World Book Day 2024

A world without…

If you put something in the Hiding Box, it no longer exists. Place a book into it, or suggest placing it in. Then ask, "Would you put books into the hiding box?" (implied question: "Would the world be better or worse without books?")

(From Peter Worley's 40 lessons to get children thinking, Thought Adventure 40)

Thoth and Thamus

In Ancient Egypt, there was a god called Thoth who liked to invent new things. He had already invented arithmetic, calculation, geometry and astronomy, as well as draughts and dice, but his latest and greatest discovery was writing. Now, in those days, the king of the whole of Egypt was King Thamus. If Thoth's inventions were to be put to use across Egypt, they would need the King's approval. So Thoth took his inventions to the King, seeking his approval. Thoth explained all the different inventions to Thamus, and Thamus asked questions about their uses, praising some of them and criticising others. Eventually they came to writing. 

Start Question 1: If you were Thoth what would you say to persuade Thamus to agree to introduce your new invention, writing, to the people of Egypt?

Start Question 2: If you were Thamus would you praise or criticise Thoth's new invention, writing?

Questions to take you further

  • Is writing a good thing? Why or why not?
  • What do you think life was like before writing was invented? 
  • Why do you think writing was invented? 
  • Do you think our memories are improved by writing, or not? 
  • 'Writing', said Thoth, 'will make people wiser and give them better memories.'

But King Thamus replied, 'Ingenious Thoth, I'm afraid the inventor of something is not always best judge of the value of his own inventions to the people who use them. I do not agree with you that writing will make people wiser. It will create forgetfulness in the people's minds, because they will not use their memories and then will put their trust in writing instead. Instead of remembering for themselves, they will rely on something outside their minds. If you give the Egyptian people this tool - writing - they will be the hearers of many things but will have learned nothing. They will appear to know everything but will in fact know nothing, and as a result they make terrible company because they will appear wise instead of really being so.' 

Start Question 3: Do you agree with King Thamus or do you agree with Thoth? Why? 

Questions to take you further

  • Do you still know something if you need reminding?
  • Is knowing something the same as being able to remember it?
  • Is there a difference between wisdom and knowledge? 
  • Why does King Thamus worry about writing being 'outside' of the mind? Is he right to worry?
  • What would King Thamus have thought about internet resources like Wikipedia? Do you agree with what Thamus would have thought?
  • If there was no writing, would we be able to talk? 
  • Which do you think came first, language or writing?

(From The Philosophy Shop (ed. Peter Worley), by Claire Field)

The Txt Book

Professor Pen and Professor Utterance are both employed by the University of Language. Professor Pen is the world's leading expert on writing and Professor Utterance is the world's leading expert on talking. With the recent introduction of' texting' between people, using mobile phones, the university has decided to include texting as part of its research and would like to have a big textbook written on the subject of texting, to be called 'The Txt Book'. The problem that the University of Language has is to decide who should be appointed with the task of writing the textbook. Should it be Professor Pen or Professor Utterance? 

Start Question: When you text, are you writing or talking?

Questions to take you further:

  • What is writing?
  • What is talking?
  • What is the difference between the two?
  • What about emails? Are they writing or talking?

(From The Philosophy Shop (ed. Peter Worley))

More Booky Questions

  • Is a novel on an e-book reader, such as Kindle, a book? 
  • If you listen to War and Peace as an audiobook, have you read it? 
  • If all your books are kept only on an e-book reader, do you own any books? 
  • If you memorise a book, do you own that book? Are YOU a book? Is there a book inside you? 
  • "Now that we have TVs, computers, phones and the internet, we no longer need books. The children of the future will no longer use books, and will perhaps, have no need for reading." Discuss.

You can find these enquiries and many others in our online shop.

The Book of Everything in 40 lessons to get children thinking
The Book of Life in The If Machine 2nd ed (currently sold out on our website but you can buy from Hive to support your local bookshop)
The Fiction section in The Philosophy Shop

We hope you have a great World Book Day!

The Philosohphy Foundation

Posted by Kim Down on 5th March 2024 at 12:00am

Category: Philosophy