What do you know about unicorns?
- mythical creatures
- look similar to horses
- usually white
- have a single horn protruding from the forehead.
What else is there to know?
It appears there could be much more to learn by engaging in philosophical discussions, especially with young children, about the existence of unicorns and their features.
For many years I have been a fan of Philosophy for Children (P4C), a pedagogical approach for teaching children to think critically, to wonder, question and reason. The approach is “taught” through student-led discussion in which the teacher is present to offer support, rather than leadership. Students are presented with a stimulus, about which they initially ask questions. When there are no more questions to ask, children discuss their thoughts and responses.
I knew unicorns would be a great starting point for philosophical discussions with children, so wasn’t surprised to find suggestions for conducting an enquiry into Unicorn Horns – Thinking about Things that Don’t Exist by The Philosophy Foundation.
The suggested discussion centres around fictional characters, including the more controversial ones such as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy which I’ve previously discussed here and here.
What intrigued me most in the article was
“The problem (is) characterized in this statement ‘The Tooth Fairy does not exist’, which seems to say ‘there is something that does not exist’, but then if it does not exist then how can it be anything?”
Or another way of putting it,
“‘If there is anything that can’t exist, then it exists, so there can’t be anything that can’t exist.’”
Me too! Please pop over to the article for greater clarity. Then maybe you can explain it to me.
The article continued with suggestions of other questions about unicorns that could be discussed; for example:
- Are unicorns real?
- If something doesn’t exist, can it have any special features?
- How many horns does a unicorn have?
- What if a unicorn is born without a horn, is it still a unicorn?
- What if a horse is born with a horn, would it be a unicorn?
- Since ‘uni’ means one, is any animal with one horn a unicorn?
- What about a narwhal? Is it a unicorn?
My thoughts of unicorns this week were instigated by the flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a unicorn. It can be realistic or fantastical. Go where the prompt leads.
Now, I have written about unicorns before, here, here and here.
In a post about security comforters, I explained that a toy unicorn was of comfort to Marnie when she was feeling particularly vulnerable. Her need for it continued into her early school years and its appearance was an indicator to teachers that things were going badly for her again. When, as a confident adult, she returned to her childhood home, she found she had long outgrown the unicorn that had given her comfort as a child.
In some of Marnie’s stories, she was teased and bullied, mainly by a boy named Brucie. Fortunately, she had a good friend in Jasmine who was often there to offer her support.
In my response to Charli’s unicorn prompt, I revisit Marnie and Brucie and attempt to add a little philosophy to their discussion. I hope you like it.
Unicorns aren’t real
“What’s that supposed to be?” sneered Brucie.
Marnie bit her lip.
“Doesn’t look like anything to me,” he scoffed, inviting an audience.
“A unicorn,” she whispered.
“Miss said, ‘Draw your favourite animal.’ A unicorn can’t be your favourite animal–it’s not even real.”
Marnie continued drawing.
“Anyway, doesn’t look like a unicorn with those four horns.”
“They’re not horns.”
“Marnie’s unicorn’s got four horns,” laughed Brucie, a little too loudly.
“He said my unicorn’s got four horns. He said unicorns aren’t real.”
“How can unicorns have four horns if they’re not real?” asked Miss.
Brucie was silent.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.