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The Treachery of Images

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Nor is this a drawing by Dan Piraro. For those of you who are wondering, that IS an image on a computer screen.

"You never disappoint me. If they ever hang you, you'll be arguing about whether the rope really exists until the last minute."
Hagbard, Illuminatus!

When someone wants to really blow your mind, they will show you something. It can be an ordinary object or a piece of music or anything really, as long as they can see or hear it. And then they say, "This does not exist." With this mantra, the falsity of the world is stripped away and perhaps the hidden mask of reality is revealed. This is often an indicator of a Mind Screw.

What you are reading is not a "page". It is merely a series of 0s and 1s grouped into TCP segments, interpreted as HTML markup, and displayed via a matrix of glowing dots; just part of a large and complex abstraction which people call a "page" by means of convention, even though it only superficially resembles a thin rectangle of plant-fiber covered in ink shapes. Believe nothing.

Beware of who this is used on. Depending on the person, they may just bluntly disagree, causing the entire premise to fall apart. A common retort might be "This fist is not real." followed by *Pow!* This trope can be dreadfully annoying and dull if it takes itself too seriously or delightful and intellectually stimulating if it doesn't. Needless to say, it's very easy to parody.

Compare 2 + Torture = 5, a darker version when someone forces you to see and believe things like these. Compare and contrast Clap Your Hands If You Believe and Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Contrast Perspective Magic, in which reality conforms to even the unrealistic aspects of an image. Falls on the cynical side of the Power of Language scale. See also Expospeak and True Art Is Incomprehensible. Taking this to the extreme as a serious philosophical concept is Solipsism, the belief that the only thing you can prove to exist is your own mind. On the other hand, it could just be a plea for more precise terminology.

Not related to Your Mind Makes It Real.

These are not Examples, merely our descriptions thereof:

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    There Is No Anime and Manga Here 
  • Ditto in the anime and manga of Pokémon have much more advanced shapeshifting skills than in the video game, but aren't particularly bright. In one case from Pokémon: The Original Series, a Ditto was shown a picture of a Dratini in a book and told to turn into it...and the Ditto turned into the book.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ's theme song tells that the show is not anime.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders has Hol Horse try to kill Jotaro and co with his gun Stand (capable of firing bullets that he can control the path of) and the help of another Stand user whose power takes the shape of a comic book that predicts the future (but whose predictions can also come true in unexpected ways.) When he reads that Hol Horse is about to fire some bullets into a nearby pipe, causing them eventually to headshot Jotaro, he quickly does so, then panics when they barely miss him, causing him to lose track of his bullets until they actually do hit Jotaro...'s picture in the comic book from behind, and then keep going and hit Hol Horse right in the face.
  • According to Sanrio, the namesake of Hello Kitty is not a cat, she just looks like one:
    Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature... The design takes the motif of a cat, but there is no element of a cat in Hello Kitty's setting.

    Most Definitely Not Art 
  • The Trope Namer: "The Treachery Of Images" by René Magritte. And it wasn't a pipe, but a painting of a pipe - you can't actually smoke or stuff a painting of a pipe, can you? It's made even better by the fact that "pipe" is also one of many French slang words for "fellatio".
    Magritte: It’s quite simple. Who would dare pretend that the REPRESENTATION of a pipe IS a pipe? Who could possibly smoke the pipe in my painting? No one. Therefore it IS NOT A PIPE.
  • Older Than Print example: Two Greek painters were competing who could make the more realistic painting. One painted flowers so well that bees were trying to visit them for honey. "OK, now show yours...take that damn curtain away already!" Only - the curtain was only painted, and so the painter got the prize because he fooled humans, not only bees.

