University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Field of Philosophy: Ethics

Plot Summary: Peter Rabbit and his siblings are forbidden to play in Mr. McGregor’s garden, as it was there that their father died. Peter nevertheless sneaks into the garden and has several close encounters with Mr. McGregor. Finally he escapes and his mother puts him to bed.

Some Discussion Questions:


WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND BAD?
Is Peter behaving badly?
Is the mouse carrying the seeds out of the garden behaving badly?
Is the cat behaving badly?
Was Mr. McGregor behaving badly when he killed Peter's father?

Are the following things good or bad?
A hammer.
An ice cream cone.
A friendship.
A song.
A word.
A person.
A thought.
A day.
A year.


WHAT ARE ACCIDENTS?
Were the following accidents?
Peter going into Mr. McGregor's garden?
Peter eating from Mr. McGregor's garden?
Peter losing his coat and shoes?
Peter getting caught in the gooseberry net?

How can you tell if something is an accident?
How can you tell if something is on purpose?

Do the following things happen by accident or on purpose?
The sun comes up.
The sun sets.
A train crashes.
Someone gets angry.
It starts raining.
You were born.
A tree grows.


WHAT IS STEALING?
Are these things stealing?
Peter taking vegetables from Mr. McGregor's garden.
The mouse taking vegetables from Mr. McGregor's garden.
Getting in a stranger's car and driving it away.
Eating a grape in the grocery store.
Finding a toy in the street and keeping it.
Taking food from a store when you are starving.
Taking a cookie at home when you aren't supposed to have one.
Taking a toy from a baby who doesn't care.
Taking a toy from a friend who does care.


GOOD RULES OR BAD RULES?
Don't hurt other people's feelings.
Don't laugh at other people.
Always say please.
Don't wear your shoes in the house.
Never speak to people you don't know.
Eat with your fingers.
No ice cream before dinner.
Go to sleep at 8:00.
Don't lie.
Don't hit other people.