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I Know the Moon

by Stephen Axel Anderson


I Know the Moon explores how our differences in perception can lead us to “know” about things in different ways.

All of the animals have their own concept of the moon. They have an argument as to whose concept is the correct one. The owl interrupts them and says, “There is but one moon, we shall have but one answer.” They go to a man of science to find out the truth about the moon. When he tells them it can be only known through words, the animals are dissatisfied with his answer.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

I Know the Moon is a story about perception and the search for what is true. Each of the creatures in the book believes he alone knows the moon. When their arguments lead nowhere, the night creatures turn to the Man of Science. Surely he will be able to settle their dispute. However, the man of science knows the moon only through books. His moon is nothing like theirs. All of the animals still believe that their perception of the moon is correct. In the end, they all look at the moon silently together.

This book was not written specifically to teach children philosophy. However, it has many philosophical ideas hidden within it. There are specifically at least three strains of questions: Is there only one truth? The aim of these questions is to get the children to think about whether there is only one right answer to questions in the world. Children naturally ask questions all the time, but do they necessarily expect that there is only one true answer? These questions aid the children to start questioning the idea of truth. There is often only one “right” answer within the traditional classroom; however, there are a lot of questions in this world that don’t seem to have only one answer. These questions may also bring discussion about how we can arrive at the truth and whether it is all right to agree to disagree. Can everyone have their own perception of an idea that is true to them? Can truth be relative? These questions are basically aimed at getting the children to question the concept that there might not always be a “right” answer for questions about the world.

How do you know what you know? These questions are geared to question how we acquire knowledge. Are you born knowing things? Do you learn from other things or from just being? When you “learn” things, is it possible that you already knew them, and it just took something to awaken the answers in you? These are questions that children may already wonder about. They are told that they should go to school to learn, but the idea of knowledge itself is often not addressed. Adults question the idea of knowledge all of the time. It makes sense to ask children what they think because they are starting their many years of education. Education is known as the quest for knowledge, so children should be able to question what knowledge is and how we know things. These questions are aimed to let children explore the idea of knowledge as well as the ways it may be acquired, if indeed it is acquired.

Can words express everything? These questions ask children what words are and whether words can express everything in the world. Children, as well as adults, will often feel that they can not find words to express what they mean. Does this mean that their vocabulary just is not large enough? Could it be that we just can not express everything through words? Do words shape what we can communicate? Can we learn everything there is to know by reading words? Are there some things that may only be learned through experience? Can some things only be felt and not expressed? These questions also bring up the idea of other forms of communication that are outside of word usage, such as dance or physical contact (hugs and kisses). Ultimately, these questions are geared to ask whether words can sufficiently express what we feel and know. Is it possible that we would have different thoughts if we spoke a different language because the words within that language are different? These questions allow children to think about the words they speak every day, and how they allow them to communicate.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

All the animals had a different idea of what the moon is. Each of the animals was convinced that he knew the moon, and they all begin to bicker. The owl broke up the fight and said, “There is but one moon, we shall have but one answer.”

  1. When you look at the moon, what do you see?
  2. How did you get that idea?
  3. Do you think there is only one right answer to what the moon is? Have you ever been in an argument?
  4. When you had an argument, how did you settle the argument?
  5. Did you change the other person’s mind or did that person change your mind?
  6. Can you think of cases in which all of the people in an argument are right, and cases in which there is only one true answer?
  7. When there is only one answer, how do you know which is right?

The animals go to the Man of Science to find out the truth about the moon.

  1. Who would you go to in order to find out the truth?
  2. How do you think that person knows the truth?
  3. If something is written in a science book, does that make it true?
  4. Can science give us the answers for everything?

The Man of Science believed the moon can only be known through words. He said, “Facts and figures all in orbit! Read the moon then absorb it.” The fox, however, said, “The Man says it’s made of letters. I know it’s more the spaces in between.”

  1. Let’s make a list of ways we can communicate without words. For example, a smile.
  2. Have you ever tried to say something, but couldn’t think of the words to say it?
  3. Can you always use words to explain things?
  4. Is using words always the strongest way to communicate or can some of the things on our list better express our thoughts, or feelings?

The Man of Science said that you must look to words to know the moon. The fox doesn’t agree and says that the moon must be chased and felt and seen. All of the animals still feel strongly that their moon is the real one.

  1. Have you ever strongly felt that you know you are right about something, even though everyone tells you that you are wrong?
  2. When you feel that you are right, how do you know you are right?
  3. Are you born knowing these ideas, or do you know what you know because someone told you?
  4. How do you think you acquire knowledge?
  5. Have you ever tried to express something, but couldn’t think of the words to express it?
  6. Can words explain everything that exists in the world?
  7. Can you learn about everything in the world by reading?
  8. Can we express our feelings or ideas without using words?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Paula A. Carpentier. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.

Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.

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Back to All Books Illustrated book cover for I Know the Moon featuring the night sky and animals. The animals include a moth, fox, frog, mouse, and owl. They're arguing in front of the large moon. Download & Print Email Book Module

About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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