Unicorn realism

Twilight Sparkle

My intuition tells me they look like this. You might disagree, but then your theory is highly counterintuitive. Ergo, they look like this.

I’m going to show that unicorns might exist. Very probably exist, actually. It’s practically certain, but I need to be humble, so I’m sort of willing to consider I might be wrong, although not really.

The thing is, there’s this great philosophical mystery. We can talk about unicorns, we have a word for them and everything, and yet there are no unicorns in this world. How can this possibly be?

Oh, you might think there could be words that just refer to imaginary things and that’s it, but then you’re obviously not a philosopher, because you’re not immediately asking what the ontological status of these imaginary things is.

What is it that we’re talking about when we’re talking about unicorns? It’s not like we’re talking about nothing. If we say they have two horns, we get it wrong, so now we even need something to make it right or wrong what we say about them. And it’s a word! Surely it must have a referent!

Well, I think it’s obvious at this point that unicorns exist in some other world we can’t get to and don’t know anything about. This explains everything so neatly. Just think about it: when we’re talking about “unicorns”, we’re referring to these beasts in the other world, and what’s true about unicorns is what’s true about them.


Alternative argument: Think of the maximally fabulous unicorn. Are you doing it? Yes? A-HA! How could you possibly do that if she didn’t exist, since then she’d be less fabulous?

The beauty of it is that this theory means we don’t have to think there’s any weird extra stuff. If we thought we could talk about things that don’t exist, we’d have to think there exist some imaginary or abstract entities. Now, we only have to postulate some extra concrete entities that we have no way of ever seeing or otherwise detecting to exist but that we know are out there somewhere because of the structure of our language that has developed completely independently of any interaction with them. This makes so much more sense.

Obviously the correct way to interpret the philosophical maxim to postulate only as many kinds of entities as are needed is to think that we can know what happens in other worlds.

I suppose someone might try to build some theory where stuff we say can make sense without things for every word, but do you know how complicated that would be? I don’t, because I’m not even going to try since this theory is so obviously less problematic.

Here are my replies to some objections:

  • If these unicorns are in another world we have no contact with, how do they explain what we say about them? The theory doesn’t explain eg. how we in practice say they have one horn instead of two, since we can’t get the information from the other world.

Answer: Oh, when I said it explains everything, I didn’t mean it explains the concrete facts. Just all the important stuff. I’m sure we can all imagine roughly how we imagine unicorns in our minds and base what we say on that and stuff like that, but that’s just how things actually are and how they work. We all know that, but I’m answering the real mystery of how we can’t understand this thing at all.

  •  Shouldn’t philosophy start with the facts with real evidence and understand them better rather than making up facts to enable arbitrary models?

Answer: No.


See also

If someone’s confused, this was a parody of bad philosophical argumentation. I need to say this because there’s always someone who doesn’t get it. And my stance here is not against philosophy but against bad philosophy.


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