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Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy [Paperback]

Jostein Gaarder , Paulette M°ller
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (474 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 20 2007 FSG Classics
A page-turning novel that is also an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought, Sophie's World has fired the imagination of readers all over the world, with more than twenty million copies in print.

One day fourteen-year-old Sophie Amundsen comes home from school to find in her mailbox two notes, with one question on each: "Who are you?" and "Where does the world come from?" From that irresistible beginning, Sophie becomes obsessed with questions that take her far beyond what she knows of her Norwegian village. Through those letters, she enrolls in a kind of correspondence course, covering Socrates to Sartre, with a mysterious philosopher, while receiving letters addressed to another girl. Who is Hilde? And why does her mail keep turning up? To unravel this riddle, Sophie must use the philosophy she is learning--but the truth turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined.

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 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 M°ller 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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth buying, reading and keeping :) April 7 2004
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mere bagatelle... March 4 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a very original book. Sophie Almundsen starts unwittingly a correspondence course on Philosophy. Weird things start to happen, and it gets weirder and weirder to a point that makes you feel sorry for her. Maybe Gaarder's point is that one does not learn philosophy lightly: it is something that should change one's outlook and "rock their world" (hopefully not so much as in poor Sophie's case). The lessons are very informative, but one can see that Gaarder lost some steam towards the end; the coverage of the philosophers became very compressed as one goes past the Enlightenment. Although the philosophy course must be succint by necessity, I think the selection of his featured "philosophers" is lacking. For example, as someone mentioned, he devotes a paragraph to Nietzsche, but entire chapters to Freud and Darwin. He also completely left out one of the most important and original philosophers of the 20th century, Karl Popper. He says very little about Logic and the Philosophy of Science and of Mathematics. But I think this does not take away from the overall appeal of this book. Finally, where some reviewers seem to think the story is "arbitrary", especially towards the end, I think it is actually a subtle self-joke and very well in keeping with the plot of the book. The point is after all that Gaarder is pulling the strings on *his* universe, and everything for him is a "mere bagatelle."
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great conditions, great price. I'm happy with my purchase :)
Published 1 month ago by annabelle
3.0 out of 5 stars A good Introduction to Philosophy
A great way to be introduced to the great philosophers but has to be read slowly as there is a lot of information for those of us who are not familiar with the great thinkers.
Published 2 months ago by Val
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for bright teens.
A great book for growing minds. The author creates a fascinating world of philosophy and animates the imagination with an intriguing plot.
Published 5 months ago by Joel Duff
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophie's World
Everyone should read it , young & old !The book I purchased was in good shape & I received it promptly .
Published 10 months ago by Gordon Ivany
5.0 out of 5 stars great book ever
one of the best books I ve ever read.

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

philosophy is for everybody
Published 11 months ago by leo.lau
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a novel novel
That is right this is a novel about the history of philosophy. It was written by Norwegian professor Jostein Gaarder. Gaarder Now writes other novels and has a large following. Read more
Published 11 months ago by bernie
4.0 out of 5 stars A few paragraphs at a time
Enjoyable but needs to be read much history and philosophy is packed into it...and the underlying mystery unfolds gradually anyway...It is worth the effort.. Read more
Published 14 months ago by timothy rapsey
4.0 out of 5 stars Who Are You?
Like the title of this review, 'Sophie's World' asks many of the questions that have been fundamental to philosophy for thousands of years. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Eternal Decree
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.
Published on Sept. 11 2012 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
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