Some topics will get a person worked up, so worked up that he'll begin to argue with anyone in the area. After his self-justification has reached a certain pitch, he may realize that the thing he's been justifying himself to isn't worth it. It's not even alive, or at least not in the sense of having a mind. This realization will be followed by the character hanging a lampshade on the fact that he's been carrying on an argument with a pointless target. This has a few variations:
- a character has a rhetorical conversation with an inanimate object that reveals an internal conflict as they realize that they are really trying to justify their position to themselves
- a character imagines or hallucinates a literal two-sided debate with an object or non-sapient entity
- a character argues with a non-sapient that can respond, though not necessarily intelligently
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Heroes, Spock attempts to avoid an argument with Surak, because it's illogical to argue with an illusion.
- In Maleficent this trope is used to show Stefan's insanity: when a servant informs him that his wife is dying, he sends him away and berates him for intruding on his conversation. He was actually hallucinating a conversation with Maleficent's severed wings
- In Man of Steel, Zod argues with Jor-El's hologram for a while before concluding, "And I'm arguing [my plan] with a ghost."
- In the series Little House on the Prairie, an elderly woman is being courted by an elderly man. At first it is unwelcome. Toward the end of the episode, the woman tells her cat to get down off the table. When the cat doesn't respond to the command, this realization occurs. "I said get down! Do you understand me? No... of course you don't understand me. You're a cat. That man out there loves me, and I'm in here talking to a cat."
- In The Odd Couple series, Oscar ends up trying to justify himself to a tombstone after he bets the deposit money for Felix's grave plot on a slow horse.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, a Malkavian character can argue with a stop sign.
- In Mr Welch's 100 Ways to Annoy Wargamers, one item is "Discuss tactics with your [models]. Become argumentative."
- During the 2012 Republican National Convention, Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair he was pretending was Barack Obama.
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