Summary of Sophie’s World by chapters 1 of 2

Sophie’s World is a book written by Jostein Gaarder, and has become one of the masterpieces of philosophy and in a best seller that has been translated into more than fifty languages. It is a historical account of the philosophy that is narrated as a novel and in which the main character is Sophie and Alberto.

Sophie's World is a book written by Jostein Gaarder, and has become one of the masterpieces of philosophy and in a b...

Summary of Sophie’s World by chapters 1 of 2

The garden of Eden

Sofía Amundsen, a high school student, lives on the street Camino del trebol, in a city in Norway, she found a friend, Jorunn, with whom she shares her secrets. One day after returning from classes he begins to find strange correspondences in his mailbox and the one that asks him philosophical questions like: Who are you? Where does the world come from? And with a note directed for a girl named Hilde Moller Knag c / o Sophie Amundsen.

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The top hat

Jorunn, Sofía’s friend, wanted to invite her to play, but Sofia was not available because she was disturbed by the questions she had found on the envelope. Back home he ran to the mailbox and, apart from two letters to his mother, he found another package that read: Course in philosophy. Treat yourself very carefully.

What is Philosophy

The next day, on the return of the institution, there is a large yellow envelope with his name on it and a new “philosophy course”. Sophie went up the stairs and opened it, they know, inside there were typed pages, and the sender said that it was an intensive course in philosophy. These pages detailed what the course would be, a revision of the thinking of the great philosophers, from antiquity to our time. Also give the first information about philosophy.

The mythical vision of the world

Sophie receives a delivery of a new course, which is written by a stranger. By philosophy is understood the new way of thinking that arose in Greece in the year 600 a.C. Until then only religions had provided some answers to the existence of the world. They created mythical gods, create myths, giving human aspect of their needs and their creation, God of love, fertility, sea, beauty, etc.

The philosophers of nature

These were the first Greek philosophers who were interested in nature. They thought that there was an eternal and universal raw material from which everything is formed. The most representative of this group were three Miletus philosophers.

Three philosophers from Miletus

Thales of Miletus managed to measure the height of a pyramid through its own shadow, it also knew how to predict a solar eclipse in the year 585 BC. According to his thought, water was the source of life and, when everything returns to the origin, it dissolves in the water again.

The second was Anaximander. For him the origin of things should not be sought in the augua, but in the air; Even fire was nothing more than air burning.

The third was Anaximedes, which coincided with his predecessor in the sense that everything has an infinite origin, but unlike him, postulated air as the origin of everything.

Another great philosopher who lived in the Greek colony of Elea was Parmenides, who had the idea that everything has always existed, that it was eternal.

Everything flows

The main driver of this idea was Heraclitus. He said that everything flows, you can never go through the same river twice because time flows and transforms both the river and ourselves. I also take note of the contradictions of life, and of opposites such as war and peace, love and hate, etc.

The four elements

Empédocles proposed the theory of the four roots in which he postulates that not only creates water, wind, earth and fire independently, but that the creation arises from the combination of all these elements. He came to the conclusion that water alone can not provide all the changes, still needed more elements to enter the formation of things.

Something for everything

Another great philosopher of this period was Anaxagoras. He was of the opinion that there must be smaller particles that had a little bit of everything (part of the skin, hair, bones, etc.) to what he called nous. Sofia takes refuge in the alley, in a corner of the hedge that delimits the forest. The material of the entire course is deposited. Sofia’s mother found one of the letters and thought it was a love letter.


Sofia received an envelope again and inside a question why the pieces of the lego are the coolest toy in the world? Sofia did not understand what it had to do with philosophy. Returning the next day at the institute, he found one in the yellow mailbox filled with typed pages. He took the envelope to his room and decided to keep an eye on the mailbox while reading from his window.

The atomic theory

Democritus was the last great philosopher of nature. He defended the idea that everything was made up of tiny particles, which he called “atoms,” said they were like bricks identical to the game of legos. He explained that for each part of the body there are specific atoms, as in nature leaves some trunks in another way, etc. By dying these pieces can disintegrate and re-form new bodies.


Sofia was attentive to the garden door, but saw nothing strange, went for a walk until you reach the kitchen door, saw an envelope, had some cracks and moisture. Sophie decided to write a letter to the teacher asking her to meet him for an interview. Then he had a little discussion about Sofía’s supposed boyfriend.

