Miles Kington: Spellbound in court as illusions are shattered

He said he would perform magic; magic a rabbit into a hat. But the rabbit was in the hat all along
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The Independent Online

Counsel: Your name is Professor Edwin Duck?

Duck: No.

Counsel: No?

Duck: No.

Counsel: What is your name, then?

Duck: My name is Edwin Duck.

Counsel: Is that not what I said?

Duck: No, sir. You said "Professor Edwin Duck". That is a name plus a professional title.

Counsel: It comes to the same thing, does it not?

Duck: Not quite. As this trial progresses, it may well hinge on some finely drawn descriptions, therefore I think it is as well if we start on a firm footing, and get our terms of reference sorted out.

Counsel: Thank you.

Duck: You are welcome.

Counsel: Now, Professor Duck, of what discipline are you a professor?

Duck: I am a professor of logic and philosophy.

Counsel: Really? Do logic and philosophy have anything in common?

Duck: Of course. Logic is the art of giving the right answers and philosophy is the art of asking the right questions.

Counsel: That sounds very clever.

Duck: Thank you.

Counsel: But does it mean anything?

Duck: No.

Counsel: Thank you. Now, on 13 July last, I believe you were present at a private party given by Lord Ashbone.

Duck: That is so.

Counsel: Is that his real name?

Duck: Whose?

Counsel: Lord Ashbone's.

Duck: No, it is a title.

Counsel: Is that his real title?

Duck: Insofar as a title can be real. Was it not Heidegger who said that names disguise our essence, but titles disguise even our names?

Counsel: Was it?

Duck: Was it what?

Counsel: Was it Heidegger who said that?

Duck: Yes.

Judge: If I might interrupt here, Mr Brownlow ...

Counsel: Yes, your honour?

Judge: This is a load of hog manure. Get to the nitty gritty.

Counsel: Yes, your honour. Now, Professor Duck, at this party given by Lord Ashbone there was a magician known as The Great Sapristi, who gave a 20-minute performance. Was he good?

Duck: No, he was not. He kept proclaiming that he would perform magic, but he consistently failed to do so. He said he would produce a ping pong ball that someone had in their ear. That ball was not in the ear in the first place. He said he would magic a rabbit into a hat. But that rabbit had been in the hat all along. He even claimed to pull a string of coloured flags from my body. Wherever they had been, those flags had not been in my body. I am therefore bringing a case against him for not performing magic, as he claimed to be doing.

Counsel: But surely you do not expect a magician to perform real magic?

Duck: Why not? He told us that that was what he would do. Watch carefully, he said: this hat is empty. This man has a ping pong ball in his ear. This card is going back unmarked into the pack. But in every case he was deceiving us!

Counsel: Mr Duck, it strikes me that you are not conversant with the nature of magic.

Duck: On the contrary. I know very well what magic is. It is something which flies in the face of science and baffles everyone. This was not magic. It was conjuring. Conjuring is logical and explicable. But The Great Sapristi does not bill himself as a conjuror. He calls himself a magician. All my life I have been hoping to see real and pure magic. The Great Sapristi promised to provide it. "Half an Hour of Real Magic" - that is his slogan. At last I have decided to call these so-called magicians to account. That is all.

More of this fascinating stuff some other time.

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