About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

#46: Sophie's World

Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy, by Jostein Gaarder, translated by Paulette Moller (New York: Berkeley Books, 1997, c1994)

"A page-turning novel as well as an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought, Sophie's World -- with more than thirty million copies in print -- has fired the imaginations of readers all over the world.

"One day fourteen-year-old Sophie Amundsen comes home from school to find in her mailbox two notes, each with a question: 'Who are you?' and 'Where does the world come from?' From this irresistible beginning, Sophie becomes obsessed with questions that take her far beyond what she knows of her Norwegian village. Through successive letters, she enrolls in a kind of correspondence course, covering Socrates to Sartre, with a mysterious philosopher, while also receiving letters addressed to another girl. Who is Hilde? And why does her mail keep turning up? To answer this riddle, Sophie must use the philosophy she is learning -- but the truth turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined."

Opening Lines:
"Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. She had walked the first part of the way with Joanna. They had been discussing robots. Joanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not sure she agreed. Surely a person was more than a piece of hardware?"

My Take:
Finally got around to reading this one after having it on my shelf for, well, longer than I can remember. Fascinating concept and an accessible, even enjoyable overview of Western philosophy for those who (like me) somehow didn't take that particular elective in college. The story and/or plot do get a bit bogged down at times, with the philosophy often overwhelming the Sophie-and-the-philosopher frame story ... but to be fair, part of this may be a result of the translation. Not quite a page-turner, at least for me, but still much more interesting than browsing Wikipedia or lugging around a college textbook for a taste of the history of philosophy.

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