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SOPHIE’S WORLD "A Novel About the History of Philosophy"

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Lugha' started by njiwa, Nov 20, 2011.

  1. njiwa

    njiwa JF-Expert Member

    Nov 20, 2011
    Joined: Apr 16, 2009
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    On my 2nd year Studying Medicine nilipokuwa napata time mostly weekends nilikuwa na hudhuria darasa la philosophy and this Novel was recommended na Professor

    A Novel About the History
    of Philosophy
    by Jostein Gaarder

    some comments about this book

    More praise for the international bestseller that has become "Europe's oddball literary sensation
    of the decade" (New York Newsday)

    "A page-turner." -Entertainment Weekly

    "First, think of a beginner's guide to philosophy, written by a schoolteacher ... Next, imagine a
    fantasy novel- something like a modern-day version of Through the Looking Glass. Meld these
    disparate genres, and what do you get? Well, what you get is an improbable international
    bestseller ... a runaway hit... [a] tour deforce."

    "Compelling." -Los Angeles Times

    "Its depth of learning, its intelligence and its totally original conception give it enormous
    magnetic appeal ... To be fully human, and to feel our continuity with 3,000 years of
    philosophical inquiry, we need to put ourselves in Sophie's world." -Boston Sunday Globe
    "Involving and often humorous." -USA Today

    "In the adroit hands of Jostein Gaarder, the whole sweep of three millennia of Western
    philosophy is rendered as lively as a gossip column ... Literary sorcery of the first rank."
    -Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    "A comprehensive history of Western philosophy as recounted to a 14-year-old Norwegian
    schoolgirl... The book will serve as a first-rate introduction to anyone who never took an
    introductory philosophy course, and as a pleasant refresher for those who have and have
    forgotten most of it...

    [Sophie's mother] is a marvelous comic foil." -Newsweek

    "Terrifically entertaining and imaginative ... I'll read Sophie's World again." -Daily Mail

    "What is admirable in the novel is the utter unpretentious-ness of the philosophical lessons, the
    plain and workmanlike prose which manages to deliver Western philosophy in accounts that are
    crystal clear. It is heartening to know that a book subtitled

    "'A Novel About the History of Philosophy' was not only a bestseller in France, but for a while
    Europe's hottest novel."
    -The Washington Post Book World

    "A rare bird indeed, a short history of Western philosophical thought from Socrates to Sartre,
    coyly embedded in the wrapping of a suspense novel." -New York Newsday

    "A simply wonderful, irresistible book ... a cross between Bertrand Russell's History of Western
    Philosophy and Alice in Wonderland." -The Daily Telegraph

    "An exciting trek into, the realm of thought, from the ancient philosophers' school of Athens to
    the Konigsberg of Kant... and a brilliant success." -Der Spiegel

    "Intelligently written... an enchanting way to learn philosophy." -Baton Rouge Magazine

    "Just as remarkable for its playful premise as it is for its accessibility ... The essential charm of
    Sophie's World lies in the innocent curiosity of the young character, and the clever narrative
    structure Gaarder designed to pique it."
    -Columbus Dispatch

    "An extraordinary writer." -Madeleine L'Engle

    "at some point something must come from nothing"

    Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. She had walked the first part of the way with Joanna. They had been discussing robots. Joanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not certain she agreed. Surely a person was more than a piece of hardware?

    When they got to the supermarket they went their separate ways. Sophie lived on the outskirts of a sprawling suburb and had almost twice as far to school as Joanna. There were no other houses beyond her garden, which made it seem as if her house lay at the end of the world. This was where the woods began.

    She turned the corner into Clover Close. At the end of the road there was a sharp bend, known as Captain's Bend. People seldom went that way except on the weekend.

    It was early May. In some of the gardens the fruit trees were encircled with dense clusters of daffodils. The birches were already in pale green leaf.

    It was extraordinary how everything burst forth at this time of year! What made this great mass of green vegetation come welling up from the dead earth as soon as it got warm and the last traces of snow disappeared?

    As Sophie opened her garden gate, she looked in the mailbox. There was usually a lot of junk mail and a few big envelopes for her mother, a pile to dump on the kitchen table before she went up to her room to start her homework.

