Title and Author: A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis
Field of Philosophy: Epistemology; Metaphysics
Plot Summary: Edna the penguin leads a fun-filled life with her penguin friends, but she is concerned that the only colors she is able to see in her environment are white (“like yesterday”), black (“like tomorrow”), and blue (“like forever”). In hopes of finding new colors, Edna leaves her community to explore new terrain. Shortly thereafter, Edna finds a scientists’ camp that contains new colors and people. She immediately returns home to her friends, and takes them to the camp so that they, too, can see the different colors. Edna’s friends are thrilled with the experience as they return home, though Edna herself is left wondering: “what else could there be?”
Some discussion questions:
Why is Edna unsatisfied that she can only see three colors (white, black and blue)?
Are there unknown things that you wish to see and learn about, just like Edna? What are they?
What are the most important things to know?
If Edna had only ever seen three colors, then how could she know that other colors exist?
Are there things that we can know about without ever having seen them with our eyes?
What are they?
If Edna already knew (somehow) that other colors exist in the world, then did she learn something new when she saw the new colors with her eyes? If so, then what, exactly, did she learn?
At first, Edna’s friends weren’t interested in finding new colors. So why does Edna immediately share the new colors with them?
What is the difference between: (1) knowing that 1+1=2; (2) knowing your best friend; (3) knowing what chocolate tastes like; and (4) knowing that a song is beautiful?