Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sophie's World

Sorry for the long delay in posting, but moving and setting up shop have kept me from my blogging duties. Classes start next week, so I am quite busy. Nonetheless, I have just finished Sophie's World--a book that as a philosopher I am often asked about. I decided it was finally time to read it so I could offer an educated opinion. The following is my brief review:

For the most part, the history of philosophy offered in Sophie’s World is sound, though of course often overly simplified. Such simplification is expected and acceptable in a book of this size and for its intended audience. It is at its best in the classical and medieval periods. As we get into the 18th and 19th centuries, there are some disappointing and questionable choices. There is altogether too much attention given to Marx and Freud, while nothing is remarked about John Stuart Mill or John Locke (his political thought). A reader might get the impression that existentialism was the dominant philosophy of the 20th century and not the analytic tradition that actually does dominate, for better or for worse, the Anglo-American world. The thinkers of great importance for this tradition: Moore, Russell, Wittgenstein, are not mentioned at all. This absence is ultimately forgivable because the book was written by a Scandinavian for a Scandinavian audience. Still, the reader should be aware that philosophy in the English speaking world goes in a very different direction than the direction that Alberto takes Sophie.

The story itself is not all that interesting. There is little in the way of characterization and the mystery and fantasy elements are too forced. Sophie can be annoying in the way a 15 year old know it all can be annoying. The adults, other than Alberto, are hardly more developed than the adults of Charlie Brown. And for all the fantastic elements in the book, the hardest to believe is that Sophie’s mother lets her daughter gallivant around with a 50-year old stranger.

I do not think this is not a book for a seasoned philosopher or really any adult reader. It is just a bit too childish. I would probably recommend it, however, for a young adult interested in learning about philosophy. But, then again, if that young adult were precocious enough to be interested in philosophy at that age, I would rather just hand him something by Plato or Aristotle.

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