    From time to time there would be a few letters from the bank for her father, but then he was not a normal father. Sophie's father was the captain of a big oil tanker, and was away for most of the year.

    During the few weeks at a time when he was at home, he would shuffle around the house making it nice and cozy for Sophie and her mother. But when he was at sea he could seem very distant.

    There was only one letter in the mailbox-and it was for Sophie. The white envelope read: "Sophie Amundsen, 3 Clover Close." That was all; it did not say who it was from. There was no stamp on it either.

    As soon as Sophie had closed the gate behind her she opened the envelope. It contained only a slip of paper no bigger than the envelope. It read: Who are you?

    Nothing else, only the three words, written by hand, and followed by a large question mark. She looked at the envelope again. The letter was definitely for her. Who could have dropped it in the mailbox?

    Sophie let herself quickly into the red house. As always, her cat Sherekan managed to slink out of the bushes, jump onto the front step, and slip in through the door before she closed it behind her.

    Whenever Sophie's mother was in a bad mood, she would call the house they lived in a menagerie. A menagerie was a collection of animals. Sophie certainly had one and was quite happy with it. It had begun with the three goldfish, Goldtop, Red Ridinghood, and Black Jack.

    Next she got two budgerigars called Smitt and Smule, then Govinda the tortoise, and finally the marmalade cat Sherekan.
    They had all been given to her to make up for the fact that her mother never got home from work until late in the afternoon and her father was away so much, sailing all over the world.

    Sophie slung her schoolbag on the floor and put a bowl of cat food out for Sherekan. Then she sat down on a kitchen stool with the mysterious letter in her hand. Who are you?

    She had no idea. She was Sophie Amundsen, of course, but who was that? She had not really figured that out-yet.

    What if she had been given a different name? Anne Knutsen, for instance. Would she then have been someone else?
    She suddenly remembered that Dad had originally wanted her to be called Lillemor. Sophie tried to imagine herself shaking hands and introducing herself as Lillemor Amundsen, but it seemed all wrong. It was someone else who kept introducing herself.

    She jumped up and went into the bathroom with the strange letter in her hand. She stood in front of the mirror and stared into her own eyes.

    "I am Sophie Amundsen," she said.

    The girl in the mirror did not react with as much as a twitch. Whatever Sophie did, she did exactly the same. Sophie tried to beat her reflection to it with a lightning movement but the other girl was just as fast.

    "Who are you?" Sophie asked.

    She received no response to this either, but felt a momentary confusion as to whether it was she or her reflection who had asked the question.

    Sophie pressed her index finger to the nose in the mirror and said, "You are me."

    As she got no answer to this, she turned the sentence around and said, "I am you."

    Sophie Amundsen was often dissatisfied with her appearance. She was frequently told that she had beautiful almond-shaped eyes, but that was probably just something people said because her nose was too small and her mouth was a bit too big. And her ears were much too close to her eyes. Worst of all was her straight hair, which it was impossible to do anything with. Sometimes her father would stroke her hair and call her "the girl with the flaxen hair," after a piece of music by Claude Debussy. It was all right for him, he was not condemned to living with this straight dark hair

    Neither mousse nor styling gel had the slightest effect on Sophie's hair. Sometimes she thought she was so ugly that she wondered if she was malformed at birth. Her mother always went on about her difficult labor. But was that really what determined how you looked?

    Wasn't it odd that she didn't know who she was? And wasn't it unreasonable that she hadn't been allowed to have any say in what she would look like? Her looks had just been dumped on her. She could choose her own friends, but she certainly hadn't chosen herself. She had not even chosen to be a human being.

    What was a human being?

    Sophie looked up at the girl in the mirror again.

    "I think I'll go upstairs and do my biology homework," she said, almost apologetically. Once she was out in the hall, she thought, No, I'd rather go out in the garden.
    "Kitty, kitty, kitty!"

    Sophie chased the cat out onto the doorstep and closed the front door behind her. As she stood outside on the gravel path with the mysterious letter in her hand, the strangest feeling came over her. She felt like a doll that had suddenly been brought to life by the wave of a magic wand.

    Wasn't it extraordinary to be in the world right now, wandering around in a wonderful adventure!

