The Baker and the Philosopher
The Parable of the Chocolate Cake
The phone rings.
Alice: "Hello? Alice here."
Bob: "Hello Alice. It's Bob. I've discovered the most wonderful argument."
Alice: "That's great. I'm just sitting down to a plate of fresh chocolate cake."
Bob: "Then you won't be happy to hear what I discovered."
Alice: "Oh dear. You might as well tell me."
Bob: "The cake doesn't exist."
Alice laughs. "I assure you it does. I spent the last hour baking it and it smells delicious."
Bob: "Well, that's all an illusion. Let me explain. At the beginning of the universe there was no cake, right?"
Alice: "Certainly not."
Bob: "And it takes more than an instant to make a cake, right?"
Alice: "Yes, about 45 minutes."
Bob: "So an instant later, lets call it instant 1, there was no cake as well."
Bob: "And by the same argument, there was no cake an instant later."
Alice: "OK, sure."
Bob: "So by a logical extension of this argument, there is no cake today."
Alice: "Well, I do have cake in front of me, so it seems there must be a flaw somewhere in the argument. Surely one of those instants was a time when I took the cake out of the oven. I would have to check it with a toothpick to be sure it was done, but the cake might have existed then."
Bob: "If you took the cake out of the oven, then it was already a cake and you would not have needed to check it. But we already agreed that it wasn't a cake in the previous instant, so there is no cake."
Alice: "But I have the cake right here."
Bob: "It might seem so, but that is an illusion. Unless you can find a flaw in my argument, it is true and the cake doesn't exist."
Alice: "If you say so."
Bob: "Lets look at it another way. The cake is made up of lots of ingredients, right?"
Alice: "Sure. Flour, Sugar, Cocoa powder, egg, ..."
Bob: "OK, and those are composed of molecules, which are composed of atoms, which are composed of neutrons, protons, and electrons, right?"
Alice: "Sure. So?"
Bob: "Well, Neutrons are not cake, right?"
Alice: "Certainly not"
Bob: "And neither are protons or electrons."
Bob: "So if you take away all of the neutrons, protons, and electrons from the cake what do you have left on the plate?"
Alice: "Some mint chocolate-chip iced cream, though it is starting to melt."
Bob: "But I wasn't asking about the ice cream."
Alice: "You certainly were. You asked what was left on the plate."
Bob: "Never mind that. There wouldn't be any cake left, right?"
Alice: "Right, but those neutrons and things were the cake. If you don't take them away you still have cake."
Bob: "You can't just say that neutrons and thinks make a cake. Otherwise anything could be a cake, like the iced cream or this telephone or a rock."
Alice: "Well, perhaps anything couldn't be a cake, but that's because it doesn't have the right arrangement of the elements. A cake is an emergent property of those elements arranged in a particular way and baked in an oven for about 45 minutes at 425 farenheit."
Bob: "You can't just define the problem away. Either the elements are a cake or they aren't."
Alice: "It sounds like you're hungry, dear. If you hurry home I'll save a slice of cake for you, and I promise you'll enjoy it. Bye."
Bob: "I may enjoy it, but both the cake and the enjoyment will be illusions. Bye."