Try this! Philosophers love what they call ‘thought experiments’. They imagine some unlikely situation and then explore how it would be to be in such a situation. This one is about a (very famous) philosopher sitting together with a (very pensive) lion for a chat, without any fear of being mauled.

If a lion could speak, we could not understand him



From: Philosophical Investigations (English translation 1953, p. 223)

Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1889 - 1951

(in German)

“Wenn ein Löwe sprechen könnte,

wir könnten ihn nicht verstehen“.

From: Philosophische Untersuchungen



Let us assume that the problem of translating Lionese into English (and reverse) is solved.

Would you talk to a lion and …

  • ask him how he feels
  • tell him a dream you had last night
  • invite him to play soccer with you
  • talk about the Corona virus
  • tell him you don’t understand him?

If you were a lion, would you talk about

  • your favourite meat
  • having a tooth ache or a sore toe
  • things only lions see, feel or are interested in
  • what you learned from your parents
  • how humans behave?



Tiger who came to tea

Or …

would you understand the tiger in The Tiger who Came to Tea [by Judith Kerr], that he stayed for tea, behaved very well, but … didn’t come back. Would you understand why he never came back?

[Pieter Mostert, 20 March 2020]

Posted by Steve Hoggins on 20th March 2020 at 12:00am


Please include me.

Posted by Wendy French on 19th March 2020 at 05:27pm