University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Field of Philosophy: Aesthetics; Ethics

Plot Summary: A big green caterpillar is born, eats too much, and learns to eat less. Finally, very full, crawls into a cocoon and emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

Some discussion questions:

What is beauty?
Are the following things beautiful?
-a sunrise
-The Mona Lisa
-a smile
-a song
-a feeling
-a thought
-a painting
If the caterpillar transformed into a butterfly, is it still the same thing? Why or why not?
Can we have different ideas about what beauty is?
What does something have to have to be beautiful? Anything?
What does it feel like when something is beautiful to us? Is this always true?
For something to be beautiful, does someone have to think it’s beautiful? Can something be beautiful if no one thinks it is?
If something is beautiful, is it always beautiful?
Do you think that the butterfly in the story was beautiful?
Was the caterpillar more beautiful before or after is transformed?

Why did the caterpillar get a stomachache?
Why do you think the caterpillar ate so much?
What is the difference between wanting to eat and needing to eat?
Is it worse to eat too much or too little?