The oracle of Delphi

Man is curious or needs to know the future. This was one of the most important things among the Greeks, who had “the oracle of Delphi,” which according to mythology was created by Jupiter.The citizens gave the question to the priests, who in turn transmitted to the priestess Pythia and she consulted the oracle.

History of science and medicine

With the passage of time, ideas were forged that we could call the precursors of history and the science of medicine. The thought was changing, for example, now the defeat in a battle was not conceived because of the anger of the gods. Instead, they began to study the causes and contemplate historical events. In medicine, Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine and the creator of the medical oath.


Sofia got up quickly and went to the mailbox, there was only the newspaper, but found a mysterious letter with incisions and wet edges. Then the teacher answered his letter. In his letter it was explained that soon the time would come to know each other, as the time came, and it was signed by Alberto Knos. Feel footsteps approaching from the forest and a breath of an animal appears. His heart is surprised to see a large dog, with a yellow envelope in his mouth, this solves the riddle of the incisions and wet edges.

The philosophy in Athens

Alberto lets Sofía know that the dog is indeed the messenger, and his name is Hermes, and that he is good and disciplined. The name coincides with the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology. On this occasion we study Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the three most important philosophers of antiquity. Greek culture and development also took hold with them in Athens. With Socrates we have a before and after in history. The philosophers before him are called pre-Socratic.

The man in the middle

New ways of thinking shape a new socio-cultural reality. It was necessary to develop a democracy, but for this the education of the people was also necessary.From this need arose the “sophists.” These sophists also leave myths aside and, unlike naturalists, focus on man.

Who was Socrates?

Socrates is perhaps the most enigmatic philosopher in history and, although he did not leave any writing, he exerted an important influence on the philosophers who preceded him and on different philosophical currents. It was perhaps because of his dramatic death that his dissemination achieved greater reach. All his philosophy is known thanks to another great philosopher Plato, who was his student.

A divine voice

According to Socrates, within him there was a divine voice, the “deimon”, and that this voice left him no choice, even when he did not want to denounce something. This led him to meet a lot of people, including some annoying rulers who have judged him for introducing new gods and for taking young people on dangerous roads, condemning him to death by taking hemlock. Curious coincidence, is another character in the story of Jesus.

A wild card in Athens

Socrates lived with sophists, however he departed from them in that he did not consider himself wise or learned and, unlike the sophists, did not charge anything for his teachings. He once said that “the wisest person is the one who knows he does not know.” Humanity is divided into two, those who say they know everything and those who remain indifferent. An example is the deck of cards are divided into red and black, but every once in a while a wild card comes out, which is neither one nor the other. Something like that was Socrates.

Correct knowledge leads to correct action

Socrates differed with the Sophists in that human consciousness could distinguish between good and evil. He said: “He who knows good will do good” Thus he will be happy, and no one wants to be unhappy. Sofia finished reading keep the leaves and went to the garden.

The world of ideas

Plato was of the opinion that everything we see and touch were just changes in the appearance that happened over time, but at the same time he was of the opinion that things should have an archetypal, ideal model. For example, one has the figure of a horse armed with pieces of lego, and then disassemble the figure and save the pieces, and for a while we put the figure together again. This is possible because you have an idea of ​​the horse. Plato calls this world “the world of ideas.”

The sure knowledge

You cannot know anything with security since everything is constantly changing, except if it is done through reason. We cannot rely on that process of the senses, because they can fail, but the reason is the same in all people. For example, even a child knows that three times three is nine, and all people must give the same answer, but this is because reason has been used, not the senses.

The immortal soul

We have just seen how Plato thought with reference to nature, whose knowledge can be addressed, on the one hand, through the senses (imperfect, flowing and changing), and, on the other hand, through the world of ideas, which can be approximated by reason, which is eternal. But what about the soul? He explains that the soul lives in the world of ideas with all the molds of nature. One day, the soul is deserted in a body, but can not remember the world of ideas, although it feels longing to return to it.

