Under the title of the novel, Sophie’s World, smaller text reads “A Novel About the History of Philosophy. ” This is precisely what the novel is about, “the history of philosophy. ” A reader who picks up the novel, flips through the pages, will see over 523 pages of strict text involving history with nothing to stimulate visual interest. It is undoubtedly true that the whole book is similar to a history textbook and the obvious reason to why Norwegian author, Jostein Gaarder, knew that it was necessary to include the presence of a table of content and index.
In the novel, the character Alberto Knox makes numerous references to the rule, “a good philosopher always questions. ” Everyone who remotely knows about philosophy knows that it’s one of the most basic rules. So with this introduction, the question is why should an individual read such a tedious novel with numerous flaws in it? Like everything there is good and bad.
The negative criticisms do outweigh the adulation that could be said about the novel. However, for starters, owning your personal fresh copy of this book costs only $9. 9 Canadian and expenses go as far as two additional dollars to satisfy applicable taxes. On the other hand, it would be almost impossible to find a decent readable copy of a philosophy textbook for less than $20. 00. After all, a textbook has visual aids and is easier to read, hold and retain interest in. Although the book does contain many flaws, Jostein Gaarder did have a purpose in writing the history of philosophy in a novel format, but it is only by more careful examination and patience that an individual is able to see it.
Gaarder, talking to readers through character Alberto Knox, tells Sophie that “it is a good idea to try and see what each philosopher’s project is. ” (30) Saying this, Gaarder narrates over a thousand years time span explaining prominent philosophers and topics teaching readers how philosophy evolved throughout history. It is only by comprehending all this that readers can see how philosophy evolved throughout history and influenced people and following periods’ structure. Individuals are able to see the roots of Western Culture.
Gaarder describes the history to Sophie Admundsen, Hilde Moller Knag and readers according to their “correct (chronological) order” (30) of when the philosophized thoughts were enduced. With each era, a considerable amount of analyzation from Sophie’s enlightenment and explanatory comments from Alberto helps readers reach their own stage of understanding. History starts by looking into countries such as Greece, Norway and Sweden that begin the philosophizing process by offering mythological explanations to elucidate the occurance of natural phenomena.
Unsatisfied with answers, “Natural Philosophers” evolved and looked away from mythical explanations. Instead, the philosophers seeked more logical explanations for nature’s behavior. Ultimately, the natural Philosophers defined the basic four elements, offered reasons for change and introduced the scientific approach we follow still today. The less religious approach created Greek scientist Democrocritus, whom found the atom theory that scientists evolve their work around and students are forced to learn today.
Following, a new age arouse where famous Socrates, Plato and Aristotle lived and profoundly impacted concepts and ideas that remain with us. Socrates was famous for his constant questioning and view on ethics. He taught his philosophy and is responsible for numerous numbers of philosophers’ opinions. One of many examples is Socrates’ student Plato. After following “closely” to Socrates trial and death, “a profound impression” (81) opened Plato and thus “shape(d) the course of his entire philosophic endeavor. ” (81) This further spread as Plato in turn influenced many other people’s ideas.
Later, Plato went onto formally teaching the belief of immortality of the soul and demising the “ideal state” is school. On the other hand, following philosopher, Aristotle, had many different beliefs, most significantly his “erroneous view of the sexes. ” (117) This “held sway during the Middle Ages” (117) and is the shameful reason why “the church thus inherited a view of women that is entirely without foundation in the Bible. ” (117) Later came the Dark Ages where “growth” occurred and the revival of classical culture ideas diffused into influencing the Renaissance.
The Enlightenment and Romanticism introduced new people such as Newton, Shakespeare, Calderon de la Barca and Peter Dass who’s work attributed significantly to their field of interest. Most importantly, intelligence was generated by the existence of new ideas, and terminologies that allowed men to become more expressive and intellectual. Thinking revolutionized as we no longer were just created by God in a day, nor was the long-lived social class structure correct. Karl Marx created his Communist Manifesto and Sigmund Freud examined the human mind.
Lastly, we learn about the big bang theory and why we even have a ground to stand on. These facts are in the novel and make the book extremely informative. It is by learning history that one is able to understand how thinking evolved and how philosophy drives the past to progress. Philosophy is the framework for modern ideas. By watching philosophy’s history, we see following philosophers pick up where others left off. We in turn are able to pick up new and improved ideas. Clearly, the intention of the author is to enlighten every reader about key concepts, terminologys, philosophers and the derivation of our society today.
Gaarder ingeniously makes readers unconsciously behave as philosophers as he introduces the act of questioning to readers. Using Alberto Knox as the informative philosophy teacher, Gaarder exposes readers to notable philosophers whom undoubtedly structures many ideas. Alberto Knox imposes philosophy’s history and ideas onto his student Sophie Admundsen who reflects on them. Sophie is actually a representation of us and demonstrates the effect and validity that philosophy can perform on an individual.
