A Philosophical Journey for those with Little Thinkers
Nasty, Brutish and Short was a delightful adventure into the minds of Scott Hershovitz and his two young sons, Rex and Hank. Hershovitz is a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, and he uses his expertise to engage his children in conversations about big questions, such as the nature of reality, the meaning of life, and the existence of God.
If Philosophy is the art of asking big questions and not being satisfied with simple answers, then children naturally exude that level of curiosity all the time. It is us adults who need to cultivate that sense of wonder.
Hershovitz's approach is playful and engaging, and he does a great job of making complex philosophical concepts accessible to a lay audience. He also does a good job of highlighting the philosophical insights that children are capable of. The candor and empathy to which he addresses questions of truth, race, language, and even God.
“Why are some words bad? The idea that they could be bothered me as a kid. Words are strings of sounds. How could sounds be bad? But of course: words aren’t just strings of sound. They are strings of sound to which we attach meaning. And yet it’s not the meaning of words that makes them bad either. Just consider this list: poop, crap, manure, dung, feces, stool. It’s all the same shit. And yet, it’s only “shit” we shouldn’t say. Why is that? Fuck if I know.”
Hershovitz's book is a reminder that children are natural philosophers. They are curious about the world around them, and they are always asking questions. By engaging with their children's philosophical questions, parents can help them to develop their critical thinking skills and to become more thoughtful citizens.
Although Herovitz covers a wide variety of topics in the book, he does not delve very deeply into any of them. This is good news for the average lay reader, but if you're looking for deep knowledge of philosophy, then you might prefer another read.
Nasty, Brutish, and Short is a thought-provoking and enjoyable book that will appeal to anyone who is interested in philosophy or parenting. Hershovitz's conversations with his children are both insightful and hilarious, and they offer a unique perspective on the philosophical potential of children.