    Sherekan sprang lightly across the gravel and slid into a dense clump of red-currant bushes. A live cat, vibrant with energy from its white whiskers to the twitching tail at the end of its sleek body. It was here in the garden too, but hardly aware of it in the same way as Sophie.

    As Sophie started to think about being alive, she began to realize that she would not be alive forever. I am in the world now, she thought, but one day I shall be gone.

    Was there a life after death? This was another question the cat was blissfully unaware of.

    It was not long since Sophie's grandmother had died. For more than six months Sophie had missed her every single day. How unfair that life had to end!

    Sophie stood on the gravel path, thinking. She tried to think extra hard about being alive so as to forget that she would not be alive forever. But it was impossible. As soon as she concentrated on being alive now, the thought of dying also came into her mind. The same thing happened the other way around: only by conjuring up an intense feeling of one day being dead could she appreciate how terribly good it was to be alive. It was like two sides of a coin that she kept
    turning over and over. And the bigger and clearer one side of the coin became, the bigger and clearer the other side became too.

    You can't experience being alive without realizing that you have to die, she thought. But it's just as impossible to realize you have to die without thinking how incredibly amazing it is to be alive.

    Sophie remembered Granny saying something like that the day the doctor told her she was ill. "I never realized how rich life was until now," she said. How tragic that most people had to get ill before they understood what a gift it was to be alive.
    Or else they had to find a mysterious letter in the mailbox!

    Perhaps she should go and see if any more letters had arrived. Sophie hurried to the gate and looked inside the green mailbox. She was startled to find that it contained another white envelope, exactly like the first. But the mailbox had definitely been empty when she took the first envelope! This envelope had her name on it as well. She tore it open and fished out a note the same size as the first one Where does the world come from? it said.

    I don't know, Sophie thought. Surely nobody really knows. And yet-Sophie thought it was a fair question. For the first time in her life she felt it wasn't right to live in the world without at least inquiring where it came from.

    The mysterious letters had made Sophie's head spin. She decided to go and sit in the den. The den was Sophie's top secret hiding place. It was where she went when she was terribly angry, terribly miserable, or terribly happy. Today she was simply confused.

    * * *​
    to be continue ..

    The red house was surrounded by a large garden with lots of flowerbeds, fruit bushes, fruit trees of different kinds, a spacious lawn with a glider and a little gazebo that Granddad had built for Granny when she lost their first child a few weeks after it was born. The child's name was Marie. On her gravestone were the words: "Little Marie to us came, greeted us, and left again."

    Down in a corner of the garden behind all the raspberry bushes was a dense thicket where neither flowers nor berries would grow. Actually, it was an old hedge that had once marked the boundary to the woods, but because nobody had trimmed it for the last twenty years it had grown into a tangled and impenetrable mass. Granny used to say the hedge made it harder for the foxes to take the chickens during the war, when the chickens had free range of the garden.

    To everyone but Sophie, the old hedge was just as useless as the rabbit hutches at the other end of the garden. But that was only because they hadn't discovered Sophie's secret.

    Sophie had known about the little hole in the hedge for as long as she could remember. When she crawled through it she came into a large cavity between the bushes. It was like a little house. She knew nobody would find her there. Clutching the two envelopes in her hand, Sophie ran through the garden, crouched down on all fours, and wormed her way through the hedge. The den was almost high enough for her to stand upright, but today she sat down on a clump of gnarled roots. From there she could look out through tiny peepholes between the twigs and leaves. Although none of the holes was bigger than a small coin, she had a good view of the whole garden. When she was little she used to think it was fun to watch her mother and father searching for her among the trees.

    Sophie had always thought the garden was a world of its own. Each time she heard about the Garden of Eden in the Bible it reminded her of sitting here in the den, surveying her own little paradise.

    Where does the world come from?

    She hadn't the faintest idea. Sophie knew that the world was only a small planet in space. But where did space come from?

    It was possible that space had always existed, in which case she would not also need to figure out where it came from. But could anything have always existed? Something deep down inside her protested at the idea. Surely everything that exists must have had a beginning? So space must sometime have been created out of something else.

