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Tiger-Tiger, is it True?

by Byron Katie and Hans Wilhelm

Summary

Tiger-Tiger, is it True? is about negative thoughts, where they come from, and how to deal with them.

When Tiger-Tiger has a bad day, he starts thinking that nobody likes him or cares about him. But when wise Turtle shows up and asks him how he knows these things to be true, Tiger-Tiger discovers that it is only his own thoughts that are making him unhappy.

Read aloud video by Karen Laughton

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Tiger-Tiger, is it True? raises a lot of ideas about the nature of our thoughts and feelings. It is the story of a little tiger who believes that no one likes him or cares about him, and continues to find evidence to prove the truth of this thought throughout the course of his day, until his belief is brought into question. It turns out that when he takes a step back from the frightening thought, he can find plenty of evidence to disprove it as well.

The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of knowledge and thought, and how we know what we know, is called epistemology. The well-known philosopher René Descartes sought systematically to doubt everything, and thus find some certainty, something that he could not doubt, and construct a “theory of knowledge” from there.

Tiger-Tiger takes a different epistemological approach to constructing his own “theory of knowledge.” He learns to disprove his upsetting thoughts by finding evidence that they are untrue. When Tiger-Tiger tells Turtle, “nobody cares about me,” Turtle helps Tiger-Tiger to see that he doesn’t have good evidence for this belief, for his parents do things that show that they do love him.

How can we know whether any of our thoughts are true? The purpose of this philosophical discussion is to get the children thinking about thoughts and feelings and/or how they find good evidence for their beliefs. They might veer off in an entirely different direction, wanting to discuss the way that Tiger-Tiger was left-out on the playground or times that they have felt sad and lonely. That is okay too. Follow their lead, and try to help them deepen their discussion and eventually come to talking about ideas rather than events.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Truth

Tiger-Tiger realized it wasn’t true that nobody liked him or cared about him.

  1. How did Tiger-Tiger figure out that it wasn’t true that nobody liked him or cared about him?
  2. How can you figure out that something is not true?
  3. Is it okay to believe something even if you can prove that it is untrue?
  4. Say I believed that you were all dolphins. How would you prove to me that this was untrue?

Thoughts

Tiger-Tiger thought that no one liked him or cared about him.

  1. Do you think it’s true that no one likes or cares about Tiger-Tiger? Why or why not?
  2. If it’s not true, why did Tiger-Tiger think so?
  3. Are our thoughts always true?
  4. If our thoughts aren’t always true, how can we know which ones are and which ones aren’t?
  5. Where do thoughts come from?
  6. Why do we all have different thoughts? Why don’t we all have the same thoughts, all the time?
  7. Can a thought hurt you?
  8. How can you tell what you are thinking?

Feelings

Tiger-Tiger felt upset when he thought that no one liked him or cared about him.

  1. How did Tiger-Tiger feel when he thought nobody liked him or cared about him? Have you ever felt like that?
  2. Do our feelings change what we think/believe?
  3. In the past, when you have felt sad/upset/scared/angry, how did you act?
  4. What about a time you felt really, really happy? How did you act?
  5. What are feelings? Where do they come from?
  6. How is feeling different from thinking?
  7. Why do we have feelings?
  8. What is the difference between a good feeling and a bad feeling?
  9. What if we were just happy all the time? Would that be good?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion archived here. Edited May 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.

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

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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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