Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie's World | Chapter 25 : Kant | Summary

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Summary

Albert calls Hilde on the phone to wish her a happy birthday. Hilde tells her father she thinks Sophie and Alberto really exist, and he tells her they will discuss it when he gets home.

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is Sophie's next philosopher. Kant thought the rationalists and empiricists both went too far in their extremes. Kant thought one could never have certain knowledge of a thing in itself (material of knowledge), only how that thing appears to the individual (form of knowledge). Reason and experience both fall short in explaining the world, and that is where faith comes in. On the subject of free will Kant thought that only morality allows man to exercise free will because each man decides for himself what is moral.

On her way home Sophie meets Winnie-the-Pooh, who gives her a note for Hilde.

Analysis

After talking to her father on the phone, Hilde considers if she might exist inside the photo that hangs in the cabin in the woods. This is an interesting idea for Gaarder to plant here about the nature of existence. If Sophie could jump into the photo, would she jump into Hilde's world, and visa-versa? The reader knows both worlds are fictional, but what if Hilde or Sophie jumped out of the reader's copy of their book into the real world? Would they exist then or would the reader question his own existence?

Kant might say man is only a tiny sliver of the whole universe and therefore can never hope to answer such a question. But that does not stop him from asking, as such questions are inherent to human nature. Gaarder's intent seems to be for Sophie, Hilde, and the reader to pose these existential questions. He even points out (via Alberto) in the previous chapter that what Sophie is experiencing is called existential angst, and it precedes a person achieving a "new consciousness." Gaarder seems to suggest questioning one's own existence is a necessary starting point on the path to understanding and enlightenment.

The fantasy elements that interrupt Sophie's lessons are becoming increasingly absurd, and this may be a sign that Albert is starting to lose control of his creation, which presents an opportunity for Alberto and Sophie. Alberto tells her that if they "stick to their reason" Albert cannot trick them.

The reader will recognize Winnie-the-Pooh, of course. And Gaarder seems to place this famous literary bear for a reason. "It makes no difference who we are," Winnie-the-Pooh tells Sophie, and continues, "The important thing is that we are." Is this the same Winnie-the-Pooh that exists in Christopher Robin's world? Gaarder seems to say it does not really matter.

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