    But if space had come from something else, then that something else must also have come from something. Sophie felt she was only deferring the problem. At some point, something must have come from nothing. But was that possible? Wasn't that just as impossible as the idea that the world had always existed?

    They had learned at school that God created the world. Sophie tried to console herself with the thought that this was probably the best solution to the whole problem. But then she started to think again. She could accept that God had created space, but what about God himself? Had he created himself out of nothing? Again there was something deep down inside her that protested. Even though God could create all kinds of things, he could hardly create himself before he had a "self" to create with.

    So there was only one possibility left: God had always existed. But she had already rejected that possibility! Everything that existed had to have a beginning.

    Oh, drat!

    She opened the two envelopes again.

    Who are you?
    Where does the world come from?

    What annoying questions! And anyway where did the letters come from? That was just as mysterious, almost. Who had jolted Sophie out of her everyday existence and suddenly brought her face to face with the great riddles of the universe?

    For the third time Sophie went to the mailbox. The mailman had just delivered the day's mail. Sophie fished out a bulky pile of junk mail, periodicals, and a couple of letters for her mother.There was also a postcard of a tropical beach. She turned the card over. It had a Norwegian stamp on it and was postmarked "UN Battalion." Could it be from Dad? But wasn't he in a completely different place? It wasn't his handwriting either.

    Sophie felt her pulse quicken a little as she saw who the postcard was addressed to: "Hilde Moller Knag, c/o Sophie Amundsen, 3 Clover Close ..." The rest of the address was correct. The card read: Dear Hilde, Happy 15th birthday! As I'm sure you'll understand, I want to give you a present that will help you grow. Forgive me for sending the card c/o Sophie. It was the easiest way. Love from Dad.

    Sophie raced back to the house and into the kitchen. Her mind was in a turmoil. Who was this "Hilde," whose fifteenth birthday was just a month before her own?

    Sophie got out the telephone book. There were a lot of people called Moller, and quite a few called Knag. But there was nobody in the entire directory called Moller Knag.

    She examined the mysterious card again. It certainly seemed genuine enough; it had a stamp and a postmark.

    Why would a father send a birthday card to Sophie's address when it was quite obviously intended to go somewhere else? What kind of father would cheat his own daughter of a birthday card by purposely sending it astray? How could it be "the easiest way"? And above all, how was she supposed to trace this Hilde person?

    So now Sophie had another problem to worry about. She tried to get her thoughts in order: This afternoon, in the space of two short hours, she had been presented with three problems. The first problem was who had put the two white envelopes in her mailbox. The second was the difficult questions these letters contained. The third problem was who Hilde Moller Knag could be, and why Sophie had been sent her birthday card. She was sure that the three problems were interconnected in some way. They had to be, because until today she had lived a perfectly ordinary life.
  2. njiwa

    njiwa JF-Expert Member

    Nov 22, 2011
    Joined: Apr 16, 2009
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    the only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder."

    Sophie was sure she would hear from the anonymous letter writer again. She decided not to tell anyone about the letters for the time being.

    At school she had trouble concentrating on what the teachers said. They seemed to talk only about unimportant things. Why couldn't they talk about what a human being is-or about what the world is and how it came into being?

    For the first time she began to feel that at school as well as everywhere else people were only concerned with trivialities. There were major problems that needed to be solved.

    Did anybody have answers to these questions? Sophie felt that thinking about them was more important than memorizing irregular verbs.

    When the bell rang after the last class, she left the school so fast that Joanna had to run to catch up with her.

    After a while Joanna said, "Do you want to play cards this evening?"

    Sophie shrugged her shoulders.

    "I'm not that interested in card games any more."
    Joanna looked surprised.

    "You're not? Let's play badminton then."

    Sophie stared down at the pavement-then up at her friend.

    "I don't think I'm that interested in badminton either."

    "You're kidding!"

    Sophie noticed the touch of bitterness in Joanna's tone.

    "Do you mind telling me what's suddenly so important?"

    Sophie just shook her head. "It's ... it's a secret."

    "Yuck! You're probably in love!"

    The two girls walked on for a while without saying anything. When they got to the soccer field Joanna said, "I'm going across the field."

    Across the field! It was the quickest way for Joanna, but she only went that way when she had to hurry home in time for visitors or a dental appointment.

