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Zero

by Kathryn Otoshi

Summary

What does it mean to have value, and how do you determine someone’s value?

Zero worries about her worth. She goes on a roller coaster ride to find her value. She fails miserably at first, but in the end, she discovers that she does have value, just like the other numbers, and she can help the other numbers count for more.

Read aloud video by The Storybook Show

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

The issues raised by this book are intriguing. First, we know that having a zero amount of something means that we have nothing. So how can something that is nothing have value? Even though Zero eventually understands her value, we can still ask ourselves how much value does she have, and how do we know that? If 0 and 5 are considered to have value, would someone be happy with 0 apples instead of 5?

Second, the value that Zero finds in herself, in the end, is a complementary one. Her value is apparent only when she is combined with other numbers. Does that mean she has no value on her own? Similarly, can we say 2 has value if 1 didn’t exist? So does that mean all numbers are dependent on one another for their own value? Would this make the other numbers just like 0, who doesn’t have a value of its own?

Third, we are faced with a more profound question: what is value? How does someone decide if something has value? What is the difference between an object’s face value and its hidden value? We know all things don’t have the same value. So how is it that we decide what has more value?

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

We know that having zero amount of something means that we have nothing.

  1. Can something, which is nothing, have value?
  2. Does that mean that zero has no value?
  3. Would we rather have something than nothing?

The value that Zero finds in herself, in the end, is a complementary one. Her value is apparent only when she is combined with other numbers.

  1. Is there anything that has value in and of itself?

Zero compared herself with 1 and got intimidated by his solid, bold strokes and started thinking that she needs to ‘look’ more like 1 and the other numbers in order to have value.

  1. Does physical appearance give you value? Why or why not?

We know all things don’t have the same value.

  1. Does something worth $10 necessarily have more value than something worth $5?
  2. How do we decide how much value something has?

We can talk about different kinds of value. There is monetary value, sentimental value or practical value, for example.

  1. Do some kinds of value have more value than others?
  2. Is monetary value more important than other kinds of value? For example, is a large sum of money, such as $5000, worth more than an old ring that happens to be a family heirloom?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Rudmila Salek. 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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