Interview with the head of the Canterbury General Hospital Ontology Ward

David Stark / Zarkonnen
10 Jun 2018, 7:25 p.m.

Doctor Heidegger. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet us.

No problem at all. It's important that the public understand the important work we do here.

Yes. Can you give our listeners a brief introduction?

Of course. The Ontology Ward is a somewhat unique part of the hospital. While elsewhere, purely physical ailments are treated, here we concern ourselves with problems of meaning and categorization.


Indeed. It's probably easiest if I show you.

The sound of walking through a hospital hallway. A door opens.

Here's one of our patients, Mr. Searle.

Searle: (brightly) Hi!

Don't worry, he's not contagious.

Mr. Searle. You don't mind us recording in here?

Searle: Not at all!

Now, what would you say a liver is? An organ, right? Well, Mr. Searle's liver is a kind of bird.

And are you in much pain?

Searle: Oh no, not at all!

You have to understand, the liver hasn't physically changed. But it is nevertheless now a kind of bird.

I see.

Obviously, this is an ontological issue. Livers are usually organs, not birds. Birds contain organs, but they are not organs themselves. We are pretty sure of that.

So... what can you do about this?

Well, it used to be that we treated this kind of issue with radical excision. But in Mr. Searle's case, we are hopeful. It's a mild case, after all - a bird is still a living thing. And we have several top consulting ornithologists helping us figure out exactly what kind of bird Mr. Searle's liver is. They think it may be a pigeon, or maybe a grebe. Now, if you'll follow me down the hallway...

Searle: Bye!

More walking. A door is gently opened.

(whispering) Now, Mrs Kristeva here is a more serious case. Her large intestine is a letter of the alphabet.

Is she...

We keep her sedated. Her condition causes her significant anguish. Come.

A door opens and closes.

You can see, of course, how this happened. The large intestine, the colon, the colon, the semicolon, the ampersand, the alphabet. One of the most common ontological diseases.

So you will have to... excise.

Most likely, yes. There are experimental treatments, but the welfare of the patient is paramount. And if it were to spread...


Let me show you.

More doors open and close. A muffled beeping.

And a very bad case here. A leaf. A leaf that was a forty year old man less than a year ago. We're not sure what kind of leaf it is, but it hardly matters now. Autumn is coming. The condition is terminal. In a few weeks, we will hand it over to the gardener for composting.

I... think that's all the time we have for now! Thank you, Doctor!

Hurried footsteps.