on November 29, 1998
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.
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.
on December 28, 2000
"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.
on September 24, 2000
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.
I would like to thank the reviewer who warned me not to read the Kirkus review. WARNING AGAIN - DO NOT READ THE KIRKUS REVIEW UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE BOOK! AMAZON, YOU SHOULD REMOVE THIS REVIEW - IT GIVES THE WHOLE GAME AWAY!
on September 2, 2002
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.
on January 20, 2000
Sophie's World attempts to hold the reader's interest though the plot, while the actual philosophy lessons are embedded within it. As a textbook, it was separated into sections that dealt with stages in philosophic development, whether it is a time period or a famous philosopher. Each section stated the situation during the introduction of the specific philosophy and explained the development of each philosophy step by step, through the thought process of Sophie and the guidance of Alberto. Each section also had a summary at the end, and had examples and metaphors on how the philosophy can be applied or thought of. These lessons were fascinating during the beginning of the book, but then it began to become tedious. The refreshing style of the book started to wear off. As a novel, it had a weak plot. Although the mysteries were interesting during the beginning, it quickly began to get repetitive. The mysteries are dragged out too much and they are solved long after the reader loses interest. The pace begins to pick up in the middle however. Unfortunately, this pace is not carried out through the rest of the book, as the plot gets more and more absurd, probably as an attempt building up to a climax. Although I found this a hard book to get through, I felt it was worth it.
on June 2, 1998
Sophie's World is an extraordinary book. The idea that Jostein Gaarder should open our eyes in the way that he has is almost unprecedented in classical literature. I found myself sitting, enthralled by the clever weaving of philosophy lecture with mind blowing undertones. The idea that we only exist, not only within our own minds, but possiblty within the mind of someone else, is one i have often considered. To see this idea written about in such a novel manner was a breath of fresh air. This book, if taken on board will change your views on life. You will no longer wnat to be one of Albert's adults, buried deep inside the rabbits warm comfortable fur. You'll want to climb the strands of fur, and think like a child, become a philosopher. Use the power of your mind to open avenues you'd never considered, and just become a more rounded person. This book should be read with an open mind. Anyone who has ever pondered the great questions to any depth will find themselves identifying with some of the philosophers, and picking out their own ideas mirrored in those of the so called great philosophers. From this respect, it is very uplifting.
I urge people to read this book!!!
on May 30, 2001
I picked up "Sophie's World" on a whim, where it was displayed on a table near the cash register. I don't know have much knowledge about philosophy, and although I realize this book barely scratches the surface of some very deep thoughts, I still feel that Jostein Gaarder did a stupendous job in making philosophy feel accessible to me. It made me curious to know more, and if that's not the sign of a great book, then I guess I don't know what one is.
I skimmed through many of the reviews just now, even though I've already read the book, and I was able to see a general pattern: those that were inquisitive, open to new learning and a new way of considering our existence were wild about this book. Conversely, the ones that gave it low marks and unmercifully criticized the philosophical part smacked of former philosophy major flunkies with severe elitist, I'm-such-an-expert-in-the-field-sniff-sniff attitudes. What most of the low-scorers missed was that "Sophie's World" was never intended to be a comprehensive study in Western Philosophy, merely an introduction to waken sleeping minds. And to say things like Gaarder got Kant's ideas all wrong is, to say the very least, highly subjective (and open to philosophical discussion). And for crying out loud, these nasty critics should learn to relax a little and have a good time with a very "novel" novel. Gads, what snobbery.
Read the book and enjoy it for the ride it gives. It's much better than the average schlop that's flooding the market.
on May 10, 2002
It is very easy to find fault with this book, especially if you are a philosopher. Indeed, Philosopher's like finding fault with things, especially Deconstructionist Philosophers like Derrida - who complicate everything.
Some critics have said that this book fails as a novel but succeeds as an introduction to Philosophy. Another critic has said that, "In fact the book is not an introduction to philosophy at all but an introduction to the author's take on various philosophers, which is a very different thing." I'm simply going to say that this book was a fun exploration of Philosophy, and the fact that Gardener's view permeate the text made it that much more enjoyable.
The book is not a complete history of philosophy, because many important thinkers and genres were left out. Nor is the book a "true" history of Philosophy, because such a history does not exist. As we all know, there are a variety of historical perspectives, and we see these from Copleston to Russell. All histories of Philosophy are injected with bias, opinions, and emphases characteristic of the author's personality and area of interest. In fact, that is what makes many of those works interesting in their own right.
Take Hegel's Philosophy of History, for example. Objectively speaking, it is perhaps the worst History of Philosophy every written, and yet his vision of an organic philosophical spirit moving through history is breath-taking. Or take a Marxian history of Philosophy. Almost all Marx-inspired histories focus on class at the expense of everything else, from ideas to race. And yet for the Marxist, such histories are deemed important and true in the final sense of the word.
Therefore, I must assess Gardner in her own right. For what she set out to accomplish and inspire, this book was a complete success. Namely, if you are new to philosophy, this book will do exactly what any good philosophical primer should do: It will pique your sense of wonder, while at the same time providing you with a fairly good introduction to Philosophy's most prominent thinkers. If you happen to enjoy the teenage plot and its strange conclusion, so much the better.
Both Plato and Aristotle agreed that the origin of all Philosophy lies in wonder, and this book will provide the reader with a sense of philosophical wonder. I can think of no better place to begin the long journey.
on April 7, 2004
Do you want to know more about the History of Philosophy, but don't feel like studying?. This might be the solution for you !!!.
In "Sophie's World" you will find an interesting novel, intertwined almost seamlessly with the History of Philosohy. Is that possible?. For Jostein Gaarder, yes. This former philosophy teacher, born in 1952 in Oslo (Norway), reached success with this book, which has managed to attract even those not commonly interested in Philosophy and also, somehow, to become part of the bibliography of many undergraduate philosophy courses.
The plot of the book is rather simple. It centers on Sophie Amundsen, a fourteen year old girl approaching her fifteen birthday, who one day begins to receive letters from someone she doesn't know. In those letters, her unknown correspondent begins to tell her about the History of Philosophy, the subject he studies. Sophie's goes on receiving those letters throughout the novel, and they become an essential part of the plot, which is a mystery with unexpected turnarounds.
I would like to point out that I noticed a change in Sophie's attitude towards the world and what was happening around her, as the novel is nearer to its end. After learning in those letters about the History of Philosophy (that could also be called the History of Thought), she starts to think in a different, more analytical way. In my opinion, the reader suffers the same process that changes Sophie, and that is not a bad thing at all.
It is important to remark upon the fact that the letters that Sophie's correspondent sends her are written in a clear way, so that she (a teenager) would be able to understand them. Due to the fact that in those letters the main theme is Philosophy, the reader can not only enjoy a good novel but also have access to graspable explanations regarding the ideas of some philosophers, so far unknown or incomprehensible to him.
I recommend this book to anybody curious enough to want to read it. It doesn't require too much effort: you will learn without being aware of doing so. Concerning the age of the reader, I think that "Sophie's World" can be read easily by teenagers, but will also be appealing to adults who enjoy a good book.
On the whole, I believe this book is worth buying, reading and keeping. It is not perfect, though, because I think that the plot of the novel could have been better. However, there aren't too many perfect things in this world, and unfortunately that includes books. So my advice is: read it !!!. You are highly likely to enjoy doing that, and you will appreciate the change of perspective that "Sophie's World" will bring to you.