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Owen tells the story of an unconventional friendship between a young mouse and his blanket, Fuzzy.
Owen is a young mouse about to start school. Owen treats Fuzzy, his blanket, like it is his best friend. When Owen’s neighbor, Mrs. Tweezers, sees Owen playing with the blanket, she suggests ways for Owen’s parents to try to get Owen to get rid of Fuzzy before it’s time for him to start school. Owen is very upset. Everyone seems to be unhappy until Owen’s mother comes up with a solution that pleases everyone.
Read aloud video by Mr. Paulson
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
Owen tells the story of an unconventional friendship between a young mouse and his blanket, Fuzzy. The nature of this friendship is explored in the story as Owen plays and receives moral support from his blanket Fuzzy, whom he considers a friend. Does this raise the ethical issue of what makes a friend? Other questions stem from this relationship, such as whether physical objects or things such as a blanket can possess human-like characteristics such as liking food or playing. The story asks whether something like a blanket, which cannot talk, or perform anything solely on its own, has the capability of being Owen’s friend. Most would consider a friend, firstly, to be a person or something that is alive, as well as someone who can think, perform actions, and give pleasure to the other person he or she is a friend to. In the story, Fuzzy does not do anything that does not involve Owen using him in one way or another. Owen assigns characteristics to Fuzzy such as the fact that he likes the same food, based on no factual evidence. Also, Fuzzy cannot talk, which asks us to consider whether we can be friends with someone whom we cannot directly communicate with. While these scenarios present conflicts and difficulties, the question of whether we can be friends with an object remains central.
Owen can also be used to comment on the nature of perfection within the branch of Aesthetics. The idea of perfection describes an entity that is flawless and ideal. In the story, Owen sees Fuzzy as “perfect” and “essential,” whereby his parents and neighbor see Fuzzy as immature, “dirty,” “torn and ratty.” First, we must address the differences in subjectivity, where two groups of people can see one thing completely differently. Owen identifies Fuzzy as perfect, as he does not refer to the physical characteristic of the blanket, rather he associates the blanket as a source of comfort and friendship. The blanket has meaning to Owen, which surpasses how others may feel about him. Although the blanket is not “perfect” physically, Owen can still feel that Fuzzy possesses an ideal quality that is known to him alone, which he characterizes as “perfect.” Owen’s parents and neighbor see Fuzzy completely differently. They assign the property that Fuzzy is too immature, and that it is not even a good-looking blanket. They base their feelings about Fuzzy on the physical appearance and the strain that society places on children who hold onto things that are immature. How can two people see the same object as being completely different? Can something that is imperfect be seen to be perfect?
Lastly, when Owen’s mother decides to snip and sew Fuzzy into numerous tiny little handkerchiefs, questions can be drawn from the philosophical idea of identity through change, meaning “whatever makes an entity definable and recognizable, in terms of possessing a set of qualities or characteristics that distinguish it from entities of a different type.” Fuzzy is snipped, but Owen still uses the handkerchiefs in many of his activities. In fact, he can use them in the same way as he did even though Fuzzy is reduced in size. The handkerchiefs are also an acceptable compromise among Owen, his parents, and his neighbor Mrs. Tweezers. Why is this so? When Fuzzy is no longer a blanket, do all of the handkerchiefs become Fuzzy? Or is Fuzzy lost forever? If you manipulate the essential characteristic of any object, does it change? How much change is necessary for the actual thing to change? Owen is a charming and simple book, enjoyable for children of many ages. It can be useful when exploring different philosophical branches and is a great start for a lifetime full of philosophical debate.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Owen sees “Fuzzy” as “perfect” and “essential,” his parents and Mrs. Tweezers see it as immature, “dirty,” “torn and ratty.”
- Why do Owen’s parents and Mrs. Tweezers think Fuzzy is immature, dirty, and ratty?
- Why does Owen think Fuzzy is perfect?
- Why doesn’t it matter to Owen what Fuzzy looks like?
- Can something that looks imperfect still be perfect?
Owen’s mother snips and sews Fuzzy into tiny little handkerchiefs.
- Do Owen’s feelings about Fuzzy change after Fuzzy is snipped into tiny little handkerchiefs?
- Is Fuzzy still Fuzzy after he is snipped? Why or Why not?
- For Owen, does Fuzzy need to be a blanket?
- How much can a thing be changed before it is no longer the same thing?
Owen says, “Fuzzy goes where I go. And Fuzzy did…Fuzzy likes what I like. And Fuzzy did.”
- Can a blanket like food?
- Can a blanket go places?
- Does Fuzzy really play with Owen?
- Can objects, like Fuzzy, do things that people cannot?
- Fuzzy cannot speak. Is it necessary for a friend to talk?
- How can Fuzzy be Owen’s friend?
- Can you think of anything good about having a friend that cannot talk with you directly?
- Can you think of anything hard about having a friend that cannot talk with you directly?
- What makes a good friend?
- Can an object be a friend?
Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Alex Mercurio. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.
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