    Sophie regretted having been mean to her. But what else could she have said? That she had suddenly become so engrossed in who she was and where the world came from that she had no time to play badminton? Would Joanna have understood?

    Why was it so difficult to be absorbed in the most vital and, in a way, the most natural of all questions?

    She felt her heart beating faster as she opened the mailbox. At first she found only a letter from the bank and some big brown envelopes for her mother. Darn! Sophie had been looking forward to getting another letter from the unknown sender.

    As she closed the gate behind her she noticed her own name on one of the big envelopes.Turning it over, she saw written on the back: "Course in Philosophy. Handle with care."

    Sophie ran up the gravel path and flung her schoolbag onto the step. Stuffing the other letters under the doormat, she ran around into the back garden and sought refuge in the den. This was the only place to open the big letter.

    Sherekan came jumping after her but Sophie had to put up with that. She knew the cat would not give her away.Inside the envelope there were three typewritten pages held together with a paper clip. Sophie began to read.


    Dear Sophie, Lots of people have hobbies. Some people collect old coins or foreign stamps, some do needlework, others spend most of their spare time on a particular sport.

    A lot of people enjoy reading. But reading tastes differ widely. Some people only read newspapers or comics, some like reading novels, while others prefer books on astronomy,wildlife, or technological discoveries.

    If I happen to be interested in horses or precious stones, I cannot expect everyone else to share my enthusiasm. If I watch all the sports programs on TV with great pleasure, I must put up with the fact that other people find sports boring.

    Is there nothing that interests us all? Is there nothing that concerns everyone-no matter who they are or where they live in the world? Yes, dear Sophie, there are questions that certainly should interest everyone. They are precisely the questions this course is about.

    What is the most important thing in life? If we ask someone living on the edge of starvation, the answer is food. If we ask someone dying of cold, the answer is warmth. If we put the same question to someone who feels lonely and isolated, the answer will probably be the company of other people.

    But when these basic needs have been satisfied-will there still be something that everybody needs? Philosophers think so. They believe that man cannot live by bread alone. Of course everyone needs food. And everyone needs love and care. But there is something else-apart from that-which everyone needs, and that is to figure out who we are and why we are here.

    Being interested in why we are here is not a "casual" interest like collecting stamps.

    People who ask such questions are taking part in a debate that has gone on as long as man has lived on this planet. How the universe, the earth, and life came into being is a bigger and more important question than who won the most gold medals in the last Olympics.

    The best way of approaching philosophy is to ask a few philosophical questions: How was the world created? Is there any will or meaning behind what happens? Is there a life after death? How can we answer these questions? And most important, how ought we to live? People have been asking these questions throughout the ages. We know of no culture which has not
    concerned itself with what man is and where the world came from.

    Basically there are not many philosophical questions to ask. We have already asked some of the most important ones. But history presents us with many different answers to each question. So it is easier to ask philosophical questions than to answer them.

    Today as well each individual has to discover his own answer to these same questions. You cannot find out whether there is a God or whether there is life after death by looking in an encyclopedia. Nor does the encyclopedia tell us how we ought to live. However, reading what other people have believed can help us formulate our own view of life.

    Philosophers' search for the truth resembles a detective story. Some think Andersen was the murderer, others think it was Nielsen or Jensen. The police are sometimes able to solve a real crime. But it is equally possible that they never get to the bottom of it, although there is a solution somewhere. So even if it is difficult to answer a question, there may be one-and only one-right answer. Either there is a kind of existence after death-or there is not.

    A lot of age-old enigmas have now been explained by science. What the dark side of the moon looks like was once shrouded in mystery. It was not the kind of thing that could be solved by discussion, it was left to the imagination of the individual. But today we know exactly what the dark side of the moon looks like, and no one can "believe" any longer in the Man in the Moon, orthat the moon is made of green cheese.

    A Greek philosopher who lived more than two thousand years ago believed that philosophy had its origin in man's sense of wonder. Man thought it was so astonishing to be alive that philosophical questions arose of their own accord.

    It is like watching a magic trick. We cannot understand how it is done. So we ask: how can the magician change a couple of white silk scarves into a live rabbit?

