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Sophie's World

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

A philosopher knows that in reality he knows very little. That is why he constantly strives to achieve true insight. Socrates was one of these rare people. He knew that he knew nothing about life and the world. And now comes the important part: it troubled him that he knew so little.

One of the most important philosophical truths is the one that Socrates was famous for. Alberto tells Sophie about it early on in their correspondence. Socrates started from the fact that he knew nothing. ##Descartes# likewise built up the first great modern system by systematically doubting all of his knowledge. In both cases there is a striking conclusion. Socrates does know something, and that is that he knows nothing. The statement is paradoxical, but also very powerful. It allowed him to use his ignorance as a tool. If one knows nothing then one can ask questions about anything. Not knowing anything is the first step on the path to philosophical wisdom, and Gaarder continually warns us against assuming knowledge of anything. Descartes doubted everything, and finally the one thing he knew was that he doubted. From that doubt he went on to create a grand philosophy. The point is that in order to actually learn something it is better to strip ourselves of what we think we know or what others have told us. Certain knowledge of our ignorance is preferable to uncertain knowledge. Above all else, Gaarder wants us to think about what we know and believe.