Title and Author: An Extraordinary Egg by Leo Lionni
Field of Philosophy: Epistemology
Plot Summary: Jessica, a frog, lives with two other frogs. Jessica is "full of wonder," and frequently ventures out on long walks and returns shouting with excitement about what she's found, even if it's "nothing but an ordinary little pebble." One day, she finds what she thinks is a perfect white stone, almost as big as she is. She brings it home, and the other frogs point out that it is not a pebble, but a chicken egg. "How do you know that?" Jessica asks. "There are some things you just know," one of the frogs replies. Pretty soon, the egg cracks open and a "long, scaly creature that walked on four legs" emerges. The three frogs all shout, "A chicken!" They spend days playing with the "chicken," and the chicken and Jessica become great friends. One day a bird tells the chicken that her mother has been searching for her, and Jessica and the chicken follow the bird to find the enormous alligator that is the chicken's mother. When Jessica returns home, she tells the other frogs that the mother chicken called her baby, "My sweet little alligator." "What a silly thing to say," one of the frogs comments, and they all can't stop laughing.
Some discussion questions:
Why does Jessica believe her fellow frog when told the alligator is a chicken?
Why does she continue to believe it even when she meets the mother alligator?
Often we believe we have knowledge because of what other people tell us—can such information be knowledge?
Do the words of other people give us a basis for believing something?
How do we determine which people and which of their words to trust?
Does it depend on how the people speaking to us know what they think they know?
How often do we hold onto our beliefs even in the face of evidence that they are not true?