IB 150 THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE
SOPHIE’S WORLD: READING GUIDE
The novel Sophie’s World (1991) by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder offers a tour of the history of Western philosophy as well as a post-modern detective story. We chose this reading for IB Seniors because it ties in so well with our fundamental TOK questions and issues. Because of the intellectual journey the novel charts, it makes a companion to Siddhartha which adds, however, an eastern counterpoint to the western orientation of Gaarder’s novel.
For analysis and discussion purposes, I have divided the novel into the following five sections. Please type out or write neatly your responses to this guide on separate pages. Cite page numbers for all passages you paraphrase or quote in ( ). You are welcome to add your own comments/critiques. Approximately one section will be due per week during the first 5 – 6 weeks of the first quarter.
We will discuss your responses during the assigned weeks of class as well as take reading quizzes on each section. We may also write practice TOK essays based on ideas and issues presented in Sophie’s World. Note that this book is a translation. It will enhance your understanding if you look up Gaarder on the web. Print and critique an article you find provocative; this will be part of your article file.
“The Garden of Eden” – “Aristotle”
pages 1 – 120 This opening section introduces Sophie and her world of home and school. It sets up the relationship between Sophie and her philosophy teacher, who communicates with her primarily through letters. It reviews some of the material we studied in the spring (Socrates) and some you have studied earlier at Central (Greek mythology).
1 Make a list of the characters as you are introduced to them. Like Sophie, you will begin trying to identify Hilde and her father.
2 For each section make a list of the major schools of philosophy mentioned, noting
a characteristic philosopher and describing his main ideas. (Do this on the basis of
Gaarder’s information although you may want to find out more about ones that
intrigue you.) Cite page ##s in text and/or sources if you look up information.
Find several examples of how the PLOT of the novel reflects the various ideas
about which Sophie is learning.
Find several examples of Gaarder’s use of the Socratic method.
Compare Plato’s ideal society with the ideal commonwealth described by
Gonzalo in Act II of The Tempest.
“Hellenism” – “The Baroque”
pages 121 – 232
In this section you will discover the identity of Sophie’s teacher. You will also move forward in time from the Greek philosophical tradition to its successors in European history up to the l600s.
Describe the discussions of mysticism and consider how they might tie in with a
work like Antigone or Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
Find the image of history as a clock; then try to draw the clock. (This may remind
of the learning style represented by the color wheel in Girl With a Pearl Earring.)
Make a note when you run across vocabulary that we have defined in TOK.
Continue your list of key philosophers and their ideas (or at least the characteristics of
key philosophical periods).
In light of Siddhartha and other knowledge, give examples of or observations on
Western orientation in Gaarder’s depiction of the development of ideas.
“Descartes” - “Kant”
pages 233 – 341
In this section you will begin to resolve the mysteries of Hilde’s and her father’s identities. There will by crossovers between the original plot with Sophie and the story of Hilde.
Why does Gaarder chose to structure his narrative this way? How may this structure
demonstrate the philosophical ideas being presented?
Pay particular attention to the division of mind/body in Descartes and to the
similarities/differences between Berkeley and Bjerkely.
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