Ideas for Group Discussions

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 605

Asimov's best fiction is full of ideas; he seems to have been devoted to writing because it gave him the opportunity to play with ideas, to explore new concepts. Forward the Foundation shares this quality with his best books and therefore offers ample topics for discussion. Note how he ties in the aging of Seldon with the aging of the Empire and thereby metaphorically not only symbolizes the decay of society through one man's aging, but at the same time suggests that the individual person is as important as the collective society. This kind of complexity could take hours to unravel, so a discussion group may wish to focus on a particular set of ideas — perhaps, those relating to the decay of American society or those that argue that the scientific method can lead to the understanding of any phenomena, including human affairs. Another approach that could lead to significant insights would be to try to answer the question, What is Forward the Foundation about? Is it about one man's life? Is it actually about how societies evolve? Is it in fact about the dedication scientific enquiry requires? Is it really intended to supplement the early Foundation novellas, to merely answer questions readers of the Foundation series might have about Seldon and psychohistory?

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1. In Forward the Foundation, psycho-history is a branch of mathematics. How much of the world can mathematics explain? What, for instance?

2. Does the account of Hari Seldon's life give you a better understanding of what it is like to grow old?

3. Why is Seldon's last thought "Dors"?

4. Why are Colonel Linn's efforts to trick Dors successful? How do he and Tamwile Elar use her best traits against her?

5. Raych's family moves to an outer world to escape the troubles on Trantor but fare even worse in their new home. Do you know of any similar instances when people have left the city to escape crime and other problems with city life?

6. Have you read any of the other Foundation books? If so, what did you want to find out in Forward the Foundation? Did you find out what you wanted to know?

7. Is Forward the Foundation a pessimistic novel?

8. Psychohistory is Seldon's idea, and Seldon will receive the credit for it, so why does Yugo Amaryl devote his entire life to developing psychohistory, forsaking love, family, and friendships?

9. Why would Eto Demerzel and Dors Venabili deceive Seldon about what Dors really was? Was it right for them to deceive Seldon?

10. How did Seldon make Dors "human"? (See the end of Part III.)

11. Does Asimov draw any parallels between the Galactic Empire and the United States? If so, what are they?

12. Why does the First Foundation have to be on a planet far from other ones?

13. Why does Seldon dislike being First Minister? Does this make sense to you?

14. Librarians are very self-important people in Forward the Foundation. How important are librarians? What do they do for society?

15. Critics such as Joseph F. Patrouch believe that Asimov supports the supremacy of reason over emotionalism in his fiction. Is this true of Forward the Foundation?

16. Asimov called Hari Seldon his "Alter ego." Both Seldon and Asimov were workaholics who were dedicated to learning. What other parallels are there between Seldon and Asimov?

17. The original Foundation novellas were written about forty years before Forward the Foundation. How well does Forward the Foundation build on the ideas in the original novellas? Has anything been changed from those early novellas in Forward the Foundation?

18. Seldon regards democracies as inherently unstable and short lived. Is this true? What are the histories of democracies so far?

Kirk H. Beetz

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