Sophie’s World: A Review


A beginner’s guide to Philosophy

Being a commerce graduate I am not expected to know much about the philosophy of life and thus was never officially introduced to it. However, being my inquisitive self who found little solace in the dry subjects of accounts and corporate law, I sought to introduce myself to the much enigmatic subject of philosophy. And when I shared my intention with a friend, she suggested that I get a copy of Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. So I did.

Sophie’s World—as I later found out—is a simple trip into the historical past of philosophy which introduces the readers to the philosophical thinking of some of the greatest philosophers that the world has ever seen. I use the word “simple” because Gaarder explains the complex philosophical questions and theories in very simple and lucid terms—which by the way is one of the major factors contributing to the book’s popularity.

The tale begins with Sophie, a fourteen-year-old Norwegian teenager, who receives two anonymous messages in her mail box—the first asking, “Who are you?” and the second asking, “Where does the world come from?”—and a postcard addressed to Hildey Moller Knag c/o Sophie Amudsen.

Soon afterwards, Sophie receives another anonymous package with some papers as a part of the correspondence course in philosophy. With these mysterious communications she becomes the student of a fifty-year-old philosopher Alberto Knox, as it is he who is sending her the notes on philosophy. However, what remains a mystery is who is sending Sophie the postcards addressed to Hilde, and how are they connected to her?

The mystery corresponding to Hildey Moller Knag and her father Albert Knag helps steer the story along as Knox (the philosopher) continues teaching Sophie. She learns about the origin of philosophy by the natural philosopher Democritus, and then about Socrates who was humble enough to acknowledge that he knew nothing. Plato, Socrates’ student, comes next along with his theory of A World of Ideas, followed by his disciple Aristotle who rebutted his master’s theory and emphasized on reason along with sense perception.

Alberto’s lessons then introduce Sophie to the Hellenistic period, the rise of Christianity, the Renaissance, the Baroque period, the Age of Enlightenment and the Romantic period. However, after the introduction to George Berkley, the plot shifts to Hilde who is till then only a part of the backdrop. Sophie and Knox both get entangled in the world of Albert Knag, and it is how (if at all) they solve the mystery with the help of what Sophie has learned that forms the climax of the book.

Sophie’s World is a book for those who are keen to know about the evolution of philosophical thought. However, don’t expect any deep insights as the author’s idea is to establish a universal understanding of philosophy. And while the language of the book is simple and the manner lucid, it is the mystery—which the author has spun to keep the interest of the readers alive—that makes the book a drag.

Nevertheless, this book makes for a good read for someone who wants to learn about philosophy and doesn’t know where and how to start. Sophie’s World will help him or her decide if philosophy is his or her cup of tea or not.

So go and grab your copies NOW!

Ritika Rastogi

Name a few books that one can read to understand philosophy better. Write your opinions in the comment box below.

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