Building Blocks of Thought. LEGO® and the Philosophy of Play

Tyler Shores

So now you see what I meant about Lego blocks. They have more or less the same properties as those which Democritus ascribed to atoms. And that is what makes them so much fun to build with. They are first and foremost indivisible. They have different shapes and sizes ... These connections can later be broken again so that new figures can be constructed from the same blocks.1

When Sophie, the precocious fourteen-year-old protagonist of Sophie’s World, begins her study of philosophy with LEGO®, we glimpse what LEGO can inspire:

The best thing about them was that with Lego she could construct any kind of object. And then she could separate the blocks and construct something new . Sophie decided that Lego really could be called the most ingenious toy in the world. But what it had to do with philosophy was beyond her.2

Part of the ingenious quality of LEGO is that it is a system of play, fundamentally based on interconnecting sets of parts and open- endedness. As building blocks they are “abstractions of reality in a more comprehensible, miniature form” and LEGO as a system of play is “another level removed. In their unbuilt form they are ideas for ideas of things.”3

We might even think of LEGO as a medium through which ideas can be expressed.4 Much like philosophy, LEGO encourages us not only to look at the pieces, but also to examine relationships, patterns,

LEGO® and Philosophy: Constructing Reality Brick By Brick, First Edition.

Edited by Roy T. Cook and Sondra Bacharach.

© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

and underlying structures. While philosophy is made of thoughts and ideas that ultimately form the building blocks of our own worldviews and sense of self, LEGO helps to remind us of the importance of just how fun this kind of thoughtful play can be, too.

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