Plato provides an example to make understand his idea. Some people live in a cave in the light of a bonfire, and do not see reality except for the shadows that are projected on the wall of the cave by the light of the fire. Suddenly someone takes to leave to see what is beyond the wall and discover reality, and although in principle is blinded by light and figures, decides to return to his colleagues to tell him what he has found. However, they kill him for promoting ideas that are too illusory.


Sofia’s mother left and she, Sofia, decided to go for a walk in the alley. There he found a package and inside a videotape, so he decided to run to houses to see the movie. When you started the video, the first thing you saw was a ruined building: Athens. After a few shots of the ruins, a short, plump figure with a blue beret appeared: Alberto Knox was present. The next day he got up early, thinking about what he had seen the day before. He went into the garden taking a short walk to the alley, felt some steps and remained silent, it was Hermes with an envelope in his mouth. Sofia tried to follow him when he left, but could not reach him.

Plato Academy

Plato, as mentioned, was a disciple of Socrates. After the death of Socrates, Plato founded his school on the outskirts of Athens next to a grove, it would come to be known as the Academy of Plato. Philosophy, Mathematics, and several other disciplines were taught there.

The philosophical state

Plato dreamed of a state controlled by philosophers. Well, he said that the state was like the human body. It is divided into three parts: head, related to reason and wisdom; chest, related to courage and will (army), and the belly, related to desires and moderation (servers). He also was of the opinion that women could govern.

The Major’s cabin

As it was still early and her mother did not get up until later because it was Sunday, Sofia decided to enter the road, the forest was so thick she could not see very far. After walking a while he came to a clearing where there was a lake and on the other side a cabin. Determined to take a rowboat and cross the lake to the other side. I was almost sure of Alberto Knox who lived there, along with his dog. Then he heard someone speak and he ran without first leaving the ship adrift, getting muddy and getting wet in the lake. Back home, her mother saw her that way and she would wonder if she had been with that boyfriend. Sofia, nervous, told him about her expedition to the cabin.

The scientific philosopher: Aristotle

A new letter on the envelope there was a new correspondence from Alberto, who told him that he did not get mad at her because curiosity is the teacher’s way out. The rest spoke of Aristotle, the last great philosopher philosopher of antiquity. Disciple of Plato, he was the son of a doctor, so he brought with him the legacy of science. Aristotle not only looks at the molds and ideas, the senses are also fixed.

There are no innate ideas

For Aristotle, and contrary to his teacher, there are no innate actions that have only arisen because of what we receive through the senses. The mold of the horses we see is based on seeing hundreds of horses, and thus all things; total that for Aristotle, we are born without ideas, but then we begin to acquire them during life.

The forms are the qualities of things

Aristotle opined that nature is divided into two: “matter” and “form.” When explaining the matter is the material that makes gooseflesh, bones, feathers, etc … And how the qualities of the hen lays eggs, clucks and flaps.

The final cause

Aristotle puts into action a final cause or the justification of why everything happens, for example, because it rains, we know that the rain cycle, but Aristotle goes further and says that it rains because plants need rain to live. This is the final cause.


Aristotle was very meticulous and that is why he wanted to put order in nature. Aristotle divides the different things of existence into two groups: the inanimate, or non-living, which does not change by itself, and the living beings that can change. In the group of living beings, it divides them into two: plants and animals. And the group of animals turn into animals properly speaking and human beings.


How should human beings live? A first option is to live a life of pleasures. The second option is to live as a free and responsible citizen. The third possibility is to live as a philosopher and researcher. But to live happily, the three must exist in just equilibrium, the human being must live without excesses.


Aristotle saw three possible forms of government of a State. The first of them, the monarchy; the second form of government, the aristocracy, and the third form, democracy. For that state does not degenerate into the tyranny of should avoid a single boss, it can accommodate everything for your personal benefit.

Ethics, Politics, Women

For Aristotle, and unlike Plato, the woman was a kind of “incomplete man.” On the process of motherhood says that the woman acts a passive object, it only receives (it is the earth), while the man is the one who gives the form (the one who sows).


Sofia found a new postcard addressed to Hilde, in which the father tells him that surely he will have understood why he sends the postcards to Sophie and that she, Sophie, will send them to him, and promises to give him a gift that will last him all life.

