Examples of Aporia Questions Using Picture Books

Blog of the APA (2019)
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The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. – Albert Einstein In my philosophical discussions with elementary school children, I use questions not just to uncover hidden assumptions the children may have, but to lead them to a place of aporia – puzzlement, a place of “not-knowing.” If some children assume that to be brave is to be fearless, I not only ask why they assume this, but go on to ask how it is that we can be called brave, if we’re not even afraid? What’s there to be brave about? With this question, I try to bring the children to a place of “aporia,” a place of puzzlement. Aporia empowers thinking. Philosophy is the pursuit of clear thinking; it is also the pursuit of wisdom, a deeper truth (see quote). Wonder captivates us and connects us to the world around us. In “doing” philosophy with children, this sense of wonder is expanded upon. In their book, Journey of the Universe Swimme and Tucker state, “For or a young mammal, behavior is open-ended in a way that is rarer in adults… In a word, what often occupies their consciousness is play…. they enter into many kinds of relationships out of sheer curiosity.” In doing philosophy with children, we play with ideas. Shobhan Lyons states in her article, “What makes a philosopher?”, in Philosophy Now, “Linking philosophy and truth is a common approach; but I believe that philosophy is less a search for truth and more an engagement with possibilities; …” For example, whereas fear may be a good thing in some instances, it may not be in others. Lying may be necessary in some instances and a good thing (although, it doesn’t imply that lying in itself is a good thing), and in other cases it may be harmful and hurtful. So how do you decide? This is where navigational skills come into play. What may work in some instances may in fact be the entirely wrong thing to do in other cases. So how can you tell? This is where you need to learn how to respond to complex situations. I conclude with examples of aporia questions for 8 picture book stories. “Dragons and Giants,” in Frog and Toad Together, by Arnold Lobel: The question is, are Frog and Toad brave? Children often conclude that to be brave you cannot be afraid. Since Frog and Toad are afraid, they cannot be brave. An aporia question is, whether you can be brave without being afraid? If you are not in the least afraid, what makes you brave? Another aporia question is, whether Frog and Toad would be foolish rather than brave if they were not to jump out of the way of the snake, the avalanche or the hawk. A third aporia question has to do with the question how we know we are foolish or brave when dealing with that which is dangerous.
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