cover image Nasty, Brutish, and Short: Adventures in Philosophy with Kids

Nasty, Brutish, and Short: Adventures in Philosophy with Kids

Scott Hershovitz. Penguin Press, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-984-88181-6

Hershovitz, a philosophy and law professor at the University of Michigan, mixes wit and wisdom in this thoroughly enjoyable philosophical tour that uses conversations with the author’s two sons to demonstrate that “anyone can do philosophy and every kid does.” On the first day of second grade, Hershovitz’s son Rex offered a cogent description of philosophy: “Philosophy is the art of thinking.” Hershovitz builds on that definition to discuss the importance of critical thinking, for philosophers and for society in general. He covers such topics as rights, punishment, race and responsibility, and God, showing how philosophy can help make sense of thorny problems. Kant, for instance, teaches about morality and not using people “merely as a means to achieve our ends,” while Aristotle holds lessons about revenge when Rex retaliates after being called a “floofer doofer” at school, and Marilyn McCord Adams posited that “God couldn’t count as ‘good or loving’ if he allowed anyone’s life to be swallowed up by evil.” Fun anecdotes abound, and Hershovitz demonstrates how to engage children by taking them seriously, teaching them to ask questions, and encouraging them to explore the world—things adults can learn from, as well. This sincere and smart account puts to rest the idea that philosophy belongs in academia’s ivory tower. (May)