Outside the café, it might have been raining. Inside, there definitely sat a young writer named Miles. The thought that it might have been raining had just hit him, and it delighted him. I can hear it raining, he thought, but since it’s night, I can’t see it through the windows. So how do I know it’s actually raining? What if someone is trying to elaborately deceive me?
Miles looked down at his coffee, which he had just got. I’ll try to figure out if it’s raining or not by the time I’m done my coffee.
So, what does proposition A (That it’s raining) have in its favor? Well, he reasoned, that I can hear it, that it was raining when I came in, and that there is no obvious reason that someone would want to make me think it is raining.
And what about proposition B (that it’s not)? I can’t see it, taste it, feel it, or smell it, and it would be easy to fake a rainstorm for someone who can only hear it. Miles sipped his coffee. He was taking logic at college currently.
Suddenly a man rushed inside. He was drenched. Ah, Miles thought, very strong evidence for proposition A. With growing excitement, he realized that if proposition B was true, then here before him was the deceiver himself! Why else, he thought, taking another sip, would someone create the illusion of coming in from a downpour?
The newcomer took off his raincoat, laying it on the back of his chair. He ordered a root beer (a surprising choice for someone who has just come out of a rainstorm). Miles stood up, walked over and said “Excuse me, I’m taking a survey, would you participate?”
“Sure”, the man said, shrugging.
“Alright”, said Miles, sipping his coffee. It was now halfway empty.
He asked a few of the standard survey questions, pretending to record the man’s answers in a notebook. Really Miles was taking notes on his personality: calm, slightly grim, possibly an actor, etc. Finally he asked “Now, if you knew that someone was trying to convince you it was raining when it wasn’t, why would you think they were doing it?”
The man looked surprised, then said “Well, I guess because he’s nuts.”
Miles noted that he had inserted a gender, his own. “Certainly”, he replied, “But even madmen have reasons, mythical or not, for their actions.” Miles took another gulp of coffee.
The stranger thought for a moment, then said “Well, I would say that he picked me at random, just a stranger, and fooled him into thinking it was raining just to show him that the world isn’t as stable and certain as we think it is, and that would mess up my sense of reality.” He said him instead of me, Miles thought.
Again sipping his coffee(Which was almost gone), Miles said “Yes, but what if you were a writer, wouldn’t that idea give you an inspiration, for a story? And thus be a favor?”
The stranger considered this, then said, “No I don’t think so, because if I’m a writer then I deal with things that aren’t real, so I probably already question our perception of what is true. This might plunge me even further into those waters.”
Miles stood up, thanked the stranger for his time, and went back to his table, thinking. The man had seemed to want to put himself in the position of the deceiver, but that could be a coincidence. And he had a ready response to the victim being a writer. All in all, the evidence seemed to point towards proposition B. And yet… it seemed so unlikely, and why on this particular night, when the idea entered his mind, would he act? That seemed a bigger coincidence than anything the stranger had said. He got up intending to ask one more question, but the man had just left. A draft of rain smelling air wafted in as the door closed.
Miles finished his coffee. His decision was proposition C: that it was impossible to say for sure. He walked to the door, but did not go through yet. He knew that once he went through he would know. Was he prepared for the shock, or disappointment? I could stay awhile longer, he thought, maybe get another cup of coffee, try to work it out again.
Miles took a deep breath, and walked through the door.
Back inside someone said “That guy’s gonna get soaked out there without an umbrella.”