Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A fun question

On the SWIP list, someone asked what reading you would recommend to a 13-year-old who has expressed an interest in philosophy.

I'm trying to recall what I might have been reading when I was 13. Around that age, I loved mysteries, including Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I especially remember reading The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin in 5th grade.

I read the Symposium and the Crito when I was 14. Although I found them stimulating, I think they were too difficult for me to follow.

What age group reads Sophie's World? Is it at the right level for teens? I doubt that I could have maintained interest in such a long book back in those days. (Oh yeah, I guess I still avoid reading books that are more than 300 pages long!)

Are there some Borges short stories that are not too sophisticated? It's been years since I read them, but I loved "The Library of Babel" and "The Circular Path."


Brandon said...

The Westing Game was an awesome book! I think I still have it somewhere.

Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School (by Louis Sachar) is a collection of logic puzzles and games. When I'm feeling mischievous I sometimes give my philosophy students true/false tests like those in that book -- weird ones, where there are statements that, if true, make themselves true, and, if false, make themselves false, or ones that are complicated Liar paradoxes.

Anna Sewell's Black Beauty is a good one: it is a book that was written to make a specific philosophical point for adults, namely, that it was immoral for people who work with horses to treat them badly, but also fits comfortably in the 'animal story' genre that is often popular at much younger ages

lga said...

I remember reading Dostoevskii's The Idiot when I was 13, and not getting anything out of it. I did appreciate Hermann Hesse's novels, though.

Personally, I would recommend reading science fiction and fantasy, especially for topics like ethics and anti-utopian social philosophy. Ursula LeGuin is always worthwhile. Orson Scott Card can be thought-provoking.

Khadimir said...

In hindsight, the following suggestions are better for a 17+ age group except the Asimov.

Heinlin, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for politics (anarchic communitarian) and sociality (social organization, marriage, law/justice).

Asimov's robot short stories that explore questions of humanity, embodiment, identity, etc.

the recent movie "The Fountain" for a graphic explication of Buddist enlightenment and the re-living of past lives that occurs in that moment.

Ponder Stibbons said...

I remember reading and loving Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Esher, Bach as a teen.

Kenny said...

I think reading a lot of (old) science fiction at that age was one of the factors that led me to develop an interest in philosophy. (Maybe it's also why I took such a liking to Berkeley...)

Heinlein was mentioned by an earlier commenter. He makes some explicit references to philosophy here and there, and is even cited by David Lewis in 'The Paradoxes of Time Travel.' I don't think very much recent science fiction is very good in this (or any) respect.

Additionally, I don't see any reason why a bright 13 year old shouldn't be able to read some of the early dialogues of Plato (Apology, Euthyphro, and Crito at least are fairly accessible and entertaining; you mention Symposium, which I think is probably a bit much). Of course she might learn to prove that children ought to beat their parents...