Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie's World | Chapter 27 : Hegel | Summary

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Summary

Hilde thinks about what she has read, and how Sophie has addressed her personally. She agrees her father has gone too far and thinks of a plan to outsmart him.

Sophie's lessons continue with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), a child of Romanticism who nevertheless was critical of it. Philosophical systems before Hegel were concerned with how man knows the world and considered knowledge timeless. But Hegel proposed that because human knowledge is subjective, knowledge is a product of its time. This means knowledge is dynamic, reason is progressive, and the "world spirit" is "increasingly conscious of its intrinsic value." The "world spirit" becomes conscious in three stages: the subjective (individual), the objective (society), and the absolute (art, religion, philosophy).

It was Hegel who devised the three dialectical stages of knowledge: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. When a claim is made, someone will negate it and the best of both arguments can arise. In the end, history decides: "The reasonable is that which is viable."

Analysis

When discussing Hegel, Alberto points out that in philosophical discourse, the "best that can happen is to have energetic opponents." Gaarder has set up an increasing tension between the creator Albert and his creations, and Albert has crystallized as the central antagonist. Alberto and Sophie have declared their intention not only to rebel, but to convince Hilde to join their side. This plan also seems to be working, as, unbeknownst to Albert, Hilde is moved to conspire against him, her stated motivation being simply she thinks he should limit his show of power. Albert has controlled the vast majority of the power so far (some might argue all of the power), but Alberto and Sophie are becoming quite energetic in their opposition.

Alberto seems to couch the terms of his existential plan between the lines of Hegel's philosophical methodology, hoping that Albert will miss them. It goes like this: Sophie first found herself in the state of "being," but then she had to realize she is "nothing." The resolution of this tension is "becoming," because, as Alberto states, "if something is in the process of becoming, it both is and is not." So it is that Sophie both is and is not. She can will herself into the process of becoming and therefore create her own existence.

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