Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

By rec­om­men­da­tion I read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. It is a nov­el about the his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy, writ­ten in such a way the the con­cepts from the pre-Socrat­ics through Kant and up to Sartre could be grasped by a juve­nile. Spoil­ers past the jump.

This book is sort of a nov­el, but more­so it uses a sto­ry­line to paste togeth­er sum­maries of dif­fer­ent philoso­phies. Sophie starts get­ting these strange cor­re­spon­dence course phi­los­o­phy lessons and gets these stranger pieces of flot­sam from some girl named Hilde. To cut to the chase, Sophie and her teacher fig­ure out that they are just char­ac­ters in a sto­ry writ­ten by Hilde’s father for Hilde. They strain under this yoke and attempt to escape from the some­what capri­cious behav­ior of the cre­ator of Sophie’s World. Jostein Gaarder winks at us when Alber­to [the phi­los­o­phy teacher] says that Hilde’s father might be a part of a sto­ry being writ­ten by some­one else. Sophie even ends up buy­ing a copy of Sophie’s World in a book­store. Lev­els with­in lev­els.

Sophie and Alber­to man­age to escape from under tha major’s thumb and enter a world where spir­it is stronger than mat­ter, Win­nie-the-Pooh and oth­er fic­tion­al char­ac­ters inhab­it this world, but it is just as real as real is. It is some­what creepy to think that we are gods and that the sto­ries we tell go on liv­ing after we tell them. Think would make for a more respon­si­ble sto­ry­teller, I think. It is a dif­fer­ent tack on Tolkien’s idea of sub­cre­ation and mythopoeia.

The philo­soph­i­cal por­tions are bal­anced, not too long-wind­ed, and gives the best cuts of meat in terms of the spe­cif­ic philoso­phers ideas. It doesn’t try its own Mean­ing of Life attempt, instead it says that the same ques­tions that phi­los­o­phy has asked for thou­sands of years must be answered by each per­son in every gen­er­a­tion.

He who can­not draw on three thou­sand years is liv­ing from hand to mouth.”

Johann von Goethe.

4 Replies

  • Spoil­ers past the jump.

    Philo­soph­i­cal spoil­ers??? You mean — if I click the link I will sud­den­ly be enlight­ened to the mean­ing of life??

  • The author (who is Nor­we­gian) is real­ly cool. He became rich and famous over-night due to this book. He was all over the media, but not in an annoy­ing way — he was just so gen­uine­ly excit­ed about the sub­ject of his book.

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