The tales in this category take place in antiquity; they depict adults facing conceptual problems in their understanding of the world. The characters are fictional, but the problems correspond to questions that interested, sometimes tormented, men in antiquity.

The idea of confronting today’s children with antique characters comes from my studies with Jean Piaget, for whom the intellectual development of the child has affinities with the history of ideas (the so-called ontogenesis-phylogenesis parallel). Going back in history, we find individuals who encountered difficulties in logico-mathematical reasoning or in the understanding the world, which have analogies with problems faced by today’s children. We can therefore, in a story, put the men of a distant past within reach of today’s children. They understand them, and they may even have fun when being faced with adults whose thinking is so wrong.

For Piaget, knowing subjects act on their environment with the use of existing modes of action-thinking (schemes), and try to modify them when necessary (usually when their action-thinking scheme fails). In this interaction between subjects and their environment, the subjects differentiate progressively from it, and, at the same time, the environment they act upon is enriched with new properties. Although Piaget’s was mainly focused on children’s cognitive development, the progressive differentiation between subjects and their environment appears also in history of science. Like for children, knowledge in history proceeds by ongoing decentrations, thus moving away from the immediate appearance of things to infer more central, less visible properties, as scientists get out of their own local, head-on, and uncritical viewpoint.

The Jean Piaget Foundation



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