Recent Changes - Search:

The Carrot Seed

By Ruth Krauss

Summary

Module by Emily Cudhea-Pierce and Noah Plewa

A little boy decides to plant a carrot seed. Despite his parents and his brother telling him not to water the plant because it won’t grow, the boy keeps watering his plant and pulling up the weeds, day after day. Eventually, the carrot comes up.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Ruth Krauss’s book about a little boy who stands his ground and grows a carrot in the face of doubt from his parents brings up themes of individuality, standing one’s ground, and what it is to know something (the basis of knowledge).

The issue of individuality, and the role it plays in governing our daily lives, is addressed in the first section of this module. Individuality is a topic that can be found at the center of the majority of philosophical and political theories, often in quite different interpretations. These theories range from libertarianism, and the pursuit of complete individual freedom, to communism and some formulations of utilitarianism, in which the role of the individual is dedicated to advancing the greater good of the society.

All of these theories have a central issue, which is the question of when should we follow our own personal pursuits and at what point doing so is no longer morally permissible. “The Carrot Seed” provides an interesting glimpse into our preconceived notions of individuality and where we draw this invisible line. Asking questions about whether the boy was right to keep watering his plant, and if so, why, gets to the core of individuality and our pursuit of personal liberty. Additional questions arise about when it is right to follow authority can also be asked. For instance, should it matter that it was the boy’s parents who told him it was a bad idea to keep watering the plant affect his decision? What if it was a greater/lesser authority?

This issue of when to stand one’s ground is easily relatable to for both children and adults, as everybody can recall situations when they had their opinion swayed or stayed true to their thinking. What sorts of factors change our opinions? What reasons do and should influence us when we stand our ground? These sorts of questions are the focus of the second section of this module, which covers our logic when we remain steadfast to an idea and how the outcome affects the way we judge our decisions. Does whether or not the carrot in the story grows affect whether the boy was right to try to grow it? On a larger scale, does the result of a decision determine the merit of that action or idea?

Aside from personal freedom and individuality, an additional topic of interest within “The Carrot Seed” is the concept of knowledge. When the carrot grows at the end of the story, the text reads that the carrot came up “just as the boy knew it would.” How did the boy know this? The third and final section of this module covers this topic and how we come to obtain knowledge and what this actually means. When we know something how do we actually know it? This section raises further questions of what amount of knowledge one must possess in order to be considered an “expert,” and how knowledge can affect how we judge our decisions.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Individuality

The carrot came up in the end, despite the boy’s parents telling him that it wouldn’t.

  1. Was the boy right to keep watering the carrot seed?
  2. Why was he right? Why/why not?
  3. Who was telling the boy not to keep watering the carrot seed? Were they right to tell him this/what were their reasons?
  4. Can you think of a time when someone told you not to do something and you did it anyway? What were your reasons?
  5. Can you think of any examples when it is bad to do your own thing and not follow advice from others? Why is this bad?

Standing Your Ground

The boy’s parents told him to stop watering the plant but the boy still did.

  1. How do you know when it’s right to stand your ground? Can you think of an example of a time when it’s not right to do so?
  2. Does the background of the person telling someone not to do something change whether that person is right/wrong? What if the person who told him not to care for the carrot was a friend his own age? What if it was a teacher? What if it was the world’s leading expert in carrots?
  3. What if the boy and his family are in a drought?
  4. If there was only enough water for one person to grow a carrot, and the boy had more food than others, would he still be right?
  5. If the carrot had not come up at all, would the boy have still been right to keep watering the carrot?
  6. If you try something and it fails, are you right to have tried? If an idea doesn’t work, does that make it wrong?
  7. Can you think of an example of when you tried something and it didn’t work? Would you say you were wrong to not stop when people told you to?

Knowledge

And the carrot came up as the boy knew it would.

  1. Did the boy actually know that the carrot would come up?
    1. If so, how did the boy know that the carrot would come up?
  2. Did it make sense for the boy to believe the carrot would grow? Why/why not?
  3. If the boy had grown many carrots before, would it have made more sense to believe the carrot would grow?
  4. What is the difference between believing something and knowing something?
  5. Can you be certain about something if you’re wrong?
  6. Should we believe that something will happen in the future because it happened the same way in the past?

This book module deals with ethics and epistemology. You can buy this book on Amazon.

Creative Commons License This website was developed with the assistance of the Squire Family Foundation.