University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: The Three Questions by Jon J Muth

Field of Philosophy: Ethics

Plot Summary: Muth takes Leo Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Questions, as the starting point for an account of a young boy’s search for an understanding of the moral dimension of his life. Nikolai asks his friends to help him to find the answer to the three questions that he considers the most important for helping him to know the right way to act:

• When is the best time to do things?
• Who is the most important one?
• What is the right thing to do?

Nikolai's search for the answers leads him to seek the help of someone he believes is wiser than himself, who helps him to decide that the meaning of life rests in the relationships we form and the way we treat others.

Some discussion questions:

What do you think of Nikolai’s questions? Do you think they are the most important questions in life?
What do you think are the three most important questions?
Do you believe that what we think about these questions changes over time and with experience? Should it?
Are the most important questions in life the same for everyone?
How do we know the right thing to do when we are faced with a difficult decision?
What does it mean to do the right or wrong thing?
What does it mean to be a good person?
How do you know if you are a good person?
Give an example of an action that is wrong. Why do you think the action is wrong?
Give an example of an action that is right. Why do you think the action is right?