A Guy Walks Into A Bar… Again

Here is a philosophical joke I thought of the other day…

A Guy Walks Into A Bar.
Does he exist?

How about this…

Non-existent thing walks into a bar.

If you answer that a) the guy in the first joke doesn’t exist, and you agree that b) non-existing things can’t walk into a bar, it follows that c) a joke that starts with “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” is incomprehensible.

From there we can conclude that a person that is laughing at any “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” joke, is clearly faking it, as per c) he couldn’t possibly understand it.

6 thoughts on “A Guy Walks Into A Bar… Again

  1. But aren’t most jokes fictions? If so claiming it’s non-existent just be redundant? For instance if I say, “a duck walks into a bar and orders a drink” we’d know we’re dealing with a fiction.

    Of course the more interesting question might be to ask whether a claim about non-existence is an absolute claim or a claim about the fictional world. So if I say Sherlock Holmes doesn’t exist I shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. If, in a Sherlock Holmes story Conan Doyle said the same thing it’d clearly have a different meaning.

    To your (b) what does this say about non-existent things walking into a bar? Depends upon what we mean by walking into a bar. So if Jack Bauer walks into a bar clearly Jack Bauer never walked into a bar it was Kiefer Sutherland. Yet there was a walking into a bar. So now we have fictions that are quasi-real in a way that say writing in a book isn’t. Can we then say truthfully that in 24 a non-existent thing walked into a bar?

  2. Hi Clark,

    First, to avoid misunderstanding let me say that I was deliberately silly and that I don’t believe the argument in the post. It seems to me however that some approaches to existence/non-existence issue might actually produce such arguments.

    In reality, I take position similar to the one in your second paragraph:

    When someone mentions a guy (be it in a joke, or a guy that he has seen, or a guy that is assumed), he is mentioning a being (i.e. an existent). To be a guy, is to be a being. However depending on the context, the being can be – real, imaginary or fictional, theoretical(assumed), illusionary, etc…

    And I think that it is reductionistic mistake to think that when we talk about guy in all the following cases, we can really cover it with one single criterion of “non-existence”, and ignore from the complexities of the contexts:
    a)telling a story about a guy
    b)telling a joke about a guy
    c)making an assumption about something which includes assumed guy (the assumption being wrong)
    d)talking about a guy we remember or have heard about (but that has died)

    So, I would say that the answer “the guy doesn’t exist” is oversimplification and root of possible confusion, and would instead say that “the guy is fictional character in the joke”, not accepting that there is other more basic criterion in which we can determine that the guy “doesn’t exist”.

  3. Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender says: “Hey, arn’t you the guy I threw out of here just a few minutes ago?” Descartes says: “I think not!” and POOF! he disappears in a cloud of his own logic.

  4. Non-existent guy doesn’t walk into a non-existent bar. ‘Ouch!’ he doesn’t say. Philosophers everywhere applaud the great good sense; other people laugh.

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