Dr. Sharon Kaye seeks to make philosophy approachable to kids ages 11-16 in the Noumenal Realm Trilogy of philosophical novels, focusing on the unconventional educational initiatives of an institution called the New Smithsonian Foundation, whose aim is to educate the children of America through virtual reality experiences instead of through the Smithsonian Institution’s dusty museum artifacts. Although each novel in the trilogy stands alone, it is best to read them all, and in order, to enjoy the full effect of the storyline. The three guides can be used by instructors, but have been written to be accessible to students themselves so that they can delve deeper into the philosophical content in the novels. They provide chapter summaries of plot developments, a philosophical basis for the key concepts of each chapter, discussion questions, and suggestions for further exploration to extend the learning.
In book 1, The Divided Line, a group of middle schoolers enter famous paintings, where they meet Socrates, Plato, and René Descartes, who show them the secret to entering the Noumenal Realm. They have to interpret the paintings and the philosophers’ theories in order to complete the simulations and escape from virtual reality.
The storyline of this volume focuses on the famous “Analogy of the Divided Line” from Plato’s masterpiece of world literature The Republic. Socrates divides a line into four sections in order to show how the human mind progresses from imagination to facts to concepts to ideas. But is the goal of this progression certainty, as René Descartes argues? The young heroes of this novel discover a fatal flaw in Descartes’s logic and find the goal of the Divided Line hidden in a Grecian urn instead.
The Divided Line Guidebook explores the philosophical bases behind the concepts introduced in the novel. These include the philosophy of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Averroes, Hypatia, Democritus, Heraclitus, Plotinus, Marsilio Ficino, and René Descartes, as well as the ideas, beliefs, and works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Queen Christina of Sweden, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Arthur Schopenhauer.
Book 2, The Inverted Spectrum, tells about middle schoolers Jonah and Roslyn, who must solve the mysterious disappearance of philosopher John Locke in order to save one of their classmates from a philosophical thought experiment gone awry. In the process, they learn about empiricism and its connection to the birth of democracy.
The storyline of this volume focuses on John Locke’s famous thought experiment about a man who wakes up one morning to find that he perceives all the colors opposite of how he used to see them. This thought experiment shows that we can’t know how others perceive the world. But what if other aspects of our consciousness could be inverted? The young heroes of this novel discover that consciousness is what gives human beings personal identity and a basis for political equality.
The Inverted Spectrum Guidebook explores the philosophical bases behind the concepts introduced in the novel. These include the philosophy of Socrates, John Locke, Ralph Cudworth, Robert Boyle, G.W. Leibniz, Damaris Cudworth Masham, Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Mortimer J. Adler, Judith Butler, John Dewey, and Nick Bostrum, as well as the ideas, beliefs, and works of Joseph Henry and Isaac Newton.
And in book 3, The Categorical Imperative, Jonah, Roslyn, and Brent track down Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant in order to battle skepticism and prevent the New Smithsonian Foundation from being shut down. In the end, they learn that reality is more amazing than they ever dreamed.
The storyline of this volume focuses on the European Enlightenment. While bold thinkers questioned the laws of God, the laws of nature, and the laws of civil society, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s breakthrough concept of autonomy showed that humans should obey only their own laws. But can autonomy provide a new foundation for both science and morality, as Immanuel Kant insisted? The young heroes of this novel discover what it means to obey your own laws.
The Categorical Imperative Guidebook explores the philosophical bases behind the concepts introduced in the novel. These include the philosophy of Socrates, Aristophanes, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, George Berkeley, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, and John Searle, as well as the ideas, beliefs, and works of John Milton, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Alan Turing.
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