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Who Is the Beast?

by Keith Baker

Summary

In thinking and discussing the concepts of difference in this book, fear becomes central to the conversation.

Tiger looks into the pond and begins to wonder if he is “the beast” all the jungle animals are afraid of. When the tiger goes back to the jungle animals to find out if he is the beast, they see he discovers that he shares some of the same characteristics with each of the other animals.

Read aloud video by Haley Encarnacion

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

In the children’s story, Who is the Beast by Joseph Baker, there are two main philosophical themes to be extracted. The first is the philosophical question of fear including its dimensions and its core essence. The second is the question of difference and the perception of the “Other.” Both of these questions are particularly pertinent in today’s world when misunderstanding and fear motivate social problems.

In thinking and discussing the concepts of difference, fear becomes central to the conversation. Understanding fear and its effects on the individual is the first step in understanding the self and, ultimately, society. Without pondering fear one cannot grasp the core essence of the philosophical question of difference, because fear is often the main motivation behind the creation and perception of difference. Fear, acting as a natural reaction to the unknown, has programmed the individual to perceive the unfamiliar as an Other, Beast, etc., consequently viewing the unfamiliar as a threat and, therefore, an enemy. It is fundamentally important to the discussion to make the tie between fear, irrationality, and emotion. Fear is an emotion first and foremost, and is therefore not always susceptible to logic and rational argument. This reality triggered by fear springing from the unknown results in the dynamic combination that contributes to fear being the natural source of the perception of the “Other.”

The role fear plays in the creation of the unfamiliar is key to understanding and unlocking the negative dimensions of the “Other.” Through understanding and acknowledging fear and its central role in difference, thereby releasing its power over us, we can begin to explore and understand what initially scared us. Once fear has dispelled its inherently defensive attitude, the individual is open to seeing the world anew. With renewed perception the groundwork for tolerance and understanding is laid; and in removing fear, possibilities for growth abound.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

In the story, each of the jungle animals are scared when they see the beast.

  1. What do you think is scary?
  2. How do you feel when you are scared?
  3. Why do you get scared?

Each of the jungle animals sees a different piece of the tiger that makes them think they have seen a beast.

  1. Why do the jungle animals call the tiger a beast?
  2. What is a beast?
  3. Why do we think things that scare us are bad?
  4. Why are we generally afraid of what we don’t know?

Tiger looks into the pond and begins to wonder if he is “the beast” all the jungle animals are afraid of.

  1. Have you ever been surprised to find out what other people think about you?
  2. How did other people’s ideas about you make you feel?
  3. Are other people’s ideas about you right or wrong?
  4. Do you have ideas about people different than you?
  5. How do you think they feel about your ideas?

When the tiger goes back to the jungle animals to find out if he is the beast, he discovers that he shares some of the same characteristics with each of the other animals.

  1. What are some of the things the jungle animals all share?
  2. What is different about the animals?
  3. What do you share in common with the other kids in the class?
  4. What is different about you and the other kids in the class?

At the end of the story, the tiger and the other jungle animals realize they are all beasts.

  1. Have you ever thought you were really different from someone else and then found out that you weren’t? When?
  2. Have you ever felt left out and then made friends with someone else and stopped feeling like you were left out? When?
  3. How did you feel after that happened?
  4. How do you think the world would be different if people made friends with the people they thought were different from them?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Brianna R. Armbuster. 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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Back to All Books Illustrated book cover for Who Is the Beast? featuring a large drawing of a tiger's face surrounded by lush greenery. The tiger looks worried. 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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