Sophie's World

Apologies if a thread covering this topic has been posted before, but I could not find any.

I read this book when I was 15 or so, and although at times a truly brutal slog (maybe I was a little young to be attempting material as intellectually demanding as this) it was an ultimately rewarding read and what sparked my interest in philosophy.

I was going to re-read it sometime soon, and was wondering if anybody knew if the author’s treatment of each philosopher/philosophical theory was fair, or if there was some bias towards a particular set of ideas etc.

For those interested, the Wikipedia article is here and link to Amazon here

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:


The author appears to be agnostic or atheism-leaning, but this doesn’t come clearly through, and all ideas are given a pretty fair shake. It is also excellently written. Highly recommended. The book definitely points out well which are the big questions and the manner in which philosophers have strived to tackle them. The book is never dogmatic in any way, neither towards theism nor naturalism.

This is generally my recollection of the book (and author) too :slight_smile: Thanks for the response


Go down to Amazon’s Customer Reviews and read the one star rated reviews.

I’ve never see such vehemence in bad Amazon Customer Reviews.
These folks really hated this book.

For a better introduction to philosophy,
read Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy

Will Durant was raised a Catholic but lost his faith when a priest told him at age fourteen that masturbation was a sin.
So don’t expect him to be sympathetic to theology. He isn’t. But I found his book very good.

A telling Amazon Customer Review of Sophie’s World:

Stilted artificial prose drags along mechanical summary, July 6, 1999
As a philosophy graduate, I expected to give to my daughter an entertaining, lively discussion of the great philosophical ideas I had explored at university; but I was greatly disappointed to read painfully wooden prose artificially linking a series of letters (from a mysterious writer) summarizing the history of western philosophy for the edification of a young girl who, in my opinion, couldn’t possibly understand most of the material.As a novel, the book is a disaster; as a summary of western philosophy, it is adequate, but I would recommend Father Copplestone’s far more academic explorations of the same material. My sixteen-year old daughter, incidentally, agrees with my appraisal.

Here’s another one. This is fun ! :D:D

Foolproof cure for insomnia…, June 12, 1999
This book is the most pathetic excuse for a novel I have ever encountered. This is obviously a texbook poorly disguised as a novel. The thought that I spent about ten weeks of my time in school reading and studying this book just makes me nauseous. I would also like to point out that the story line that this book is based on is poorly constructed and the ending is an obvious cop-out.

And now, the atom bomb ! :eek:

My Entire Book Club HATED it, March 20, 2010
By Connietrue Simons “Banshee” (West Jordan, UT United States)
We read Sophie’s World for my book club. Our group consists of three English teachers, two science teachers, a history teacher, a philosophy major, and an RN. We are not “fluff” readers, so we expected to enjoy this novel about philosophy. Boy, were we wrong!

None of us liked it. It read like an introduction to philosophy textbook with unbelievable characters. Most of us teach middle school and none of us believed Sophie’s incredible interest in philosophy, her amazing knack at grasping such ephemeral concepts so quickly, nor her close relationship to her “mentor.”

The idea of the outlying story was interesting, but poorly written. Both the imaginary and “real” worlds in Sophie’s World were so flat and unrealistic that it was impossible to reach the suspension of disbelief necessary to become engaged in the text. I would not recommend this book to anyone for any reason.

But did she like it? :rotfl:

Writing a novel about a teenaged girl is hopeless,
unless you write about every facet of her life,
which is impossible in a book which is really a disguised textbook on philosophy.

Yeah, well, there’s more to a young girl’s life than her philosophy. And it takes a lot of writing to reveal it.

In* Empress Theresa*, ( 99,000 words, all about Theresa ) everything about Theresa is revealed,
except her sex life,
which must be normal because she has a devoted husband.

I actually spent quite a bit of time reading those reviews, some of them gave me quite a good laugh haha. So much anger!

In a way though I can understand it to an extent, potentially people were expecting more of a traditional narrative that was philosophy-based. In actuality, the only real narrative I can recall, is prior to Sophie being contacted by the philosopher, and small portions at the beginning and ends of chapters which simply set up Sophie getting another letter/going to a meeting place for another dialogue about the specific philosophical topic of that chapter (you could call it weak narrative probably because, y’know, it is :p).

For me though it was enough to continue reading, because at the very young age I first read the book I wouldn’t have thought of even attempting, say, an Intro to Philosophy textbook.

What ultimately kept me going was that if I re-read the bits I didn’t quite get at first, I would eventually understand because the original material was synthesised into contemporary language, and Sophie had a tendency to interject with the sorts of questions that I had too.

You’re absolutely correct though, even when looking at Catholic/spiritual/etc. books they don’t even seem to attract such intense loathing from people haha.

Thank-you for the “Story of Philosophy” recommendation, it looks very interesting :slight_smile:

Kind regards,

Thank-you for the “Story of Philosophy” recommendation, it looks very interesting

It is.
Durant wrote it back in the 1920s, I think, and it was so phenomenally successful he had the financial independence to begin working on his monumental 11 volume “The Story of Civilization” which he didn’t live long enough to finish. The last volume is about Napolean’s era.
There are countless stories and facts in the Civilization series that you would have a hard time finding anywhere else without digging through a hundred stuffy old books.

Apparentely, Durant remained an atheist or agnostic to the end of his 96 year life. A shame.

Ah that is a shame. His “The Story of the Civilisation” also sounds extremely interesting. So much to read, so little time :frowning:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit