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Big Ideas for Curious Minds: An Introduction to Philosophy

"A book designed to harness children's spontaneous philosophical instinct and to develop it through introductions to some of the most vibrant and essential philosophical ideas of history."

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LoveReading4Kids Says

LoveReading4Kids Says

It's twenty four years since Alan de Boton wrote Consolations of Philosophy. Back then - before the swell of the 'wellbeing' movement and the cascade of podcasts and online communities about living lives aligned to Stocism and Eastern philosophies - this was somewhat of a trailblazer. In it, the Cambridge and Harvard-educated historian and philosopher condensed the seemingly abstract teachings of various philosophers into applicable self-help for life's very real problems. What can we learn from Socrates about being unpopular, for example, or from Epicurus on feeling cash-poor?

Subsequent to the book's success, de Boton co-founded the School of Life, a London-based cultural enterprise and events hub which has also become a publisher, and Big Ideas for Curious Minds: An introduction to philosophy is one of its books for younger readers. Very much in the vein of de Boton's original bestseller, this introduces readers to various philosophers in the context of everyday challenges. Each chapter explores a "Big Idea" : "Why you feel lonely", for example, or "When someone is angry maybe it's not you who's responsible" - and links this to an idea from a certain philosopher, giving a little biography alongside a very cute illustration. It's great how, beyond the big names of classical and twentieth century philosophers, some lesser known teachers are introduced that even grown-ups may not have heard of: Matsuo Basho of Japan, for instance, and Zera Yacob of Ethiopia, lending diversity and inclusivity to the text.

It's a nicely written book that would be best read, I suggest, with a curious ten to twelve year old (it generated some interesting bedtime chats with my 12 year old daughter). But keen readers may also enjoy it alone if they have specific interests in that area or an appetite for ideas. More schools now offer philosophy within their curricula, either at primary or pre-GCSE, sometimes as part of religious studies, and this could be a good, accessible, primer.

If I had one criticism it would be that the title is slightly misleading. It's not not really 'an introduction to philosophy', in the sense of representing the full range and intention of that social science. That's no bad thing in itself as there are, of course, many other books that fulfill this role well (e.g Nigel Warburton's excellent A Little History of Philosophy). But the interdisciplinary science of philosophy encompasses so much - from logic to ethics, through religion, science and metaphysics, even setting aside method and analysis - whereas this book focuses on a fairly narrow range of questions mainly centred on psychology and emotions. But then perhaps 'Consolations of Philosophy for Kids' was thought a bit complicated. In any case, one can only feel grateful to the School of Life for bringing wisdom into easier reach for adults and children alike. ~ Tanya Carus Blacher


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