain in a vat would imagine That Dog.
I say I do not like the idea of being a brain in a vat. I would prefer to be eaten by an octopus. My overwhelming first choice, however, would be to be neither a brain in a vat nor eaten by an octopus. This would seem more sure to be the right reality if someone had checked under the bed. Properly. With a torch.
I hope this isn’t a ploy to sleep between us again, says the Owner.
I treat this comment with the disdain it deserves. And tied up any octopodi they should find there, I add. Just to be sure.
I can’t believe I am doing this, says the Man, from under the bed.
Have you tied it up properly? I ask.
Look, there is no octopus under the bed, says the Owner, but if there was it would be tied up. Are you happy now?
I say think I am happy. But a brain in a vat might think it was happy too. What if the octopus is in the vat with it?
The Man says how can the octopus be in the vat if it is under the bed? Then he says if I do not go to sleep right now he will go back under there and untie it again.
You wouldn’t do that, says the Owner.
I jolly well would, he says, and if Descartes was here right now I would put him in the vat with the octopus.
I knew there was an octopus.
At least I am sleeping between them.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.