    Neither Are These Comics 
  • Conversed in Mister Miracle (2017) as part of a discussion on the nature of "reality" and the validity of experience. Kanto relays a story about a Renaissance-era painter and his apprentice challenging each other to a contest of who can create the better painting. The apprentice simply paints a plate of grapes, which bewilders audiences up until birds start flying down and — convinced by their realism — tries to eat them. As the apprentice describes, "To the birds, it isn't art, it's just what is, and what's better than what is?" To really hit the point home, the fable is capped off with an ironic twist:
    "He's won, he knows he's won, and he turns to the master, points at the master's painting. And he says, 'All right, not that there's a need, but let's see what's behind your curtain'. And the master says, 'What curtain?'"
  • Understanding Comics takes this to a thought-provoking Overly Long Gag to demonstrate just how much the reader of a comic is mentally filling in. Not only is it not a pipe, it's not even a painting of a pipe. Is it a drawing of a painting of a pipe? No, actually it's not even that — it's a printed copy of a drawing of a painting of a pipe. In fact, it's several printed copies, appearing in multiple panels, each one dependent on the reader to observe.
    Do you hear what I'm saying? If you do, have your ears checked, because no one said a word.

    Certainly Not Film 
  • The Matrix: "Do not try to bend the spoon; that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: There is no spoon. Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself."
    • Which was actually inspired by Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation, which you can see on Neo's shelf earlier.
    • In point of fact, once the kid hands the spoon over, it isn't even a real's CGI.
  • Exaggerated in the attempted Mind Screw ending to Monster a-Go Go. There was no monster, and the whole storyline was a lie. Like practically every other aspect of the film, this was an Epic Fail.
  • Mulholland Dr.: "No hay banda! There is no band. Il n'y a pas d'orchestre. [...] And yet we hear a band." A subtle clue showing that the whole thing is Diane Selwyn's Dying Dream. Or is it?
    "It is a recording. It is a tape. It is an illusion."
  • Lampshaded in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. At the beginning of the film, Jack Sparrow broke into and out of a fortress in order to obtain a drawing of the key that goes to the eponymous Dead Man's Chest. Now all they have to do is find the chest, right? Wrong. First they have to find the actual key itself, because all they have so far is a drawing of what the key looks like.
  • Played with in the Mind Screw Vanilla Sky, at different levels :
    • David has built his dream upon memory caught from pictures of his youth. That's one of the reasons it becomes hard for him to leave it.
    • David is also accused of beating Julie Gianni. When seeing a picture of her, he declares that someone is "setting him up".
    David: "There is no murder. There. Is. NO. MURDER! It never happened!"
  • Star Wars gives us the wisdom: "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them."
  • Space Is the Place: The black people wonder whether Sun Ra is real of an imposter? Then he lectures them:
    I’m not real, I’m just like you. You don’t exist in this society. If you did your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real. If you were you’d have some status among the nations of the world. So we are both myths. I do not come to you as a reality, I come to you as the myth because that is what black people are— myths. I came from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you by your ancestors. I’m going to be here until I pick out some of you to take back with me.
  • Night at the Museum: Discussed in the first movie. Teddy Roosevelt (the museum's wax sculpture of Teddy) reminds Larry that although he looks and acts like Teddy Roosevelt, he is still just a wax sculpture and has not achieved any of the things that the real Teddy did.

