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Sophie's World

I just read Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder and was wondering about the following, with examples from where I might have missed them in the book.

1) Do you think anyone can become a good philosopher, or is Sophie a special or unusual person? What special talents would it take to become a good philosopher, just being able to apply reasoning, or something else?

2) In the book, Sophie becomes disinterested in everyday activities, like playing badminton with Joanna after school. Why does she not realize that it's possible to enjoy life's simpler pleasures while simultaneously pursuing the answer's to life's great mysteries? What is keeping her from doing both?

3) Can a philosopher be a bit of both a rationalist and an empiricist at the same time? Does Sophie show evidence of being either or both?

4) Descartes believed that the concept of a perfect entity could only have originated from such an entity as God, rather than an imperfect entity such as a human being and this is how he arrives at proving the existence of God. In Sophie's lesson on Descartes, we learn that the leap is considered the weak spot in Descartes' philosophy. What evidence supports the agreement or disagreement of this evidence?

5) Was Marx a Marxist? Was Jesus a Christian? As ideologies are widely accepted, do they somehow become peverted? If so, why?

6) Albert tells Sophie that since her aunt doesn't like her job, she must not like herself. Is self-worth really that closely linked with work?

7) What did Sarte mean when he said, "man is condemned to be free"? Is this something most people would agree with?

8) Why did existentialism gain popularity after the horrors of WWII? What other examples of existentialism exist? Is it a cop-out of sorts or is it a realistic articulation of the modern human condition?

9) Which theory has had the most profound impact on the way human being think and live in the 21st century: Darwin's theory of evolution or Freud's theory of the unconscious? What examples of this appear in the book?

10) Which thinkers or ideas have shaped our society the most in recent years?

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I just read Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder and was wondering about the following, with examples from where I might have missed them in the book.

1) Do you think anyone can become a good philosopher, or is Sophie a special or unusual person? What special talents would it take to become a good philosopher, just being able to apply reasoning, or something else?

Sophie's World is both a novel and a history of philosophy, and so it is not strange that philosophy is its unifying theme. Philosophy is presented not as some esoteric exercise to be performed by people with too much free time but rather as something integral to life itself. Sophie and Alberto need philosophy to understand their world. But they are not so different from the rest of us. They can be sure that their world is the creation of Albert Knag, but just because we lack the answer to the question of where our world (or universe) comes from does not mean that we are freed from asking about it. In fact, as Gaarder stresses throughout the book, to be a philosopher is to never cease asking questions. Philiosphy is about reasoning, about thinking through the world beyond the surface - no special talents - Once our physical well-being is taken care of we must concern ourselves with our mental lives. Life is thrust upon us, and the only way that it can mean anything to us personally is if we ask these questions constantly. Philosophy stands alone, outside of other disciplines, because in reality Gaarder equates it with living. If we live without philosophizing, then we have deprived ourselves of the greatest pleasure and understanding that we could ever come to. Philosophy is an ongoing, lifelong pursuit. We alone of all the creatures on earth can engage in philosophical reflection. Although it may not make our lives simpler or give us any easy answers, philosophy will fill us with a sense of wonder about our existence and our existence. Gaarder shows us that even when philosophy is intricately complicated, it revolves around simplicity.

2) In the book, Sophie becomes disinterested in everyday activities, like playing badminton with Joanna after school. Why does she not realize that it's possible to enjoy life's simpler pleasures while simultaneously pursuing the answer's to life's great mysteries? What is keeping her from doing both?

This juxtaposition is about prioritization in life, screening out the "noise." Note that Sophie's disillusion with regular activities is not presented as positive, but rather bordering on the obsessive. It is part of the journey that sophie takes - about learning to balance her introspection, while learning about the grander world of philosophy. However, a great analogy might be to thing about the philosophies of Buddah - and how simple meditations and actions, or observations of something as simple as dew on a blade of grass, can help one understand more about nature and the world around them.

3) Can a philosopher be a bit of both a rationalist and an empiricist at the same time? Does Sophie show evidence of being either or both?

Both positions are rather extreme - one side or another; which is one of the lessons about "isms." Rather, the author seems to be saying that it is in the aristotlialian "balance" of all things that more truth is found than in the dogma on a simple "ism" or edict of being. Likely because Sophie is new to the formal study of philosophy, she wavers and changes views depending on the focus at a particular time. The old adage that says a medical student will imagine all sorts of illnesses while they study them is apt here - a philosophy student becomes relatively marxian when studying marx and absorbing the arguments; Kantian, a beliver in Nietzsche, etc.

4) Descartes believed that the concept of a perfect entity could only have originated from such an entity as God, rather than an imperfect entity such as a human being and this is how he arrives at proving the existence of God. In Sophie's lesson on Descartes, we learn that the leap is considered the weak spot in Descartes' philosophy. What evidence supports the agreement or disagreement of this evidence?

Physics believes in a similar notion: ...

Solution Summary

The solution discusses the book Sophie's World and asks the questions:

1) Do you think anyone can become a good philosopher, or is Sophie a special or unusual person? What special talents would it take to become a good philosopher, just being able to apply reasoning, or something else?

2) In the book, Sophie becomes disinterested in everyday activities, like playing badminton with Joanna after school. Why does she not realize that it's possible to enjoy life's simpler pleasures while simultaneously pursuing the answer's to life's great mysteries? What is keeping her from doing both?

3) Can a philosopher be a bit of both a rationalist and an empiricist at the same time? Does Sophie show evidence of being either or both?

4) Descartes believed that the concept of a perfect entity could only have originated from such an entity as God, rather than an imperfect entity such as a human being and this is how he arrives at proving the existence of God. In Sophie's lesson on Descartes, we learn that the leap is considered the weak spot in Descartes' philosophy. What evidence supports the agreement or disagreement of this evidence?

5) Was Marx a Marxist? Was Jesus a Christian? As ideologies are widely accepted, do they somehow become peverted? If so, why?

6) Albert tells Sophie that since her aunt doesn't like her job, she must not like herself. Is self-worth really that closely linked with work?

7) What did Sarte mean when he said, "man is condemned to be free"? Is this something most people would agree with?

8) Why did existentialism gain popularity after the horrors of WWII? What other examples of existentialism exist? Is it a cop-out of sorts or is it a realistic articulation of the modern human condition?

9) Which theory has had the most profound impact on the way human being think and live in the 21st century: Darwin's theory of evolution or Freud's theory of the unconscious? What examples of this appear in the book?

10) Which thinkers or ideas have shaped our society the most in recent years?

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