    A lot of people experience the world with the same incredulity as when a magician suddenly pulls a rabbit out of a hat which has just been shown to them empty.

    In the case of the rabbit, we know the magician has tricked us. What we would like to know is just how he did it. But when it comes to the world it's somewhat different. We know that the world is not all sleight of hand and deception because here we are in it, we are part of it. Actually, we are the white rabbit being pulled out of the hat. The only difference between us and the white rabbit is that the rabbit does not realize it is taking part in a magic trick. Unlike us. We feel we are part of something mysterious and we would like to know how it all works

    P.S. As far as the white rabbit is concerned, it might be better to compare it with the whole universe. We who live here are microscopic insects existing deep down in the rabbit's fur. But philosophers are always trying to climb up the fine hairs of the fur in order to stare right into the magician's eyes.

    Are you still there, Sophie? To be continued . . .

    Sophie was completely exhausted. Still there? She could not even remember if she had taken the time to breathe while she read.

    Who had brought this letter? It couldn't be the same person who had sent the birthday card to Hilde Moller Knag because that card had both a stamp and a postmark. The brown envelope had been delivered by hand to the mailbox exactly like the two white ones.

    Sophie looked at her watch. It was a quarter to three. Her mother would not be home from work for over two hours.

    Sophie crawled out into the garden again and ran to the mailbox. Perhaps there was another letter.

    She found one more brown envelope with her name on it. This time she looked all around but there was nobody in sight. Sophie ran to the edge of the woods and looked down the path.

    No one was there. Suddenly she thought she heard a twig snap deep in the woods. But she was not completely sure, and anyway it would be pointless to chase after someone who was determined to get away.

    Sophie let herself into the house. She ran upstairs to her room and took out a big cookie tin full of pretty stones. She emptied the stones onto the floor and put both large envelopes into the tin.

    Then she hurried out into the garden again, holding the tin securely with both hands. Before she went she put some food out for Sherekan.

    "Kitty, kitty, kitty!"

    Once back in the den she opened the second brown envelope and drew out the new typewritten pages. She began to read.


    Hello again! As you see, this short course in philosophy will come in handy-sized portions. Here are a few more introductory remarks: Did I say that the only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder?


    Babies have this faculty. That is not surprising. After a few short months in the womb they slip out into a brand-new reality. But as they grow up the faculty of wonder seems to diminish

    Why is this? Do you know?

    If a newborn baby could talk, it would probably say something about what an extraordinary world it had come into. We see how it looks around and reaches out in curiosity to everything it sees.

    As words are gradually acquired, the child looks up and says "Bow-wow" every time it sees a dog. It jumps up and down in its stroller, waving its arms: "Bow-wow! Bow-wow!" We who are older and wiser may feel somewhat exhausted by the child's enthusiasm. "All right, all right, it's a bow-wow," we say, unimpressed. "Please sit still." We are not enthralled. We have seen a dog before.

    This rapturous performance may repeat itself hundreds of times before the child learns to pass a dog without going crazy. Or an elephant, or a hippopotamus. But long before the child learns to talk properly-and Ion before it learns to think philosophically-the world we have become a habit.

    A pity, if you ask me.

    My concern is that you do not grow up to be one of those people who take the world for granted, Sophie dear. So just to make sure, we are going to do a couple of experiments in thought before we begin on the course itself.

    Imagine that one day you are out for a walk in the woods. Suddenly you see a small spaceship on the path in front of you. A tiny Martian climbs out of the spaceship and stands on the ground looking up at you . . .

    What would you think? Never mind, it's not important. But have you ever given any thought to the fact that you are a Martian yourself?

    It is obviously unlikely that you will ever stumble upon a creature from another planet. We do not even know that there is life on other planets. But you might stumble upon yourself one day. You might suddenly stop short and see yourself in a completely new light. On just such a walk in the woods.

    I am an extraordinary being, you think. I am a mysterious creature.

    You feel as if you are waking from an enchanted slumber. Who am I? you ask. You know that you are stumbling around on a planet in the universe. But what is the universe?

    If you discover yourself in this manner you will have discovered something as mysterious as the Martian we just mentioned. You will not only have seen a being from outer space.

