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Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Philosophy of Shel Silverstein's Poetry Part 1

Katy Ramsey
Philosophy Blog Part 1
25 April 2013

The Philosophy of Shel Silverstein's Poetry 

As a young girl, I was hooked on Shel Silverstein's poetry. His books created a world of imagination, silly stories, and life lessons that made a huge impact on its readers. For my final blog, I will be focusing on Silverstein's work, the philosophical issues he embeds in his poetry, and how it can be used to teach children and adolescents. 

Perhaps Silverstein's most famous work of literature is the book The Giving Tree. 

If you've never read it, The Giving Tree is a story about a tree who loves a young boy.... 

"Once there was a tree . . . and she loved a little boy. Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk . . . and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave."

You can also follow this link to hear the story: The Giving Tree

As a children's book, this story is a great tool for introducing and teaching young and adolescent readers important philosophical issues, starting with humans' relationship toward nature.

Questions about the appropriate way for humans to treat natural objects arise while reading the book. We can characterize the relationship this way: The young boy respects the tree and its integrity. But in the three next stages of his life– as a young man, a young adult, and an adult – the boy’s relationship takes a more and more destructive course as he first takes the tree’s apples to sell, then cuts down the tree’s branches, and finally takes its trunk. When the boy returns as an old man, he takes up a less invasive relationship with what remains of the tree – its trunk – and simply sits on it and rests. 

By discussing precisely what type of relationship with the tree is appropriate and why, children will begin to address fundamental questions in environmental ethics.

I feel that using this book, and bringing up environmental ethics, would be a great lesson plan for Earth Day... tying literature, philosophy and current events all together. 


  1. The Giving Tree is terrific, especially on Earth Day! (Good companion to Freddy the Leaf)

  2. I absolutely loved these books as a child. They definitely have that "be a free spirit" and love the world kind of feel. I also read your blog about the voice and the noees

  3. Oops sorry! That blog was adorable! Can't wait to see the rest!