Doctor of Philosophy

Evelyn’s class has been experimenting with having a university student come in periodically and discuss philosophy with them. This is not just idle chatter; they get into some really deep issues:

We will examine such topics as: What is wisdom? Where do we come from? Why do people suffer? Is it always wrong to tell a lie? What rights do animals have? What does it mean to be human? What is real? Will there ever be world peace?

Evelyn is just the perfect age and temperament for this and she has taken to it like a fish to water. Naturally, the first thing she wants to do is test her newfound philosophical skills on her brother.

The number of times we have had a discussion in the house like:

Evie: “Oliver, are you alive?”
Ollie: “Yes.”
Evie: “But how do you know?”
Ollie: “Because I’m breathing.”
Evie: “But how do you know you’re breathing?”
Ollie: “Evelynnnnn!”
Evie: “Well, how do you know you’re breathing?”
Ollie: “Because my chest is going up and down.”
Evie: “But how do you KNOW your chest is going up and down?”

It goes around and around like this for some time until Ollie is in tears. At one point we had to forbid her discussing philosophy with Ollie because he was waking up in the night terrified with existential dread. It was too much for a 5 year old to handle: What is the meaning of life? Is anything even real? HOW DO WE EVEN KNOW IF WE’RE ALIVE AND NOT JUST A FIGMENT OF EVELYN’S DREAMS???

You can imagine.

Sometimes I think, “What must it be like to be her brother?” but then I think about similar things I did to my younger siblings, and I think it was probably pretty similar. They can chime in, but I’m pretty sure I probably did this kind of thing to them too.

Anyway, I think Ollie’s finally gotten over it (or at least it has gotten so commonplace as to be boring), because this morning at breakfast I heard this conversation:

Evie: “Oliver, is that your real name?”
Ollie, wearily: “Yes Evie, a mad scientist didn’t poke my brain.”

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