Childrens' book philosophy 4: Political philosophy in "The Little Prince"

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"Sire-- over what do you rule?"

 "Over everything," said the king, with magnificent simplicity.

 "Over everything?"

 The king made a gesture, which took in his planet, the other planets, and all the stars.

 "Over all that?" asked the little prince.

 "Over all that," the king answered.

 For his rule was not only absolute: it was also universal.

 "And the stars obey you?"

 "Certainly they do," the king said. "They obey instantly. I do not permit insubordination."

 Such power was a thing for the little prince to marvel at. If he had been master of such complete authority, he would have been able to watch the sunset, not forty-four times in one day, but seventy-two, or even a hundred, or even two hundred times, without ever having to move his chair. And because he felt a bit sad as he remembered his little planet which he had forsaken, he plucked up his courage to ask the king a favor:

 "I should like to see a sunset... do me that kindness... Order the sun to set..."

 "If I ordered a general to fly from one flower to another like a butterfly, or to write a tragic drama, or to change himself into a sea bird, and if the general did not carry out the order that he had received, which one of us would be in the wrong?" the king demanded. "The general, or myself?"

 "You," said the little prince firmly.

 "Exactly. One much require from each one the duty which each one can perform," the king went on. "Accepted authority rests first of all on reason. If you ordered your people to go and throw themselves into the sea, they would rise up in revolution. I have the right to require obedience because my orders are reasonable."

 "Then my sunset?" the little prince reminded him: for he never forgot a question once he had asked it.

 "You shall have your sunset. I shall command it. But, according to my science of government, I shall wait until conditions are favorable."

 "When will that be?" inquired the little prince.

 "Hum! Hum!" replied the king; and before saying anything else he consulted a bulky almanac. "Hum! Hum! That will be about-- about-- that will be this evening about twenty minutes to eight. And you will see how well I am obeyed."

    - "The Little Prince" (Le Petit Prince), by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, excerpt from chapter 10

chiara on 3 April 2014

I'm working with my students

I'm working with my students (age 13-15) on the book "The little Prince". I've found in it many philosophical questions! I'm trying to build some activities, a sort of progressive introduction to the great themes of philosophy. If anyone is working in the same way on this book, please contact me (

In reply to by chiara

Peter Adamson on 3 April 2014

It's a great book isn't it? I

It's a great book isn't it? I have posted a link to your comment on Twitter and hopefully someone will get in touch.

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