Peep Metaphysics
What is a Peep?

The Village Project Curriculum Notes are Descriptions of Teaching and Learning Situations in Village Written by Teachers Involved in the Program. 

Currency Exchange and Capitalizing on the Lessons at hand, by Amy Shuffelton and Noah Sobe

When a River Runs Through it -- Village Lessons, by Noah Sobe and Amy Shuffelton

Peep Metaphysics -- What is a Peep?, by Amy Shuffelton


by Amy Shuffelton

This question has faced peeps and persons over the ages.  The glib answer of empiricists that a peep is a wire skeleton, wrapped in yarn flesh, with a head made out of clay or wood fails to satisfy.  Peeps and those who know them are no more ready to accept this than human beings have been to accept the answer that they themselves are nothing more than a bunch of cells.  But those who turn away from the radical materialists’ position encounter a host of difficult questions, including what is death like for peeps? What distinguishes a peep from a miniature animal? Do peeps have inherent rights, and if so what are they?  What is the relationship of peeps to their makers (if we people really are their makers, and at what point in the making are they truly “made”)?

Such questions faced peeps and persons most recently in Pobri a peep town in Madison, Wisconsin, where answering at least some was an urgent matter. There, the issue of whether peeps could vote was being decided by a town meeting.  Soon into the discussion, a large majority decided that all citizens could vote.  The Republic of Peeps considers peeps citizens of the Republic, though who were citizens of the town of Pobri was still debatable.  Pobri agreed that a citizen of the town would be any peep who intended to make Pobri its permanent residence.  But in the first opportunity to vote, a problem arose.  Osiris fits the empiricists’ description of a peep, with one exception from the usual: as an Egyptian god, his head is a hawk’s.  Osiris’s pet koala bear, who is intelligent, understands language, and is made of wire and yarn, also tried to vote.  Was Osiris a peep, and if peeps can have animal heads could his koala bear vote?   What is a peep and what a peep animal?  And what about instant peeps, who are wood clothespins given faces, pipe-cleaner arms through a hole drilled in, and clothing?  Do they have the same status as regular peeps?

One working definition is “a peep is a miniature person who considers himself or herself a peep”.  Osiris, who in all aspects except his head is a miniature person and who calls himself a peep, thus is a peep, with all attendant rights, while the koala bear is not.  Either it’s a koala bear or it’s a very small peep with a koala bear head.  If it’s a peep, it can’t be a pet because peeps are considered, by the Republic of Peeps at least, to be free, autonomous beings. Peeps, in other words, can’t be owned; pets can be.  This definition is used in Pobri, but it is not uncontested.  (Recently, the appearance of Sebek, a friend of Osiris’s with a crocodile head, reawakened the argument that beings without person heads were not peeps.)  For its immediate pragmatic purposes, Pobri decided that voting citizen peeps had to be “peeps with baked heads glued onto their bodies.”  This works, and it rules out animals and instant peeps, but it leaves large questions unanswered.

On hearing that the Republic will allow villages to discriminate against instant peeps, protest instantly began.  “Hey, guys!”, screeched Bootleg, an instant peep who plays a leading role in the Rights of Instant Peeps movement (see photo at left).  “ What  about  us?  I  mean come on guys, we’re peeps too!”  He’s right that clothespin peeps meet the definition of “small persons who consider themselves to be peeps”.  (Instant peeps are mostly made at Village Mini-Fairs by visitors eager to participate in the life of the town.  Most go home with Mini-Fair visitors, but some, like Bootleg, stick around.)  

Either the definition of peep has to change or the Republic has to face the charge that it’s allowing discrimination in Pobri, perhaps ignoring peeps’ rights.  What rights peeps do have, and whether they have these rights inherently, has never been settled, though.  The Republic enforces its rule that peeps have to be cared for by persons, meaning dressed, sheltered, and protected from violence.  Peeps are considered citizens of the Republic.  But inherent rights and government rules aren’t the same thing.  Bootleg is presently drafting a declaration of peeps’ rights; so are Ministers of New Territories Henry and Zbyszek.  The debate continues.

The same rules of physics that surround human beings also surround peeps.  Peeps have material bodies, have jumping strength proportional to that of humans, and are subject to laws of gravity.  But metaphysical laws are a different story.  Sometimes it’s obvious that a peep has died – its head has been eaten by a chipmunk, or it has been swept away by flood.  We know, however, that no one can decide that someone else’s peep is dead. Can a person decide that his or her peep is dead, though?  Fortunately, this question almost never comes up except in the abstract.  When their peeps get lost or hurt, people are often very upset; we have seen them reduced to tears – both tears of despair and, in instances when the peep or a postcard reporting the peep to be simply on vacation shows up, tears of joy.  The question of why people feel this way is a matter for psychologists; what decisions about peeps’ life and death are out of the hands of people is the question for metaphysicians. We know also that peeps can get new bodies and still be the same peep.  Whether peeps can get new heads though, or hearts, and still be the same peep, we don’t know.  What gives a peep its selfhood?

(December 2002)

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