Benjamin's Dreadful Dream
By Alan Baker, J.B. Lippincott Company
When he can't sleep one night, Benjamin decides to have a snack, but instead he finds himself in the midst of surprising adventures with piles of food, firecrackers, water, and bubbles before finding himself back in bed again. Was it all just a dream?!
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Somera Khan and Taryn Hargrove
This is a story about an adventure that Benjamin, a hamster, has one night when he can't sleep and gets up for a snack. Fantastical and random things happen to him and, although it feels very real, it turns out to be a dream. This story involves philosophical issues dealing with reality, dreams, feelings (both physical and mental), risks, and bravery.
The first set of questions is designed to elicit a discussion regarding the difference between dreams versus reality. The exploration can involve identifying the characteristics of reality and dreams and understanding the various sensations and experiences that differentiate the two. This theme raises issues of what really is a dream. A dream may be interpreted as one’s imagination, mental images and/or emotions. A deeper meaning of why we dream and how we dream is analyzed. Some children may even believe that there is a certain age that we stop dreaming. There is a conflict between dreams being real and dreams not being real. Some children believe our thoughts are real. Therefore dreams may be considered real because we imagine and/or think them. Others may believe dreams are not real because for anything to be real it has to have a verified existence. These questions will thus explore the differences, if any, between dreams and reality.
The second set of questions is to expand on the idea of reality. The qualities and defining factors of real things can be discussed. Since some dreams feel real the discussion can include an analysis of the quality of ‘real.’ These questions can lead to the discussion of standards by which one judges what is actually existent or not. For instance, questions like, “Are unicorns or monsters real?” can be posed to understand the characteristics of reality. This question set can also explore the place that dreams have within reality. One argument can be, “Since they feel real and are an experience, they are real,” while another person can express that, “Dreams are not real because it didn’t happen in real life.” Such a discussion can potentially lead to an understanding of reality and existence. Although the difference between “alive” and “real” is not a concept introduced specifically in the question set, depending on the direction of the discussion, this is a concept that may be debated as well.
The next question set deals with the idea of ‘feeling.’ This will involve returning to the idea of feeling something during your dream and whether or not that feeling is real or not. Also, this question set is designed to spark discussion on the possible difference of feeling with your heart/mind (mentally feeling cold) and your body (physically feeling cold). During a dream one may feel a certain way and continue to feel that way when he has woken up even when that dream and its situation have ceased. This may lead to arguments such as “if you mind/heart tells your body you are feeling cold, then you are feeling cold,” opposed with, “if your body isn’t physically feeling cold, the despite what you may think, you are not cold.” This may lead into a discussion of which feelings are real and/or the difference between feelings and emotions (depending on the direction of the discussion).
The meaning of risks are analysed in the next question set. When was the last time you took a risk? Was it thrilling, scary, or both? What is a risk? A risk could be something for sheer adventure or making a life-altering decision. The discussion will touch upon what we really mean by risk? One could say that it depends own each individual feelings. It could be any act that one is afraid of taking. Risks differ from person to person because what may seem risky to someone else may not be risky to you. Are risks good or bad or both? Some will say they are good because it will enhance the quality of life. Some will say it is bad to take risks because you put yourself in a horrible position. In general the risks we take can say a lot about who we are. Also, people will make the generalization that taking risks are act of bravery.
The last set of questions is designed to discuss what means to be brave. Acts of bravery can range from a spider crawling up your leg to risking your life for someone. Are you brave if you do something that is not dangerous? An act of bravery can differ depending on each situation and each person. People can be scared if they do something brave. Can we be brave and not be scared?
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
The Meaning of Dreams
When Benjamin woke up he asked, "Was it all a bad dream?" Benjamin wondered if he was dreaming.
The Nature of Feelings
Benjamin felt many different things in his dreams, from emotions to feeling wet from the bucket of water
Benjamin took a risk by reaching for an apple and ended up falling in an unknown area.
The Meaning of Bravery
Benjamin decided to hold on to the rocket and let it take him where ever the rocket was going?