University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: Chapter 12, “The Mirror of Erised,” in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling

Field of Philosophy: Epistemology

Plot Summary: Harry discovers the “Mirror of Erised,” a mystical mirror that shows us the “deepest and most desperate desires of our hearts.” The mirror shows Harry images of himself surrounded by a loving family, and he becomes entranced by the images he sees, wanting to return to the mirror again and again to stare into it. The school’s headmaster, Dumbledore, warns him, “The mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth,” and that “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Some discussion questions:

What do you think you would see looking into this mirror?
Would the mirror be able to tell him something you don’t already know?
Can the mirror really tell you the deepest desire of your heart? If you don’t already know what it is, can it be really be your deepest desire?
What does Dumbledore mean when he tells Harry that the mirror cannot give him knowledge or truth?
Must knowledge about the world must be knowledge about the way the world really is (and not just how it appears to us)?
Can images like those in the mirror give us knowledge?
Could you develop some self-understanding through looking at what you see in the mirror that you wouldn’t otherwise have?