The author creates Sophie into relating her lessons to her personal life and questioning simple, important, neglected everyday ideas. Since Sophie is our reflection, it cleverly makes readers do the same. In fact, negligence, ignorance and human unacceptance are themes of the novel. Humans do not know their roots of existence or surrounding reasons which is all due to philosophy. The book discusses philosophy’s history and analyzes why individuals such as Berkley, Locke are driven to wonder and ultimately cause philosophy to exist.
The lost of ignorance and acceptance of inevitable human flaws is what Gaarder wants his audience to receive. Gaarder wants his readers to form opinions and reflect on the numerous discrete themes he has implanted in his novel for us. Obviously, the theme of enlightenment is important in the novel as the plot describes the process of protagonists Hilde Moller Knog and Sophie Admundsen reaching it. Gaarder forced both girls to “climb up the fine hairs of the fur in order to stare right into the magician’s eyes,” (14) and hope that in reflection, readers will do the same.
Ultimately, the illuminated students establish a newfound happiness. It is only by wisdom that humans finally become “more than a naked ape, avoid floating in a vacuum … and become a human being. ” (164) The second most significant theme is the theme of wonder and dual reality. By being thrust with the disturbing fact that Sophie is actually a character inside a book, Sophie effectively throws back readers into considering how real they are. This brilliantly brings readers to philosophy’s metaphysics branch. Gaarder writes a book about a book inside a book.
His main approach is creating Sophie to be the book’s fictional character. This ingenious plan deceives readers and propels them to ponder reality from fiction. Readers become less secure with their own existence and not remain in deep “in the fur… (of) comfort”. (18) This is an outstanding technique because it ties well into the important theme of wonder and dual reality. This effects readers so strangely and profoundly. Furthermore, Gaarder increases the tension between reality and fiction as he throws in the random appearances of fairy tale characters.
The only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder. ” (10) Gaarder is successful in making readers philosophize. The novel is tedious, dull, and boring but Gaarder does try to add interest into it. The novel is extremely factual and wearisome to read. The novel requires an enormous amount of time and effort to read because readers must often stop to reflect and answer questions presented by the novel. The novel is to be read for factual reasons, not literary. Gaarder in Norwegian and this book has been translated from Norwegian to English.
This process lost some of the language’s initial flow and meaning. Gaarder also uses characters to try to increase the level of interest in the novel. He uses fairytale creatures to place limited humor into the novel. A great deal of dialogue is used to retain the audience’s interest. Gaarder uses letters which proves to be a unique style. By making Sophie ask questions, it breaks long factual text in half and gives readers a break in which they can absorb more of what they read. Also, the mysterious atmosphere established motivates readers to read to know the “mysterious philosopher(‘s)” identity along with Hilde.
It forces readers to be patient and to pull through the novel in order to solve the “enigma. ” The novel is not at all persuasive but more threatening. Sophie would’ve disappeared like her friends Joanna and the rest of her world if it wasn’t for her enlightenment. The book is saying that those who are ignorant suffer by leaving their world with no mark. The uninteresting writing makes the book seem interminable for readers. Through this, readers learn patience and to be arduous with the task, as a philosopher would be with philosophy. Overall, the novel is monotonous because there are so many facts in the novel.
Despite its lack of interest, there are no unnecessary parts in the book because everything either informs or demonstrates the effects of learning and not learning philosophy. There are several strange parts such as the Mercedes ramming into the garden party and the random appearances of storybook characters. The book is interesting only because it is different from any other novel and the content is extremely different. This leads to intelligence and expressiveness. To reach the end of the book, you are forced to do several things. a) to read b) to question c) to learn.
This is all good but I’d only recommend Sophie’s World to people who express an interest in philosophy and have the time to read through with patience. Otherwise, if a reader rushes though the novel, he/ she will actually find themselves aggravated since everything seems to ramble on and the ramble is pointless without reflection or grasp or material. The novel is an eye opener telling individuals to keep their freedom by never overlooking possibilities. The key to the novel is retaining and accepting. The novel is divided into 35 chapters about significant philosophers, eras and theories.
The chapter headings are clear in stating the topic and the index allows easy reference to material. The chapters are set properly according to the eras which the ideas were thought up. The set back to this is that ideas may be out of order therefore making them hard to find. For example, the big bang theory is the last chapter in the novel when the big bang is what occurred first. Also many ideas are hidden inside chapters in time periods which makes the index the more useful since the index requires to time co-ordination.
The only reason I’d read this book again is for “enlightenment” of facts; not for plot or language. The impact the book has on you depends on personality. If a reader knows the bases of philosophy, then the book will be as dull as for a reader who shares no interest in learning or acceptance. If one is able to reflect on the novel’s messages and recall facts, there is no doubt that this person would be able to speak intelligently over many subject areas. This reference book is much like a textbook people should use it as such. A textbook is for learning and so is this novel.