Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Sophie's World Study Guide." Course Hero. 25 Oct. 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, October 25). Sophie's World Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 20, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Sophie's World Study Guide." October 25, 2017. Accessed November 20, 2018.


Course Hero, "Sophie's World Study Guide," October 25, 2017, accessed November 20, 2018,

Sophie's World | Quotes


It is easier to ask philosophical questions than to answer them.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 2

Throughout the novel, Alberto gives Sophie something like a "rule" book for being a philosopher. The main job of a philosopher is to ask questions, but a philosopher also understands that asking questions will not necessarily lead to satisfactory answers. But Alberto would also say finding the right answers is not really the point of philosophy, as the "right" answers can vary from time period to time period and from person to person.


Any one question can be more explosive than a thousand answers.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 7

Via Alberto, Gaarder points out that a real philosopher "knows that in reality he knows very little." Admitting that one knows so little can be extremely troubling, so most people do not allow themselves to think that way. They would much rather provide simple answers than ask questions that have no absolute answers.


But most people are content with a life among shadows.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 9

When discussing Plato's Theory of Ideas, Gaarder points out Plato believed the soul longs to return to the realm of ideas. This can be seen as the philosopher's way, an idealistic practice most people do not want to bother with. They would rather stay "among the shadows" than have to confront the difficult questions of mortality and immortality.


If the history of mankind was her own history ... she was thousands of years old.

Sophie Amundsen, Chapter 14

This quote not only reveals the truth of how human history makes people who they are, it also speaks to the "immortality" of literature. Sophie exists only in a novel about the history of philosophy, but her character is informed by thousands of years of philosophical characters that came before her. She will go on living as long as people keep reading about her.


Philosophy is not a harmless party game. It's about who we are.

Sophie Amundsen, Chapter 16

This is what Sophie tells Joanna when Joanna tells her she doesn't like the situation Sophie's gotten into with Hilde and Alberto. Sophie counters that philosophy is worth it because they certainly do not learn enough like that at school. They may not be able to answer life's essential questions, but they need to learn to ask them. It also goes back to Alberto's assertion that philosophy is dangerous. Here, Sophie is beginning to understand why, and soon she will learn she is not who she thinks she is either.


We do not live in our own time alone; we carry our history within us.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 16

This is a statement on the progressive view of history. Although individuals may be a product of their own time, what came before them affects them. This can be taken quite literally—people carry the genes of their ancestors within them. Or it can be taken figuratively—humans build their own knowledge by the synthesis of established, disputed, and novel ideas.


A philosopher must help people see life in a new perspective.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 19

Once disowned by his family and community, Spinoza earned a living polishing lenses. Alberto finds this symbolic of a philosopher's mission. Alberto's mission as a philosopher is to help Sophie see her life in a new perspective so that she can break free of her fictional confines and "live" with self-knowledge.


We mustn't jump to conclusions. That is the only thing a real philosopher must never do.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 20

Again, Alberto presents a rule for philosophers. Instead of taking leaps of logic, philosophers must methodically look at questions from all angles. If one were to jump to conclusions, one would end up getting a great many things wrong and lead oneself and others astray.


He comes utterly without preconceived opinions. And that ... is the philosopher's most distinguishing virtue.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 21

Although a philosopher must be aware of the ideas that came before, they must also start any philosophical inquiry with Locke's "blank slate."


Does our world consist of real things—or are we encircled by the mind?

Alberto Knox, Chapter 22

This is the crux of Gaarder's philosophical inquiry, put forth here by Alberto to Sophie as she realizes she exists only in Albert's mind and Albert is her "creator god." It follows that Albert himself exists only in Gaarder's mind, and Gaarder (and the reader) exist only in some higher being's mind. This is based on Berkeley's proposal that humans exist "only in the mind of God."


The question is not whether we are, but what we are and who we are.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 24

Alberto proposes that even though they are fictional, he and Sophie should try to live as though they have free will. By trying to give their existence meaning, Alberto and Sophie can create "who" they are.


Philosophy is the mirror of the world spirit.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 27

Hegel thought of history like a river and each era in history produces its own thought that suits the "world spirit" of the day. So to understand different philosophies, one must also have the historical context. What seemed right at one point may not seem right to later generations, but that does not necessarily make it wrong to the people of that era.


She was Sophie Amundsen, and only she was that.

Narrator, Chapter 28

Sophie realizes no two people are ever exactly alike and each person is a unique individual with a whole world within them to discover. She knows how difficult it is to even begin to understand one's self, so to try to understand someone else seems like an insurmountable task. But she must try anyway.


It is by asking ... questions that we know we are alive.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 32

The existentialists believed no philosophical question could have an ultimate answer. It is up to each person to think about these questions because such questions can lead to progress, provide a sense of fulfillment, and give meaning to life.


A true philosopher must never give up.

Alberto Knox, Chapter 35

If Sophie has learned anything over the course of her philosophy lessons, it is that philosophy is a never-ending process of questioning, building on itself throughout history. Engaging in the philosopher's life has finally given her life, as evidenced by her power to physically move the rowboat.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Sophie's World? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!