Sophie arrived late to the control of religion and as she had not studied decided to answer with philosophical arguments, to which the teacher, surprised, did not know whether to put an insufficient or an outstanding. On his way home he had a new envelope and a new theme about Hellenism, from the fourth century BC, from Aristotle, to the Middle Ages. The name of this period was due to the conquest of the empires of Syria and Egypt at the hands of the Greek emperor Alexander the Great. Although also during this time the Roman domination continued.

Religion, philosophy and science

In this period there was a mixture of Eastern and Western religions. Among the most significant events is the belief in the performance of various rites, especially to achieve the immortality of the soul and eternal life. In terms of philosophy there was nothing particularly different, and the footsteps of the ancient philosophers were followed: Plato and Aristotle. Athens was the cultural capital of the world. Alexandria also excelled with its large library.

The cynics

After a bit of Socrates’ thought, an important movement emerged: it was the cynics, among whom Diogenes stands out. They said that happiness was not found in external things like possessions, luxuries, power and even health, and because it could not depend on it, it could be achieved by everyone.

The Stoics

Zenón was its founder. The Stoics erased the dividing line between universe and human being and for them there is only a single manifestation, a single nature. There is no division between spirit and matter: monism, contrary to the duality of Plato. They were more cosmopolitan and liked the interaction in society and came to hold prominent positions.

The Epicureans

Founded by Epicuro. His main thoughts are against the Cynics and the Stoics. For them happiness was in the enjoyment of pleasures, except that it is abused, which has side effects, such as overeating. Possible side effects should be analyzed. For example, one may have the pleasure of enjoying chocolates, but if you do it in excess, you will have a good stomach ache. There is no need to worry about death, because while one lives, death does not exist. And when death comes, it is one that no longer exists.


In this section, Plotinus was studied, who would then bring to Rome a mixture of oriental mysticism that would seriously compete for some time with Christianity. There is only the light of the One, only there are places where it can not reach. In this case, the soul is illuminated, but the body is darkness.


It is the experience of union with God in oneself, like the drops of rain that fall into the sea, and that become that, in the sea. This is the soul that wishes to ascend to God, to merge in God. One is the whole universe.

The postcards

On Thursday May 17 and Friday was a festive bridge and Sofia went camping with her friend Jorunn, but Sofia wanted it to be near Mount Urogallo, with the idea of ​​approaching the Mayor’s Cabin. Sophie convinced Jorunn to go there.

The cabin was closed, but they found the key, after entering they saw a pile of postcards and began to read them. They were sealed in Norway, directed by the Major, to his daughter Hilde.At the exit Sophie remembered a mirror she had seen and decided to take it. They spent the night in the store and the next day after breakfast went to his house.

Two civilizations

Sofia received another letter, in it Alberto indicates that she knew that she would return to the cabin and that is why she had left the postcards there. Then he proceeds to detail the way in which Christianity, of Semitic origin, gradually penetrated the Indo-European culture, in the Greco-Roman world. From now on, they would start talking about another one of the great characters of the time: Jesus of Nazareth.

The Indo-Europeans

The Indo-Europeans include all the territories that speak some of the Indo-European languages. Mythology was very common in all city-states, the names of the gods and their functions were similar. The Indo-European culture had a great influence of Hinduism and Buddhism. The Vedas writings, as well as the Greek writings, were written in languages ​​that were related, which on the other hand, to a certain extent, also implies a common form of thought.

The Semites

Mainly from the Arabian Peninsula. Unlike the Indo-Europeans, who had many gods, the Semites were monotheistic. They saw the story differently, and a linear history of creation until the final judgment. The town has three monotheistic Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Jesus of Nazareth

The Jewish people expected a military messiah to drive out the oppressors. But Jesus came and said that he had to love the enemies, forgave the sins and called God as his Father. He also said that God was not only for the Jews, but for all who listen to his word, with which he implies that it belongs to everyone. Christianity sees in him the figure of the Messiah, who achieves the salvation of people through his death.


Paul of Tarsus, at first persecuted the Christians, but then converted to Christianity and was one of the most distinguished preachers of Christianity and co-founder of the Christian Church. He came to Athens to explain the gospel. At first there was a great opposition to the new ideas, but with perseverance, he managed to introduce Christianity into the cradle of philosophy and thus colonize the Roman and Hellenistic culture.

Image: Herodotus sculpture / Source:

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