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"The Dream" from Frog and Toad Together

By Arnold Lobel, Harper Collins


Toad is asleep and has a dream about starring in a play, while Frog sits in the audience and shrinks almost to non-existence.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

By Thomas Wartenberg

There are a number of different philosophical questions that “The Dream” can be used to discuss. The first is a question from the theory of knowledge: How do we know that we are not dreaming? This question was put at the center of the philosophical stage by Descartes, who was worried about how we know our normal beliefs about the world are true. So he raised a series of skeptical doubts about our everyday knowledge. The question of how we know that we are not dreaming is one of these.

There are a variety of different ways that have been proposed to answer this skeptical doubt. A first question is whether dreams have the same intensity as our everyday experience. Although David Hume asserted that this was not the case, the fact that we can sometimes not be sure if a particular experience was a dream or not suggests that at least some dreams are as vivid and lively as our normal perceptual experience. A second question is whether dreams always include bizarre and unusual things that we know cannot really exist. If they do contain such odd entities, then their presence would assure us that we are dreaming. A final suggestion is that dreams don’t cohere with our ordinary experience, so that this coherence is what assures us that we are not now dreaming.

A second issue concerns pride and bragging. In the pagan tradition of the Greeks, pride was considered a virtue, but the early Christians considered it a vice and, ultimately, one of the seven deadly sins. A good way to think of this is to say that the Christians were talking about excessive pride, while their Greeks were thinking of our taking an appropriate amount of pride in what we have accomplished. In the story, Toad exhibits inordinate pride. This is clear in the way that he boasts to Frog. But what the dream suggests is that boasting is bad because it makes others feel bad (“small”) and that one will ultimately be alone if one boasts too much.

The final issue raised by the story is friendship. The Greek philosopher Aristotle maintained that friends were necessary for a person’s own well-being. Toad certainly panics when he thinks that Frog has completely disappeared. So the story provides a good opportunity for thinking why it is important to have friends.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

By Thomas Wartenberg

Toad was asleep and he was having a dream…

  1. Have you ever had a dream that was no intense you didn’t know whether it was really a dream or not?
  2. How could you tell that it was really a dream?

When he wakes up, Toad asks Frog if it is really him standing beside Toad’s bed. Frog says that it is. Toad asks Frog if he is his own right size and Frog says that he thinks so.

  1. Why does this convince Toad that he is not dreaming any more?
  2. Could Frog be just a character in Toad’s dream? Why or why not?
  3. Are things in dreams different from how they are in real life?
  4. Could you be having an intense dream right now in which you dream you are in school when you are really at home sleeping? How do you know?

In his dream, Toad brags about all the things he can do

  1. Can you remember one of the things that Toad does well?
  2. Why do you think that Toad want Frog to know that he can do these things?
  3. Have you had a friend who has bragged to you? Have you ever bragged to a friend?
  4. How did your friend’s brag make you feel?
  5. Is bragging a bad thing to do? Why?
  6. Is it ever okay to brag?

Toad is scared that he will be all alone.

  1. Is it always scary to be alone?
  2. What’s scary about being alone?

Frog is Toad’s good friend.

  1. Do you have a good friend?
  2. Do you think it is important to have a good friend?
  3. What difference does having a good friend make?

This book module deals with epistemology, existentialism, and ethics, specifically friendship. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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