    Not The Literature You Are Looking For 
  • In Dave Barry Hits Below The Beltway, Dave Barry wonders how lawyers become "people who refuse to make a simple, understandable statement about anything," and imagines a scene in law school, with a law professor holding up a spoon, and turns on the electrodes attached to his students each time they say that it looks like a spoon. This is apparently the kind of response the professor wants to hear:
    Student: In certain purely superficial respects, it may resemble what is sometimes called a spoon, depending of course on the definition of "spoon"; however, we intend to present expert testimony showing that there are a number of other plausible explanations, such that it cannot be determined beyond a reasonable doubt that this is a spoon, or, for that matter, not a spoon, per se, depending on who is paying us three hundred dollars an hour plus expenses. Nor have we established that, legally, that is your hand.
    Law Professor: Correct. (He presses the button again anyway.)
  • The novel Nineteen Eighty-Four uses this trope endlessly and is one of the most basic functions of the party. A relevant part of O'Brien's conversation with Winston revolves around whether the Party could, pragmatically speaking, change reality itself, with the torturer arguing that he could "float like a soap bubble" if he wanted to. After all, if Winston perceives (forcibly) such a thing, and it is on record, in what sense is it untrue? Also, it is never revealed whether Goldstein or Big Brother are real, but it is suggested that, sociologically speaking, for all intents and purposes, they are real.
    "Does BIG BROTHER exist?"
    "Of course he exists. The Party exists. BIG BROTHER is the embodiment of the Party."
    "Does he exist in the same way as I exist?"
    "You do not exist," said O'Brien.
  • Terry Pratchett:
    • In Thief of Time, Susan Sto Helit becomes a school teacher. We see her holding up a cardboard clock and asking the kids what it is. Susan is mildly impressed when one of the kids eventually guesses it's "all cardboard, made to look like a clock". One of the lessons Miss Susan drills into her students is "Always see what's really there."
    • In Witches Abroad, Granny Weatherwax is trapped in a maze of mirrors with infinitely receding reflections. She can’t get out until she identifies the real one. Unlike her sister, who's been using mirror magic too much and goes running through the images, she immediately points to herself.
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid plays with both the concept and the painting, including a character taking the pipe from the painting and smoking it.
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce:
    • The blessed former apostate finally gives up on trying to reason with his damned apostate friend not very long after the damned soul has gone so far off the deep end in his pseudo-intellectual diatribe that he ends up complaining about how the blessed man is talking "as if there some hard, fixed reality where things are, so to speak, 'there'."
    • Painting as a way to depict particular subject matters or for its own sake is also discussed between a damned artist (who wants the paint) and his more heavenly-minded friend (who is trying to get him to focus on a much worthier Subject).
  • In Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, Fair Witnesses will reply to 'What color is that house' with 'It appears to be white on this side', as they have not seen the other side, and even if they were to walk over there and look, they could not be sure that someone had not repainted it as soon as it was out of their sight. This extends so far that they will even look over at the house before answering, just to make sure. Note that in the case of this example, the house in question was the property next door to the one the woman lived at, and that she was probably very familiar with it. But her training was such that she was unable to assume anything.note 
  • A variation in one of the quotes from Kozma Prutkov, a pen name used by several Russian writers in the mid-19th century: "If you see a 'buffalo' sign on an elephant's cage, do not trust your eyes." Now go ahead, try to figure out what he/they meant by this (i.e. should you not trust that you see an elephant or that what you're reading is wrong).
  • In The Pillars of Reality, it's part of the teachings of the Guild of Mages that everything (and everyone) else is really just an illusion. It might look like the world exists, but to actually believe so is a grave error that must be beaten out of acolytes before they finish their training. It's part of how they do magic; as far as they're concerned, they're just changing an illusion. However, the belief can cause serious problems for people around Mages, because Mages will feel free to treat "mere illusions" however they like.
  • This comes up in a less philosophical way in The Hork-Bajir Chronicles of the Animorphs series: Dak Hamee, a Hork-Bajir seer (a very intelligent member of a species which is otherwise biologically incapable of higher mental capacities) makes a drawing of a friend and essentially says, "Look! It's you!" The other Hork-Bajir doesn't really understand the abstract concept and replies, "No, that's not me, it's a picture of me."
  • The narrator of The Divine Comedy spends much of Paradiso lamenting that even his most extensive and beautiful descriptions of Heaven are mere shadows of his memories, which themselves are shadows of the real experience. The inequality between reality, memory, and expression become a topic of discussion between Dante and his blessed great-great-grandfather, who experiences all these equally.
    "In mortals, word and sentiment [...] are wings whose featherings are disparate."
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace attempts this on Ramandu, a Sentient Star in human form, telling him, "In our world, a star is a huge ball of flaming gas." Ramandu replies with an interesting deconstruction: "Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”
  • The joke book The Ha Ha Bonk Book has a picture of a high wall, with two notices on it. One of them says "This is a notice". What does the other one say? "This is not a notice".

