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An ammeter (noun) is a measuring tool that is finally putting some empirical meat on the theoretical bones of philosophy and, in particular, the metaphysics branch of philosophy. An ammeter measures the existence of life. This revolutionary capability is beginning to give some statistical credence to René Descartes’ proposition, “cogito ergo sum,” or, in a non-zombie language, “I think, therefore I am.”

Until now, Descartes’ theory had been only that, a theory. Now, with an ammeter’s ability to measure existence, we can prove that anyone who is thinking does, in fact, exist—or not, as the case may be. Unfortunately, an ammeter measures any living existence—a human, a toad, a rhinoceros, a dung beetle, a tree, pond scum or anything that possesses any form of life whatsoever. It cannot, therefore, be used to prove the opposite. I.e., it cannot be used to prove that something that exists thinks—or, more often, not.

An ammeter cannot, for example, distinguish between a sea sponge and a far-right or far-left radical screaming a bunch of nonsense that they haven’t given any serious thought to, possibly because they are incapable of serious thought at all. That’s unfortunate because I’d like to be able to distinguish between those people and a sea sponge. So far, all I’ve got to go on are their general body shape and the proven fact that sea sponges don’t waste their time shreeking nonsense.

Ammeters can be very useful. For example, many people worry incessantly about what they perceive to be existential threats that turn out not to be existential threats at all—possibly not even threats of any kind. Ammeters can prove once and for all whether the threats were, indeed, existential.

Unfortunately, this usefulness is limited because an ammeter can demonstrate this only after the fact by providing concrete proof that either you still exist or you no longer exist other than as the bacteria in you that haven’t yet died or the microorganisms that are now at work decomposing your body. If the former, this knowledge won’t be any help to you because, well, you will no longer exist.

Nevertheless, at least your heirs will gain closure by achieving certainty that you are well and truly gone. If you were a horribly annoying little twerp in life, they might gain more than just closure from this knowledge. They might also also gain great joy, but that’s a whole other question.

Warning: Ammeters can seriously deflate the mood at seances. You might not want to use one in such circumstances if you want to continue to believe in ghosts. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. Then again, in addition to being bliss, ignorance is also ignorance, so there’s that.

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