University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss

Field of Philosophy: Epistemology

Plot Summary: Horton the Elephant, while splashing “in the cool of the pool,” hears a small noise, like a very small yelp, but sees nothing but a “small speck of dust blowing past through the air.” Horton speculates that a very small creature must be on top of the dust speck and be feeling afraid that the dust will blow into the pool. Concerned, “because a person’s a person, no matter how small,” Horton gently lifts the speck with his trunk, places it on a clover, and tries to protect it. The other animals in the jungle make fun of Horton, conjecturing that he is “out of his head.” Horton then hears the small voice on the clover confide that he is the Mayor of a town called Who-ville, and that Horton has saved all the Whos and their buildings. As the other animals chase him and ultimately threaten to imprison Horton and boil the dust speck, all the small Whos make enough noise to finally be heard by the other animals, who then recognize that there are indeed very small persons in the clover.

Some discussion questions:

Did Horton know there was a person on the dust speck when he heard the sound?
How did he know it?
Why do you think the other animals didn’t believe him?
Would you have believed Horton?
When should we believe what we see or hear?
Do you have to see, hear, or touch something yourself in order to believe it’s there?
Can you think of something you know exists even though you can’t see, hear or touch it?