    Not Television, Not Live, By No Means Contains Action 
  • In the surrealist Jim Henson-directed teleplay The Cube, one of the many odd characters the protagonist meets is a professor. The professor argues that none of the man's experiences is true, as reality itself is an illusion, and he is merely a character on TV. To illustrate, he picks up a hammer and explains that if you could look closer and closer at it you would see that it is made up of molecules, which are made up of atoms, which are made of energy and none of those items is "anything you could call a real thing". The man exclaims "You're right, it isn't real!". Whereupon the professor says "Then how do you explain this?" and hurls the hammer at the wall, leaving a hole.
  • Babylon 5: The episode "And the Sky Full of Stars" plays with this. Sinclair is locked inside a virtual reality cybernet, which provides a realistic simulation to Sinclair's mind and senses. The villain ("Knight Two" in the credits) shoots a sim-copy of Garibaldi "dead", then brings him back to "life" with no effort. There are, however, elements that are real, or at least grounded in reality: Sinclair, Knight Two, and pain. Later in the episode, Sinclair, frustrated with Knight Two's insinuations of him being a traitor, punches him out from within the simulation. Two, caught by surprise, is knocked out of the simulation.
  • There's an interesting contrast in Firefly in "Objects in Space" between River and the villain of the week, Jubal Early. Both, one by accident, the other through upbringing and lifestyle, take an absurdist view of the universe - we ascribe meaning, but those meanings are flexible. The difference is that River searches for the meanings that everyone else ascribes to through the flood of information her damaged brain provides, while Early chooses the most pessimistic, destructive interpretation of everything to justify his bounty hunting lifestyle.
  • Doctor Who: "That which holds the image of an angel becomes itself an angel." So...inverted? Still sort of played straight, though, since messing with this trope is basically the Weeping Angels' hat. Also played with a bit in Day of the Doctor — Time Lord paintings are bigger on the inside, so a painting of the Fall of Arcadia actually is the Fall of Arcadia, or at least part of it.

    Not Music, No Matter Your Tastes 
  • This is Not a Song, it's a Sandwich, by Psychostick.
  • Probably "This is Not a Photograph" by Mission of Burma, although—in keeping with their commitment to obscurity—you can't really tell whether the song is a Shout-Out to Magritte, or something else entirely. Their tribute to "Max Ernst" is somewhat more straightforward, ending with a repeated "Dada" chant.
  • This is Not a Love Song, by Public Image Ltd..
  • The Lonely Island's "Threw It On The Ground" : the guy is handed given a cell phone, and told that it's his dad (on the phone). He says, "man, this ain't my dad. This is a cell phone." (So he threw it on the ground.)
  • "Jazz is the notes you don't play." (Old adage, sometimes credited to Miles Davis.)
    • Played with in The Simpsons. In one episode, Lisa is at the Jazz Hole, enjoying the performance of a female electric violinist:
    Guy: [Unimpressed] Hmph, sounds like she's hitting a baby with a cat.
    Lisa: You have to listen to the notes she's NOT playing.
    Guy: [Still unimpressed] Pssh, I can do that at home.
  • In a reference to the Trope Namer, Pink Floyd had the Immersion box set of Wish You Were Here featuring the subtitle "Ceci n'est pas une boite" (this is not a box).
  • Thomas Dolby used a witty twist on Magritte's Trope Namer painting as the cover for one of his singles, entitled "Close But No Cigar".
  • In Ylvis's "The Cabin," the singer finds a picture of his dad and freaks out until he realizes that it's not actually him.
    Who put my dad inside the wall?!

    No Newspapers, Especially Comic Containing Ones 
  • In one Dilbert comic, Dogbert was trying to get someone to invest in his latest "Give more money to Dogbert" fund. His argument consisted of handing a photo of a mansion to the very, very stupid client and saying, "If you invest in the Dogbert Deferred Earnings Fund, one day this could be yours!"
    "I could own a mansion?"
    "You could own a photograph."
  • The comic Zogonia in Dragon Magazine once featured a character buying an incredibly realistic illusion of a pipe. Disbelief, somehow, failed to get rid of it, indicating it may have been a pipe all along.
    Domato: What's going on?
    Dindil: Kev is not holding a pipe, and I'm watching him.
    Kev: Strange...I am holding a pipe.
    Dindil: You are?
    Domato: Whatever you guys are smoking, throw it away.

    Decidedly Un-Radio 
  • Parodied in The Goon Show, in which photographs of something are the same as the real thing.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) the Man in the Shack, who claims not to rule the universe, also claims to be unconvinced that anything he experiences is real. Another episode mentions a man who claimed that nothing was true, though he was later discovered to be lying.
    The Man in the Shack: How do I know the past isn't a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate surroundings and my state of mind?
  • In The Burkiss Way there's a sketch where a man is in a travel agency trying to decide on his holiday destination:
    Customer What about that poster on the wall?
    Travel agent: It's a bit papery, sir.

