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Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 875 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Wanting to understand the most fundamental questions of the universe isn't the province of ivory-tower intellectuals alone, as this book's enormous popularity has demonstrated. A young girl, Sophie, becomes embroiled in a discussion of philosophy with a faceless correspondent. At the same time, she must unravel a mystery involving another young girl, Hilde, by using everything she's learning. The truth is far more complicated than she could ever have imagined.

From Publishers Weekly

This long, dense novel, a bestseller in the author's native Norway, offers a summary history of philosophy embedded in a philosophical mystery disguised as a children's book--but only sophisticated young adults would be remotely interested. Sophie Amundsen is about to turn 15 when she receives a letter from one Alberto Knox, a philosopher who undertakes to educate her in his craft. Sections in which we read the text of Knox's lessons to Sophie about the pre-Socratics, Plato and St. Augustine alternate with those in which we find out about Sophie's life with her well-meaning mother. Soon, though, Sophie begins receiving other, stranger missives addressed to one Hilde Moller Knag from her absent father, Albert. [...] Norwegian philosophy professor Gaarder's notion of making a history of philosophy accessible is a good one. Unfortunately, it's occasionally undermined by the dry language he uses to describe the works of various thinkers and by an idiosyncratic bias that gives one paragraph to Nietzsche but dozens to Sartre, breezing right by Wittgenstein and the most influential philosophy of this century, logical positivism. Many readers, regardless of their age, may be tempted to skip over the lessons, which aren't well integrated with the more interesting and unusual metafictional story line. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; 18th Printing edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425152251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425152256
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.6 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (875 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Jostein Gaarder is the author of SOPHIE'S WORLD, a huge bestseller in over 40 countries. He was born in Oslo in 1952 and lives there now with his wife and two sons.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I read through quite a few of the reviews here before writing my own, and was kind of surprised at what I read. I think I read Sophie's World through far different eyes than most of the people who posted reviews. I'm a 16 year old high school sophmore who's familiarity to philosophy is limited to what material I can borrow from my school library, not what I was taught at an expensive college. Sophie's World is delightful for it's purpose: to introduce people to the basics of philosophy and apply it to a fictional situation. Gaarder suceeds wonderfully in doing that. What the world needs is a clear concise history of philosophy that helps HUMAN BEINGS understand philosophy without having to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Sophie's World is that book, not just another overanalysis of Kierkegaard or Sartre which might as well be written in Latin, because God knows most people wouldn't understand a word of it. Sophie's World is a book for PEOPLE who want to understand the world of philosophy, not a bunch of stuck-up intellectuals who think that only a select few should be able to enjoy such information. Yes, for people who know everything, this book would probably be a bore, but for your 99% percent of the country; this book would be a gem, and it is.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Sophie's World has an interesting concept, but it is certainly not for everyone. I have some criticism of the book, but also some praise. First the criticism. This is really a philosophy text pretending to be a novel. (Which, I believe is ultimately a good thing). The characters are not that believable and are really just devices Gaarder uses to get his point across. The dialog is not believable either. Another potential problem for certain readers is that the philosophy lessons contained in this book are, in the novel, aimed at a 15 year old girl. If you have studied philosophy at some point in your life, this will probably be far too simplistic for you.
I still would recommend this book and here's why. Sophie's World will be an excellent read for anyone with a curiosity about philosophy, but who finds the whole thing a bit intimidating. I think it's a wonderful introduction to philosophy because it is aimed at that 15 year old character. Even if you have studied philosophy, this book will be thought provoking, if only because it makes you think about what you once studied. I think this would be a wonderful book for parents of teenage children to read with their children. It would certainly make for some excellent discussions. The true strength of this book is the material it covers. Philosophy is a fascinating subject and Sophie's World is the perfect choice for anyone who would like to gently ease themselves into that subject.
5 Comments 258 of 273 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
"Sophie's World" is amazing, it's a philosophy course made a novel. Most people interested in the "big questions" have probably read through their lives several authors, maybe Plato's "Dialogs", Descartes, Kant; or modern ones like Nietzsche, Freud or Marx. However, by doing this (reading only some authors) its difficult to understand the evolution of the philosophical thought through the history of mankind, you are unable to compare all the different approaches to questions that have been asked repeatedly since thousands of years. This book gives you the vision, and the head start for a more profound reading of occidental philosophy. For example years ago I started Nietzsche's "Beyond good and evil", and not being able to understand why he criticized Kant I dropped the book. After reading in Gaarder's book Kant's basic ideas I finally understood the divergence of thoughts.
But "Sophie's World" it's not just a mere philosophy course, it's a novel, a very enjoyable text that mixes the philosophic knowledge with the plot, in a totally entertaining way. The book is recommendable for everybody, but specially for people interested in the subject, of course. It's definitely not just for young people, but a philosophy professor would probably find it a little dull.
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By A Customer on September 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Reviewers who complain the plot of this book is weak, that the ending is a "cop-out", that the story line gets "too weird" have, in my opinion, totally misunderstood the point of the novel, and have not paid proper attention to the philosophy lectures embedded in the novel. READ THE SUBTITLE - it's a novel about the history of philosophy! The clues to the plot are in the philosophy, and the plot, as well as the ending, make perfect sense provided you have understood the philosophy.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Gaardner, a Norwegian high school teacher, has created a wonderful and readable history of philosophy. The book is weakly constructed as a philosophy course taught to 14-year old Sophie by a mysterious stranger. But it is this "novel" side of the book that is the thinnest, for Sophie and the other characters in the novel are mere cardboard cutouts tacked on to the margins of the chapters to provide context for the the real book: the philosophy course.
The course chronologically covers thirty major periods, schools of thought, and philosophers from the pre-Socratics through Aristotle, Aquinas, and Hegel to the Big Bang. Each is presented in an accessible chapter of a dozen pages, with the philosophy teacher simplifying and clarifying points for Sophie. With the philosophers presented in chronological order, readers can track the trends of thought as each builds on those who came before. "Sophie's World" is not a great novel, but it is an excellent review of philosophy, and a quick 500 pages.
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