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Sophies World [Mass Market Paperback]

Jostein Gaarder
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (470 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 11 2002

One day Sophie comes home from school to find two questions in her mail: Who are you? and Where does the world come from?

Before she knows it, she is enrolled in a correspondence course, covering Socrates to Sartre and beyond, with a mysterious philosopher. But Sophie is receiving a seperate batch of equally unusual letters. Who is Hilde? And why does her mail keep turning up in Sophie's world?

To unravel this riddle, Sophie must make use of the philosophy she is learning. But the truth is far more complicated than she could have imagined...

"Sophie's World is sheer delight. How I wish I'd had it during my college freshamn survey of philosophy!" —Madeline L' Engle


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From Amazon

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. As Alberto Knox's lessons approach this century, he and Sophie come to suspect that they are merely characters in a novel written by Albert for his daughter. Teacher and pupil hatch a plot to understand and possibly escape from their situation; and from there, matters get only weirder. 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.

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Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ready for some questions? May 13 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sophie Amundsen is is a normal teeenage girl living with her mom in a small town. Her father works with the U.N. peacekeeping forces and is stationed in Lebanon. When Sophie is about to turn 15, she receives a small note in her mailbox. It has only one question in it: "Who are you?"
This event signals Sophie's first contact with Philosophy. And as days go by and her birthday gets closer, all sorts of weird things start happening : a dog starts delivering her envelopes, letters for a certain Hilde Møller start arriving at her mailbox, a greek city appers before her eyes on video tape, and a misterious man is determined to teach her Philosophy. Sophie and her friend Jorunn will be drawn into a great adventure and at the same time she (and you, the reader), will start a grand tour on philosophy, from mankind's first myths up to the XXth. century.
Sophie's world accomplishes two things: it takes complex ideas and explains them in the most simple language possible (try opening a Kant or Hegel book and reading 10 pages without any formal philosopical background, like me), while keeping enough of a mystery in Sophie's journey to keep you turning pages. There's even a "Philosophical plot twist" that will make you think...
This book is not for those who study philosophy. It is for those who think philosophy is complex and out of reach. Highly commendable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Sophie Amundsen is a typical teenager in Norway. On the verge of her 15th birthday, Sophie begins a mysterious correspondence with a stranger who offers an unusual introduction to philosophy and the great philosophical thinkers of our time. The mystery engages and challenges Sophie at a time when she is looking at her life and her role in the world.

At the very least, this book presents historical philosophy in a way that makes it easy to understand. Sophie's lessons are delivered in a very unorthodox way and the mystery offers Sophie and the reader the incentive to continue with the lessons. The character of Sophie herself is incidental as it is the reader that becomes Sophie and part of the mystery.

Although not "great literature", I was completely captivated by the book and it is something that, if I had discovered it as a youth, would have changed my world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlight Thyself April 12 2004
Format:Audio Cassette
To make a long story short, this book intelligently epitomizes the essences of the hisory of philosophy and stimulates the reader's thoughts of the world and everything it comprises.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophie's World Nov. 24 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everyone should read it , young & old !The book I purchased was in good shape & I received it promptly .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who Are You? Nov. 11 2012
Format:Paperback
Like the title of this review, 'Sophie's World' asks many of the questions that have been fundamental to philosophy for thousands of years. In seeking to answer those questions it leads you through a broad overview of the history of philosophy. Starting with the natural philosophers and ending with men whose philosophy still heavily influences present day thought, 'Sophie's World' shows how these questions have been asked and answered by centuries of philosophers who have built on the work of those who came before.

Intermingled with this overview of philosophy is the story of two young girls; Sophie and Hilde. How their stories overlap I will leave for you, the reader, to discover. But be warned: You will probably find the story quite odd and that occasionally the author's opinion on issues such as the UN, environmentalism, etc. come through strongly, but it is not without purpose.

'Sophie's World' is a great introduction to the history of philosophical thought and gives a clear picture of what many of the most significant philosophers are remembered for. It's not perfect, but what is perfection anyway?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Place to Start March 23 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sophie's World is a complete experience. I must admit I was not a constant reader. Nevertheless I have always been interested in Philosophy, and Gaarder's book is the best way to keep you interested in a great story along with all the knowledge you can acquire. Usually Philosophy History is hard to read and understand if you're not into philosophy itself. But Sophie rides with you into a very easy, understandable course on every important philosopher along human history. I really recomend this excelent work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book ever Nov. 14 2013
By leo.lau
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
one of the best books I ve ever read.

it reveals most difficult ideas with plain languages. ez to understand.

philosophy is for everybody
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4.0 out of 5 stars A few paragraphs at a time Aug. 2 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Enjoyable but needs to be read slowly...so much history and philosophy is packed into it...and the underlying mystery unfolds gradually anyway...It is worth the effort..and fun at the same time...
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel into the age and the mind of humanity
This book was so informative in an amazing way. I have learned so much about what influence the world in a historical and family investigation.
D.
Published 19 months ago by Dom
5.0 out of 5 stars Need to understand philosophy: Read this
One of the best books I have ever read. Where was it when I was in school? Understanding the great thinkers, philosophers,itis written up as a novel and you go through the... Read more
Published on Dec 4 2011 by B. Ridley
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring novel
If you are reading this as a novel, it's pretty boring. But I guess as it is trying to present the history of philosophy, from that perspective, it is trying hard to make it as... Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2011 by Lamy
5.0 out of 5 stars Awakening!
I loved it! I'm so glad I found this book. Understanding the history of our human psyche answers many questions to our present day situations of religions, politics, science,... Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2011 by Curious Puppy
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent philosophy primer [SPOILER]
[SPOILER] I asked my friends for recommendations of books where the characters know they are in a book or story. Read more
Published on June 8 2011 by M. Little
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes & No
This book attempts to do a lot and, in the end, it does at least a little. It introduces beginners to some of the fundamental ideas of the major philosophers from antiquity to the... Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2011 by PhiloSophos
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for everyone
If you think this book is for teenage girls in the middle of a life crisis, you should think again. Yes, Gaarder's book is about existentialism, but more than that, it is a great... Read more
Published on Dec 12 2010 by Adrian Bachmann
5.0 out of 5 stars "The only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of...
Sophie''s story, aside from being a scan through different Ages of Thought, very cleverly intertwines a mysterious intrigue that was part of the reason I managed to read through... Read more
Published on Dec 11 2010 by Sharry
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