    Something That Resembles Video Games But Isn't 
  • This is parodied in Kingdom of Loathing with the Not-a-pipe: "You do not light the not-a-pipe, and you proceed to do something with it that is not smoking. Whatever it is, it's very refreshing, and gives you the feeling that your head has been replaced with either a window or a giant apple."
  • Another parody is the Lemmings 2 level "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", which looks like a water pipe. The Bilingual Bonus is that pipe is correct French for a smoking pipe, but not a plumbing pipe (conduit) or the other kind of water pipe (houka), so it really "n'est pas une pipe".
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, a Nobody sent to recover Roxas is baffled by photos of him. The photos are also not real; Roxas (who himself doesn't really "exist" in a traditional sense) is trapped in a virtual reality program.
  • Most of the more esoteric The Elder Scrolls lore is pretty much made of this trope. For example: gods basically only exist because people believe in them. And if different cultures have different interpretations of the same god, it splits into separate entities, known as "aspects". Sort of. The Thalmor endgame is basically to "unmake" the universe and become/return to being gods by eroding the worship of Talos, a Deity of Human Origin who helps to hold the world together, and make it so that the universe was never created. And that's not even getting into Dragon Breaks...
  • Parodied in Just More Doors where you can find a sign declaring, in English, that "this is not English".

    Variably Visual Non-Novels 
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, the only reason Battler has anything remotely resembling a chance is that most of what we "see" is Beatrice's explanation of what happened. In the third arc in particular, she tries to distract him with shiny, epic magical fight scenes, but Virgilia points out that he could always deny that it reflected reality, since no objective evidence was left. She also states that since Rokkenjima is now a Closed Circle, multiple truths can exist alongside one another until they're disproven. Later on, this trope becomes very important to the plot when in EP7 we find out that at least three characters are all the same person.

    There Are No Webcomics Here, Move Along 

    This Is Not The Original Of What Was Found On The Web (That Itself Doesn't Exist) 
  • As noted in the page introduction, the Trope Namer (see the "Definitely Not Art" section) has been parodied and homaged many times in online media:
  • On Advent of Code, if you run the input of 2021 day 7 on an Intcode interpreter (which is used for several puzzles in the 2019 season) it prints "Ceci n'est pas une intcode program".
  • French Baguette Intelligence: In Art vs "Art" video, Bowl says that he does not believe that the photorealistic painting that Fuck Cares' grandmother showed is a painting at all, but a photograph. After Fuck Cares explains how you can tell that it is a painting if you look carefully, Bowl states that he still doesn't believe that it is a painting, but a 'photograph of a painting'.
  • As part of Vi Hart's video about how she makes videos about how she makes videos about... she begins making the distinction between the her who's writing the script, the her in the video part, and the her as the voice over. This leads to her writing on her hand "This is me!", correcting it to "This is (a video of) me!", which eventually (after a lot of crossing out) becomes "This is your screen!"
  • The Onion's parody atlas Our Dumb World claims that René Magritte made a second painting entitled "Now This -- This Is a Pipe."
  • Carlos and the Night Vale Science Team are plagued by this. They've spent over a year studying the house that doesn't actually exist, despite everyone seeing it, and it being between two other, identical, actually-existing houses. But Carlos and his scientists are pretty sure that, after making many complex measurements and calculations, it isn't really there.
  • The Agony Booth's recap of Monster a-Go Go is reduced to this following the twist that closes the movie, starting with the caption "There is no monster. And also, there is no spoon.", and closing with:
    But, is this review over? Is it still with us? Did it ever exist? Somewhere, a switch was flipped, a toilet was flushed, a bong was hit. And there was no review of Monster A-Go Go, no thing called "the agony booth" to be read.

