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Sophie's World

Jostein Gaarder

Study Questions and Essay Topics

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Quiz

Study Questions

Compare and contrast Sophie and Hilde.

There is a great deal of similarity between Sophie and Hilde. Both of them enjoy thinking and like to wonder about life and the unknown. Both girls are angered by the opinions of many of the philosophers about women. Sophie loses interest in school while she is taking the philosophy course and Hilde skips school on her birthday to read the book. Both girls are fairly practical and have a good deal of self-confidence. However, there are some differences between them as well. Hilde has a better relationship with her parents. Sophie and her mother get along but it is really Alberto who understands her mind in the way that Albert Knag understands his daughter. Although Hilde thinks that Sophie may exist, she is not as radical a thinker as Sophie. There is good reason for this difference, however, since Hilde did not recently free herself from the mind of the person who created her. And while Hilde looks to get revenge on her father for Sophie, it is interesting to note that Sophie herself does not want revenge. She is not really angry with Hilde's father; she just wants to be free of his control.

Take two philosophers from different time periods and discuss the ways in which their historical context played a role in their philosophy.

Kant was concerned with the way we perceive the world. He inherited a host of questions from the debate between the empiricists and the rationalists, and he made an attempt to come up with a solution to that debate. His solution was undoubtedly brilliant, and his philosophy encompasses many facets of human life. However, Kant still poses universal rules—he believes that all human beings know the difference between right and wrong. Kierkegaard, on the other hand was reacting against the Romantic tradition and Hegel. He was angered by the emphasis on community and the world spirit and wanted to return the focus to the individual. Kierkegaard is not interested in the sorts of grander claims about morality that Kant made because he feels that each person must live on their own and must find their own truth in life. He was looking for subjective truths and felt that reason was not important because it could not help us with the really difficult things in life. For Kierkegaard, it was not possible to treat people as a unified whole—each person is a unique individual who must make their own choices. Although he was reacting against the Romantics, it is certain that some of their emphasis on the creative powers of the individual influenced his development of existentialism. There is more to be said about both Kant and Kierkegaard, but the idea is to look at the context of their lives and attempt to compare the ways that their philosophies might have been influenced.

"She decided that philosophy was not something you can learn; but perhaps you can learn to think philosophically." Sophie thinks this at the end of the chapter on the natural philosophers. Do you agree with the above statement? Why or why not?

Thinking philosophically involves questioning. To be a philosopher one must think about things and ask good questions. Then one must try to think up some sort of an explanation for the questions that have been asked. So learning to think philosophically is how to be a philosopher. But at the same time, the best way to learn how to think philosophically may be to look at examples from the history of thought. And when one studies the problems that other philosophers faced and the solutions that they came up with, then that is learning philosophy. It may be that as babies we act like philosophers because we constantly wonder about things, but philosophers go a step further and try to come up with an explanation for the wondrous thing. And it may be that thinking philosophically is a technique that we need to be trained in. In that case learning philosophy through examples will cultivate our ability to think philosophically and therefore allow us to be philosophers.

Suggested Essay Topics

Who is the hero of Sophie's World? Defend your selection against at least two other possible characters.

Which of the philosophical questions raised in the book is the most compelling? What makes it more interesting or crucial than the others?

What is the role of Mrs. Amundsen in Sophie's World?

Take any of the philosophers from the book and describe how their philosophy is personally relevant.

What is the role of irony in Sophie's World? Refer to both Socratic irony and romantic irony.

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a question we all ask

by pala909, August 08, 2012

For my whole life, I have questioned where God came from. I've always believed in a God and that He created us, but I could never wrap myself around the idea of where He Himself came from. One day, I asked my friend and his answer was quite helpful and it might also help you guys, he said, I think God was always there as the essence of "there". God doesn't exist like you and I exist. Based on the way we understand existence, God doesn't exist. That's why that question is so hard for us. When Moses asked God's name he said "I Am"
And t... Read more

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137 out of 172 people found this helpful

Typo

by Utilizer, November 29, 2014

Mom - Hilde's mother is a very minor character in the book. The relationship between Hilde and her father is much more central, but *Hilde's mother often provides a stabilizing influence in her daughter's life. We do not know how deep of a thinker she is, but it is clear that she loves her husband and her daughter very much.

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