The surprising philosophy of Winnie-the-Pooh

Pot of honey: In the new film, Christopher Robin has grown into a disillusioned businessman.

Should we all live like Pooh? As Christopher Robin hits cinemas, the friendly bear has been hailed “a philosopher to rival Plato and Confucius”. What can we learn from his nuggets of wisdom?

“I wouldn’t ever forget about you, Pooh, I promise. Not even when I’m a hundred,” said Christopher Robin after an adventure in the Hundred Acre Wood. But the adult Christopher we meet in Disney’s new film did forget. Now middle-aged, he “has lost any sense of play or joy”. One reviewer said the film has “an unexpected sense of existential dread”.

Critics are not the first to recognise a depth beneath Pooh’s honeyed surface. A recent article declared he could “rival Plato and Confucius”. But how does a bear “of very little brain” really compare?

Dr Catherine McCall says that, like them, Pooh teaches us “how to live a good life”. His aphorisms include lessons on persistence, like: “If the string breaks, try another piece of string.”

Pooh’s spontaneity sets him at odds with another Greek. Aristotle tells us that to reach fulfillment we must cultivate virtues. For example, you can learn to be courageous by diligently replicating courageous. But for Pooh, “a good reason for going to see everybody is because it’s Thursday.”

Taoism is closer to Pooh’s philosophy. In The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff used the character to illustrate the basics of the ancient Chinese belief. Hoff says that Pooh’s contentment shows the importance of appreciating “who you are and what you’ve got”.

Should we try to live like Pooh?

Best of friends

It’s impractical, say some. As nice as it may be to sit around eating honey all day, eventually you’ll have to get up and face some responsibilities.

Absolutely, others argue. In our anxious, 24-hour age, we could all learn to appreciate the moment more: taste the honey, laugh with your friends and go on an adventure. His words may seem simple, but perhaps we pay too much attention to seriousness and long words when what we really need in life is small joys.

You Decide

  1. Is Winnie-the-Pooh a good role model?

Activities

  1. Research the philosophers named in this article. Write a paragraph on who is your favourite one and why.

Some People Say...

“Don’t be late for whatever you want to be in time for.”

Winnie-the-Pooh

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The original four Winnie-the-Pooh stories were written by AA Milne. They caused trouble for their author as they overshadowed his career as a playwright. The stories also soured his relationship with his son, the real-life Christopher Robin Milne.
What do we not know?
On the internet, it’s often hard to separate the real Winnie-the-Pooh quotes from false ones.

Word Watch

Existential
Grappling with existence.
Confucius
A Chinese philosopher who lived around 500 BC.
Aphorisms
A short or clever statement that is meant to express a general truth.
Diligently
Approaching a task with intention, dedication and care.
Taoism
An ancient Chinese philosophy that emphasises the importance of appreciating things as they are. It says people should act in accordance with the “Tao”, or “Way”.
Republic
A text written by Plato, who was born in 427 BC.