    This Is Anything But Western Animation 
  • In one Family Guy scene, Peter bids on what he believes is a boat. It turns out he bid on a picture of a boat. The actual boat is revealed to be the next item for sale.
  • Similarly played with in Spongebob Squarepants, where Mr. Krabs offers Squidward and Spongebob an incentive for learning the names of customers by showing them a brochure of an exotic tropical cruise. (Never mind how one can have a boat cruise underwater). After Squidward goes to ridiculous extremes to earn the cruise and ends up being thrown in prison, Mr. Krabs visits the incarcerated squid and gives him his prize... the brochure. "It was takin' up too much space in me drawer!"
  • Home Movies - at the Medieval Faire, Mr. Lynch (who's really into the thing) spots Mc Guirk (who's working there because he needs the money) talking on his cell phone. Lynch tells him to get rid of it:
    Lynch: It doesn't exist!
    Mc Guirk: Lynch, I don't wanna have a philosophical discussion with you, okay?
  • Dan Vs.: In the episode "Dan Vs. Art", Dan and Chris are trying to find the headquarters of Art Artstein (he's an artist), which they've just learned are a converted toy factory. Chris remarks that this information doesn't help them narrow down their search, because the city has lots of abandoned toy factories. Dan points out a factory whose exterior bears a giant painting of a sign, with the text "THIS IS NOT A SIGN". Sure enough, Art Artstein is there.
  • On Regular Show, Mordecai and Rigby are asked to paint the garage door. As a prank, they paint it to look exactly like the inside of the garage. Unfortunately, Pops falls for it and drives his car through it, so Benson orders Mordecai and Rigby to go buy a new door.
  • The Dragon Prince: In season 2, Lujanne discusses how understanding the relationship between reality and one's perception of it is central to the moon arcanum.
    Lujanne: The arcanum of the moon is about understanding the relationship between appearances and reality. Most people believe that reality is truth and appearances are deceiving. But those of us who know the moon arcanum understand we can only truly know the appearance itself. You can never touch the so-called reality that lies just beyond the reach of your own perception.

