Happily ever after? Using children’s stories to teach philosophy and ethics
Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? What is language? Can you have a private language? Is life ever not worth living? Should a leader conceal the truth if it saves more lives to do so?
These are some of the most profound questions anyone may be faced with and you would be forgiven for thinking that they were taken from an undergraduate philosophy degree programme. But actually these questions are all tacitly asked by stories:
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? (Shrek by William Steig)
• What is language? (Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems)
• Can you have a private language? (Alice Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol)
• Is life ever not worth living? (The Seven Voyages of Sindbad from The Arabian Nights)
• Should a leader conceal the truth if it saves more lives to do so? (The Odyssey by Homer)
Stories are regularly used as teaching tools, but the potential for thinking with them is often overlooked. We learn that it’s wrong to break into other people’s houses from having The Three Bears read to us, and we understand the dangers of talking to strangers from Little Red Riding Hood. But have you ever thought about the ethics of bargaining away your own brother’s life to secure your survival in The Three Billy Goats Gruff? Or that Jack (of the beanstalk fame) finds his happily-ever-after through breaking and entering, stealing someone’s valuables and then murdering them.
Read full article: The Guardian