But when these basic needs have been satisfied—will there still be something that everybody needs? Philosophers think so. They believe that man cannot live by bread alone. Of course everyone needs food. And everyone needs love and care. But there is something else—apart from that—which everyone needs, and that is to figure out who we are and why we are here.

In Alberto's introductory letter to Sophie, he tells her what the aim of philosophy is and why it is central to our lives. Throughout the book, Gaarder repeatedly addresses the importance of philosophy and its relevance to our everyday lives. This is where Alberto first states that idea. Basically, once we have satisfied our basic needs we have further needs that must be met—the needs of our mind. We are thinking creatures, and we can ponder the universe, and if we do not do so, it is a tragedy. It is not simply good for us to ask important philosophical questions; rather, it is necessary for us to do so because otherwise our lives to a large extent will have been in vain. The only way that we can find meaning in life is through philosophizing, and it is important to have meaning. Some who do not philosophize may think that they have found meaning but in reality they have simply accepted meaning handed down to them from someone or some tradition. But these are things that each person must work out, and that is why it is so critical that we all engage in philosophical thinking.