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U the Unicorn

by Kim Packard
U the Unicorn is the first film I watched on Mubi when it was still called The Auteurs, so I’m dedicating this page to the unicorn. :-) Portrait of a Young Woman with Unicorn by Raphael (1506) Paradox (by mathematician Raymond Smullyan?): Let’s prove that unicorns exist. We mean true unicorns here, not rhinoceroses or something else, we mean a mythical creature that resembles a horse with a single straight horn on its forehead. To prove that set something exists, we can for instance, prove that some specific subclass of it is non-empty. To prove that rectangles exist, it suffices to prove that squares exist. So, let’s prove that there is… Read more

U the Unicorn is the first film I watched on Mubi when it was still called The Auteurs, so I’m dedicating this page to the unicorn. :-)


Portrait of a Young Woman with Unicorn by Raphael (1506)

Paradox (by mathematician Raymond Smullyan?): Let’s prove that unicorns exist. We mean true unicorns here, not rhinoceroses or something else, we mean a mythical creature that resembles a horse with a single straight horn on its forehead. To prove that set something exists, we can for instance, prove that some specific subclass of it is non-empty. To prove that rectangles exist, it suffices to prove that squares exist. So, let’s prove that there is a subclass of unicorns that is non-empty, i.e. that exists. For determinancy, let’s prove that existing unicorns exist. First, consider that existing unicorns don’t exist. But that’s a contradiction—-how can something that exists (existing something) not exist? Therefore, we’ve come to conclusion that existing unicorns exist. Now, if some (existing) unicorns exist, this means that unicorns in general exist. Statement proven.

Premise 1: If an existing unicorn exists, then a unicorn exists.
Premise 2: An existing unicorn exists.
Conclusion: Hence, a unicorn exists.

Premise 1: Either an existing unicorn exists or an existing unicorn does not exist.
Premise 2: It is not the case that an existing unicorn does not exist.
Conclusion: Hence, an existing unicorn exists.

Ungulates

Bertrand Russell (1918, An Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, p.169) writes:

“For want of the apparatus of propositional functions, many logicians have been driven to the conclusion that there are unreal objects. It is argued, e.g. by Meinong, that we can speak about “the golden mountain,” “the round square ,” and so on; we can make true propositions of which these are the subjects; hence they must have some kind of logical being, since otherwise the propositions in which they occur would be meaningless. In such theories, it seems to me, there is a failure of that feeling for reality which ought to be preserved even in the most abstract studies. Logic, I should maintain, must no more admit a unicorn than zoology can; for logic is concerned with the real world just as truly as zoology, though with its more abstract and general features. To say that unicorns have an existence in heraldry, or in literature, or in imagination, is a most pitiful and paltry evasion. What exists in heraldry is not an animal, made of flesh and blood, moving and breathing of its own initiative. What exists is a picture, or a description in words. Similarly, to maintain that Hamlet, for example, exists in his own world, namely, in the world of Shakespeare’s imagination, just as truly as (say) Napoleon existed in the ordinary world, is to say something deliberately confusing, or else confused to a degree which is scarcely credible. There is only one world, the ‘real’ world: Shakespeare’s imagination is part of it, and the thoughts that he had in writing Hamlet are real. So are the thoughts that we have in reading the play. But it is of the very essence of fiction that only the thoughts, feelings, etc., in Shakespeare and his readers are real, and that there is not, in addition to them, an objective Hamlet. When you have taken account of all the feelings roused by Napoleon in writers and readers of history, you have not touched the actual man; but in the case of Hamlet you have come to the end of him. . . . If no one thought about Hamlet, there would be nothing left of him; if no one had thought about Napoleon, he would have soon seen to it that some one did.”

Russell’s “horrible travesty” of Meinong by Nicholas Griffin
Thought, Reference and Existence by Charles Landesman


The Lady and the Unicorn- Sight and the Venus Effect


The Lady and the Unicorn: Hearing (link to Hearing the Movies by Jim Buhler,
David Neumeyer and Rob Deemer)

Unicorn Artists
Bernard Herrmann, e.g. North by Northwest score
Laurie Johnson


Rilke and the Tapestries of the Lady with the Unicorn by Dora Edinger

The Unicorn
Rainer Maria Rilke (Poetry Foundation link)

The saintly hermit, midway through his prayers
stopped suddenly, and raised his eyes to witness
the unbelievable: for there before him stood
the legendary creature, startling white, that
had approached, soundlessly, pleading with his eyes.

The legs, so delicately shaped, balanced a
body wrought of finest ivory. And as
he moved, his coat shone like reflected moonlight.
High on his forehead rose the magic horn, the sign
of his uniqueness: a tower held upright
by his alert, yet gentle, timid gait.

The mouth of softest tints of rose and grey, when
opened slightly, revealed his gleaming teeth,
whiter than snow. The nostrils quivered faintly:
he sought to quench his thirst, to rest and find repose.
His eyes looked far beyond the saint’s enclosure,
reflecting vistas and events long vanished,
and closed the circle of this ancient mystic legend.

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)

`This is a child!’ Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice to introduce her, and spreading out both his hands towards her in an Anglo-Saxon attitude. `We only found it to-day. It’s as large as life, and twice as natural!’
`I always thought they were fabulous monsters!’ said the Unicorn. `Is at alive?’
`It can talk,’ said Haigha, solemnly.
The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said `Talk, child.’
Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: `Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too! I never saw one alive before!’
`Well, now that we have seen each other,’ said the Unicorn, `if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?’

The invisible unicorn challenge at Camp Quest
Campers are told that two invisible unicorns inhabit the camp, who cannot be seen, heard, touched, smelled, tasted, cannot hurt you, do not eat and leave no mark. An ancient book handed down for countless generations offers proof that the unicorns exist, though no one is allowed to see this book. Any camper who can prove that the unicorns do not exist will win a £10 note that has a picture of Charles Darwin and is signed by Richard Dawkins. The unicorns are not necessarily a metaphor for God, they are to show kids that you can’t prove a negative.

Wikipedia- Unicorn

The Unicorn
A Poem by Shel Silverstein
Recorded by the Irish Rovers

A long time ago, when the Earth was green
There was more kinds of animals than you’ve ever seen
They’d run around free while the Earth was being born
And the loveliest of all was the unicorn

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn

The Lord seen some sinning and it gave Him pain
And He says, “Stand back, I’m going to make it rain”
He says, “Hey Noah, I’ll tell you what to do
Build me a floating zoo,
and take some of those

Green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
Don’t you forget My unicorns

Old Noah was there to answer the call
He finished up making the ark just as the rain started to fall
He marched the animals two by two
And he called out as they came through
Hey Lord,

I’ve got green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but Lord, I’m so forlorn
I just can’t find no unicorns”

And Noah looked out through the driving rain
Them unicorns were hiding, playing silly games
Kicking and splashing while the rain was falling
Oh, them silly unicorns

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Noah cried, “Close the door because the rain is falling
And we just can’t wait for no unicorns”

The ark started moving, it drifted with the tide
The unicorns looked up from the rocks and they cried
And the waters came down and sort of floated them away
That’s why you never see unicorns to this very day

You’ll see green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
You’re never gonna see no unicorns.


The Unicorn Gate or The Portal of Diana (at a castle where Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast was filmed)

Spark Notes: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (1944)


BBC Radio 4 Programmes – Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time, The Unicorn (Thu, 28 Oct 2010)

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