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Discussion of Sophie's World

We choose one philosophical book per month to read. Then we discuss it as a group.

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Scott
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Discussion of Sophie's World

Post by Scott » September 24th, 2010, 3:14 pm

Please use this thread to discuss the September 2010 book of the month, Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. Please note, this thread will contain spoilers so please do not read or participate in this thread until you have read the whole book.

How do you feel about the book? Did you enjoy reading it? Any favorites parts or excerpts?

I love this book. I am amazed at how well the author packed in the history of philosophy, including a lot of non-philosophical information for historical context, while keeping the book so interesting. Even while reading the multi-page-long philosophy lectures that could just as easily be found in a college classroom, I was kept interested somehow as if actual events were happening. Perhaps the author did it by the excellent way the progression of the story's plot paralleled the particular philosophical ideas being taught by the philosopher.

I greatly appreciate the points mainly in the earlier part of the book about they way people become jaded and unphilosophical as they get older because they get used to the world, in a sense demonstrating how children are more philosophical because they have a greater sense of wonder and curiosity. I think this point regarding the connection between age, conformity and being unphilosophical is also somewhat expressed in this quote which I very much like from the novel, "The most subversive people are those who ask questions."

While it goes a little over the top, I very much enjoyed the purposely blatant literary irony throughout the novel, which mostly occurred in the latter half.

I loved the build up to the ending, but I was a little disappointed by the actual ending. What happened after the end of the major's book was a little too blatantly supernatural for me. I had thought what was going to happen was that the Hilde would write a followup chapter starting from where the major left off detailing their escape and that would be Hilde's surprise for the Major. That would have still allowed for the explanation that Sophie and the philosopher were like split personalities existing in the mind of the author(s) including his unconscious.

Anyway, what did you think?
Last edited by Scott on August 7th, 2011, 5:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Wowbagger » September 24th, 2010, 4:34 pm

I read this book the first time when I was twelve. It really is an amazing book for children. I was almost never bored while reading, and that means something because the subject was, after all, complicated philosophy.

Like Scott, I was intrigued by the passage about children perceiving the world differently than adults. They tend to lose their sense of wonder while growing up, it being replaced by experience and repetition.

The only thing I'm disappointed from my current perspective is how little thought is given to scientific philosophy.

I think the beginning about the Greeks was excellent, my favorite part philosophy wise. The only thing that confused me was the Berkeley, Bjerkley whatever stuff. I still don't really know what that's all about.

And I liked the late chapters when things started to get really weird.

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Post by athena » October 12th, 2010, 1:14 pm

I love the book, and was surprised to learn my almost 13 year old granddaughter is reading it for school. I really hope this puts her on the path of loving philosophy. I think the book presents the basic philosophical concepts in a very comprehensible way.

In fact, I intend to buy my own copy of the book, for a reference book, because it is more comprehensive than other books I have. Thank you so much for bringing this book to my attention.
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Post by Algol » October 12th, 2010, 3:13 pm

What's October's book? Is there one?

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Post by Belinda » October 13th, 2010, 6:37 am

Scott, Athena and Wowbagger must be better at reading novels than I am because I found this novel made no sense as a narrative. As a vehicle for philosophy I like it and hope that child readers won't be put off philosophy by the difficulty of making any sense of the narrative.

By the way what was the point of having the two sort of versions of Sophie?
I heartily agree with the author that philosophy should be taught in schools.I doubt if some of the primary teachers I have met would be capable of themselves understanding philosophy but the usual education of teachers includes that child education is leading children out, not simple instruction, so I suppose that with a good teacher in charge, it works okay.
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Post by Felix » October 21st, 2010, 2:50 pm

"Scott, Athena and Wowbagger must be better at reading novels than I am because I found this novel made no sense as a narrative."

I agree, the storyline which was the vehicle to illustrate the philosophical ideas was a mediocre fairytale - simply a means to a philosophical end. But it did make the philosophical pills easier to swallow.
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Post by A Poster He or I » March 23rd, 2011, 5:42 pm

I read Sophie's World a couple of years ago on a lark. Like Belinda, I found the narrative confusing especially after two Sophies are obviously at work. I couldn't under-stand what was supposed to be the point of that.

Nevertheless, I think this book is really valuable for teenage readers and older. The presentation of the Western philosophical tradition is a well-balanced introduction, easy enough to follow.

My only quibble is that I thought the 20th century philosophies were given the short shrift, especially because they were confined to Continental philosophies with nothing about Anglo-American philosophies at all. However, I suppose I can excuse the author given that she is "of the Continent" herself. Besides, I can't imagine how analytic philosophy might be presented in a story like Sophie's.

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