Sophie’s World Got Me Into Philosophy

Philosophy books can be boring because they follow a standard textbook-like format. This initial impression often leads people to never lay foot inside the wonderful world of philosophy. 

But there are a lot of philosophy books written in different formats. In fact, one of the books that got me into this field was a novel written by Jostein Gaarder. Here is why Sophie’s World got me into philosophy.

The Story In A Nutshell 

Sophie’s World follows a fifteen-year-old Norwegian girl named Sophie who receives a mysterious letter by a philosopher named Alberto Knox. Alberto decided to take Sophie under his wing and teacher her about the fascinating world of philosophy. 

To begin with, Alberto teaches Sophie about the early days of philosophy when it was barely a subject at all. He introduces the three heavies – Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and waxes in detail about how different their approaches were considering Plato was the student of Socrates and Aristotle was the student of Plato. Sophie soon finds herself asking questions about life such as “Who am I?” and “Where does the world come from?”

Before long, she begins receiving letters addressed to a certain Hilde Moller Knag coming from the girl’s father. Confused, Alberto and Sophie eventually suspect that they are not in the real world, but rather just characters in a book written by a father to his child. 

Alberto and Sophie proceed by using their knowledge in philosophy to try and escape their situation and return to the normal, real world. 

Why Sophie’s World Works

 I have many reasons to love Sophie’s World. For one, I found that a novel-type philosophy book is really easy to understand, even for a beginner. There were times when I was so drawn in by the book that, I almost forgot I was reading a philosophy book. You get attached to the characters throughout the story and you’d be surprised by how much you can learn about philosophy from a book that doesn’t feel like a philosophy book.

The book is a perfect gateway into the wonderful world of philosophy. You almost feel as if Alberto is teaching you directly and I was able to learn a lot about the history of philosophy and how it connects to the present time. Likewise, Jostein Gaarder’s writing style is exceptional and not once did I ever feel bored reading this book. 

What I really appreciated was how it encouraged me to question things in my own life. Regardless of how much you think you know, reading any kind of philosophy will make you realize how little you know. This is an important step in the true understanding of yourself. 

Sophie’s World taught me how studying philosophy can open your eyes to what is going on around you. Sure, discovering that you are not actually a real person, but a character in a book may be unlikely, but this I believe, is an excellent metaphor to studying philosophy. 

My take on the matter is this: people who don’t study philosophy remain in a bubble, ignorant of everything that happens outside of their space. However, if one decides to understand philosophy and how everything is interconnected, then that person’s bubble is burst, allowing him or her to see the bigger picture of reality. 

Finally, the biggest reason why I love this is book and give it to friends as a gift every chance I get, is that Sophie’s World really got me hooked into learning more about philosophy. Once I had a taste of what it was like to start questioning things, my thirst for wisdom grew and it will never be quenched. I have been greeted with many more questions than answers, but I would never go back to my pre-philosophy days. Once you open your eyes, you cannot close them again.

Plato and Kant instructing Sophie. Artwork by DevianArt.

The Book’s Success

 Sophie’s World is known far and wide for its unique take on philosophy. The book is truly a wonderful way to get started with philosophy and the reaction of the world supports my statement. Here are a few examples of how the world reacted to Sophie’s World: 

  • In 1994, Sophie’s World became a best-selling book in Norway. That same year, the book also won the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (German Children’s Literature Award)
  • In 1995, Sophie’s World was translated into English for the global market. The book then became the best selling book in the world for that year.
  • Presently, the book has been translated to over fifty different languages and boasts sales of over forty-million copies to date.
  • The success of Sophie’s World was recognized by different industries. Several adaptations of the book have been made. Movies, TV shows, and games were created with the book as its basis.

Final Thoughts

 Who am I? Why am I here? 

Often, the simplest of questions are the hardest to answer. I can’t emphasize enough how much this book has changed my life for the better. Sophie’s World got me into philosophy and through philosophy, I was able to open so many doors in my own mind. Now, philosophy stands as one of my passions in life. 

If you could only read one philosophy book in your life then Sophie’s World would be one of the best choices you could make. I strongly suggest you give this book a read if you haven’t yet.

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