Five-year-old philosophy

My oldest one is a deep thinker. Recently as we passed some strangers on the street he asked “What happens to people when you don’t see them anymore?” He was hovering around asking whether they ceased to exist, though he never actually said so. We explained that they kept on living their own lives and that we’d probably never see them again. This saddened him a bit, though only slightly less that it puzzled him. I think he’s only just realizing that the sum of human experience is a superset of his own. Peg him for an empirical rationalist philosopher when he grows up and for god’s sake no one mention Schrödinger’s cat.

But he’s even more obsessed with names. He simply cannot understand how there can be things that do not have names. He constantly asks about how something can exist if it doesn’t have a name. I explain that there are thousands (millions?) of species of animals, mostly small critters, that we suspect exist but have not been discovered and so have not named. Not to mention undiscovered stars, comets, planets and new concepts, future fashion trends, and dance moves. This might all be prompted by the fact that we have spent the last nine months referring to his unborn sibling without precisely naming it. It would also follow from the fact that he likes to name damn near everything, even the most mundane inanimate speck. Like Adam naming stuff in Eden, the power to name is the power to make real for my boy.

Whatever it is, I think the two obsessions here are related. For my son, reality is directly experienced and labelled. If it is not directly experienced — a story, for example — or explicitly named — a baby in utero, for example — it just isn’t real.

I’ll hold off on introducing him to Second Life for now.

2 Responses to “Five-year-old philosophy”

  1. Aaron says :

    Better dust off that copy of Sophie’s World ready for advanced bedtime reading in a couple of years!

  2. Bryce says :

    Reminds me of aboriginal Australian creation beliefs: the Ancestors hatched from the earth in Dreamtime, walking the earth and singing, naming their creations and willing them into existence.