The Philosophy of Entertainment
Royal Fireworks Press has just released our newest set of books in the Western philosophy series: The Transparent Eyeball. The student book, a novel, has an accompanying guidebook that allows children to delve deeply into the philosophical issues that the characters in the novel face. Together, the books provide both an entertaining read and a way of exploring the depths of a major philosophical movement.
In The Transparent Eyeball novel, we meet TJ, a teenager filled with classic adolescent angst who believes that no one understands him. He finds a cabin in the woods, and that night he begins having a series of unusually vivid dreams that take him to another cabin, this one on the shores of Walden Pond and inhabited by Henry David Thoreau. It doesn’t take long for TJ to discover that he’s sharing the dream with another character, a girl named Ivy, and that together, they are witnessing the Transcendentalist Movement in real time. They meet several eminent philosophers and writers, including Thoreau, Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and Margaret Fuller, and they learn about Transcendentalism and the social issues surrounding slavery and women’s rights. Along the way, they must solve a murder mystery.
With TJ’s newfound knowledge and understanding, his view of life changes, and he grows from his experiences with the Transcendentalists, dreams though they are. Children who read the novel can come away with their own new perspectives that may allow them to see the world in a calmer, more peaceful, more holistic light, and now, more than ever, that would be a good thing for everyone.
The guidebook contains original readings from several of the philosophers and writers during the Transcendentalist Movement. Although the readings are challenging, they are accompanied by sets of questions that will allow students to think deeply about both the philosophical issues raised in the novel and the readings themselves, even if the students did not fully understand the readings. The questions invite children to consider various ideas and opinions; there is no right answer, but there is much to think about. It is precisely this kind of thinking that makes us better, more compassionate, more thoughtful people—and, not unimportantly, better problem solvers.
Sharon Kaye’s philosophy series does triple duty as highly entertaining reading for kids while expanding their minds with important knowledge and high-level thinking challenges. Dr. Kaye is a master at wrapping philosophical dilemmas in entertaining picture books and novels for children, from beginning readers to high schoolers. The Transparent Eyeball is the tenth book in Dr. Kaye’s series that takes children on a tour of Western philosophy, from the pre-Socratics through Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to the Stoics and Epicureans, to the early Christian philosophers, then through the Enlightenment to Kant and the Categorical Imperative, and now to American shores and the Transcendentalists.
In every case, Dr. Kaye has provided for the students a book that is engaging and fun to read, but it is entertainment with a serious purpose. In reading the novels, the students get to experience a philosophical problem and begin developing an awareness of the implications of the problem and how it might affect people’s lives. From there, they can gain an understanding of the positions that various thinkers have taken during the course of the last two and a half millennia. This is a process that truly challenges children’s thinking abilities.
A small number of lucky kids get to study philosophy with Sharon Kaye herself. This summer, she is offering a course on reality, identity, and autonomy, and in the fall, she teaches about justice, faith, and free will. These are fabulous opportunities for bright children to stretch their minds in a discussion group with other highly engaged children.