    You Can't Honestly Call This Real Life 
  • Also, "The map is not the territory."
    • The phrase is also a military aphorism to remind commanders that all the vaunted map reading (and later, satellite imagery, UAV recon, intercepted traffic, etc) is no substitute for a boots-on-ground view.
    • Similarly, in medicine, there is a saying "treat the patient, not the chart"
    • Chemical Engineering has an expression "when looking at your lines and electronics, don't forget that there's a plant of steel and stone behind you". There are many times when actions should work based on P&IDs and theory, but fail completely in reality due to small inaccuracies.
  • The Xbox 360 was in low supply at the time and some crafty hoaxers at eBay managed to sell pictures of the actual console by hiding "This auction is not for a Xbox 360 game system, but instead a picture of one" within a lot of specs and praise for the console.
    • The same thing has been done with pictures of a mobile phone. One would-be scammer was brought before Judge Judy, who was Not Amused.
    • This actually still happens, though now with "This auction is for a Xbox 360 box" note . Ebay also changed its rules such that such disclaimers are supposed to be much more noticeable.
    • Occasionally seen in banner ads for online stores like Wish - an ad might gain the viewers attention by showing, say, a car, only for the actual product for sale to be a poster of a car. Once you've clicked on the ad, the product description is more clear though.
  • A Real Life theory that the universe as we know it is a three-dimensional hologram of an n-dimensional universe composed of nothing but information. We are the shadow cast by the true shape of the universe. Referenced heavily in Warren Ellis's Planetary.
    • More concretely, the Holographic Principle in string theory states that all the information in universe is located in its boundary — a region with fewer dimensions than the universe at large, quite contrary to everyday 2-dimensional shadows which are cast by 3-dimensional objects.
    • In a similar vein, it's been said that the entire universe can be reduced to a set of quantum fluctuations in the same way a computer's graphical interface can be stripped down to binary.
  • Various philosophers and religious scholars have debated this point throughout the ages. Plato's Allegory of the Cave and the principle of Maya in Hinduism both stress this point for instance.
  • Zeno's Paradox is a related concept (also featured extensively in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid). Since you can continually halve the distance between two objects, and since there are an infinite number of points in between, it is impossible to traverse the distance. (Before you can go there, you must go halfway there. Before you can go halfway there, you must go a quarter of the way there. Before you can go a quarter of the way there...) According to records, the philosopher Diogenes responded by standing, and silently walking out of the room.
    • Integral calculus provides the real answer to Zeno's Paradox: Though there are an infinite number of points, each point is infinitesimally small. Integration shows how an infinite sum of infinitesimal amounts converges on a finite sum. Without calculus, a lot of physics would be downright impossible. (Not to mention computing, because integration is how digital devices can approximate the non-digital world.)
    • The above paragraph not necessarily slays Zeno's paradox with respect to Real Life physics - it's not obvious at all that time and space are continuous, in fact quantum theory plus general relativity suggests the opposite.
    • Modern descriptions often depict Zeno as a crackpot philosopher who believed everything was just an illusion, but if one goes to the source (a secondary source, since we only know of him from Aristotle's refutation of his work) then a perfectly valid interpretation is that he was merely trying to point out that contemporary theories about the nature of space had logical flaws (much like Russell's paradox did for naive set theory). Concretely, Zeno gives four paradoxes, of which two are aimed at a discrete model of space and two are aimed at a continuous model. (It was probably because the Pythagoreans believed in discrete space that the discovery of irrational numbers was so shocking to them, although Zeno's argument is not about that.)
  • Later, Berkeley argued that matter does not exist. The ultimate conclusion of his argument is that we are all basically being dreamed by God. According to Boswell, Samuel Johnson's response to this was to kick a rock and say, "I refute it thus."
  • A man in Florida parked his car illegally and was mailed a picture of his illegally parked car from the police who said he had to pay a $45 fine. The man responded by mailing the police a picture of $45. The police's response? Mailing him a picture of handcuffs.
  • "This page has been intentionally left blank." LIARS!
    • Justified in less avante garde circumstances in certain official documents and publications, as the disclaimer lets the reader know that that page contains no information by design, whereas a perfectly blank page would lead to the assumption that something got left off by mistake.
    • This one can and has sometimes been easily averted, by instead stating "The next page has been intentionally left blank", followed by said blank page.
    • "Leaving posters on this wall is illegal". Yeah, right.
  • There exists a photo taken by Kunaver and Mohar, showing the famous Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek sitting behind a golden frame, called Slavoj Zizek does not exist. This one actually alludes to Zizek's own theory of frame and appearance.
  • The Stadtschloss (city palace) of Potsdam, which was heavily damaged in World War 2 and subsequently demolished on the orders of the government of the GDR, was rebuilt after German Reunification as the new home of the Landtag (state parliament) of Brandenburg; it was inaugurated in 2014. On the outside it is an authentic recreation of the old building, while on the inside it is a 21st century building full of office rooms and the austere plenary session hall. To highlight this, they added an inscription in golden letters (reminiscent in form of those used by Magritte) on one of the outside walls: Ceci n'est pas un château ("this is not a palace").
  • There is an urban legend about a philosophy class where the final exam was to write an essay arguing that a chair placed at the front of the room did not exist. One student simply wrote down "What chair?" and got the highest grade. A variant of said legend is just a question in the exam: "Why?", with the student who wrote down "Why not?" getting also the highest grade.
    • Another anecdote, this one printed in the book "Classroom Clangers", had a class of students taking a philosophy exam. The only question on the exam paper was "Is this a question?". One student wrote down the single line "Yes, but if and only if this is an answer." They got full marks.
  • Invoked to a point by Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi's 2011 documentary, This Is Not A Film, mixed in with a bit of real-world legal judo. For historical context: in 2010, Panahi had been arrested by the Iranian government for supposed "propaganda against the regime" (he publicly considered making a documentary in support of the revolutionary Green Movement, though it had not been made yet), and among the restrictions he was placed under (following an international campaign to overturn his prison sentence) was house arrest and a 20-year ban on making films. This Is Not A Film was Panahi trolling the exact restrictions: he wasn't allowed to use a film camera, but a friend invited to his house could, and he himself could use his iPhone's video recording feature. He couldn't write any scripts, but he could muse about his legal woes, discuss ideas for films he can no longer produce, and ruminate on the nature of filmmaking from his house. Panahi didn't stay strictly within the law — the ending shows him pointedly picking up the camera and walking outside, and the finished "not-film" was smuggled out of Iran and submitted to the Cannes Film Festival through a USB drive hidden in a birthday cake — but the overall message he sent was that he was still going to use his voice as a filmmaker even if his country won't let him make "films".

Alternative Title(s): Ceci Nest Pas Une Pipe