    You will feel deep down that you are yourself an extraordinary being. Do you follow me, Sophie? Let's do another experiment in thought:

    Sadly it is not only the force of gravity we get used to as we grow up. The world itself becomes a habit in no time at all. It seems as if in the process of growing up we lose the ability to wonder about the world. And in doing so, we lose something central-something philosophers try to restore. For somewhere inside ourselves, something tells us that life is a huge mystery. This is something we once experienced, long before we learned to think the thought.

    To be more precise: Although philosophical questions concern us all, we do not all become philosophers. For various reasons most people get so caught up in everyday affairs that their astonishment at the world gets pushed into the background. (They crawl deep into the rabbit's fur, snuggle down comfortably, and stay there for the rest of their lives.) To children, the world and everything in it is new, something that gives rise to astonishment. It is not like that for adults. Most adults accept the world as a matter of course.

    This is precisely where philosophers are a notable exception. A philosopher never gets quite used to the world. To him or her, the world continues to seem a bit unreasonable- bewildering, even enigmatic. Philosophers and small children thus have an important faculty in common. You might say that throughout his life a philosopher remains as thin-skinned as a child.

    So now you must choose, Sophie. Are you a child who has not yet become world-weary?

    Or are you a philosopher who will vow never to become so?

    If you just shake your head, not recognizing yourself as either a child or a philosopher, then you have gotten so used to the world that it no longer astonishes you. Watch out! You are on thin ice.

    And this is why you are receiving this course in philosophy, just in case. I will not allow you, of all people, to join the ranks of the apathetic and the indifferent. I want you to have an inquiring mind.

    The whole course is free of charge, so you get no money back if you do not complete it. If you choose to break off the course you are free to do so. In that case you must leave a message for me in the mailbox. A live frog would be eminently suitable. Something green, at least, otherwise the mailman might get scared.

    To summarize briefly: A white rabbit is pulled out of a top hat. Because it is an extremely large rabbit, the trick takes many billions of years. All mortals are born at the very tip of the rabbit's fine hairs, where they are in a position to wonder at the impossibility of the trick.

    But as they grow older they work themselves ever deeper into the fur. And there they stay. They become so comfortable they never risk crawling back up the fragile hairs again. Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and
    existence. Some of them fall off, but others cling on desperately and yell at the people nestling deep in the snug softness, stuffing themselves with delicious food and drink.

    "Ladies and gentlemen," they yell, "we are floating in space!" But none of the people down there care.

    "What a bunch of troublemakers!" they say. And they keep on chatting: Would you pass the butter, please? How much have our stocks risen today? What is the price of tomatoes? Have you heard that Princess Di is expecting again?

    When Sophie's mother got home later that afternoon, Sophie was practically in shock. The tin containing the letters from the mysterious philosopher was safely hidden in the den. Sophie had tried to start her homework but could only sit thinking about what she had read.

    She had never thought so hard before! She was no longer a child-but she wasn't really grown up either. Sophie realized that she had already begun to crawl down into the cozy rabbit's fur, the very same rabbit that had been pulled from the top hat of the universe. But the philosopher had stopped her.

    He-or was it a she?-had grabbed her by the back of the neck and pulled her up again to the tip of the fur where she had played as a child. And there, on the outermost tips of the fine hairs, she was once again seeing the world as if for the very first time.

    The philosopher had rescued her. No doubt about it. The unknown letter writer had saved her from the triviality of everyday existence.

    When Mom got home at five o'clock, Sophie dragged her into the living room and pushed her into an armchair.

    "Mom-don't you think it's astonishing to be alive?" she began.

    Her mother was so surprised that she didn't answer at first. Sophie was usually doing her homework when she got home.

    "I suppose I do-sometimes," she said.

    "Sometimes? Yes, but-don't you think it's astonishing that the world exists at all?"

    "Now look, Sophie. Stop talking like that."

    "Why? Perhaps you think the world is quite normal?"

    "Well, isn't it? More or less, anyway."

    Sophie saw that the philosopher was right. Grownups took the world for granted. They had let themselves be lulled into the enchanted sleep of their humdrum existence once and for all.

    "You've just grown so used to the world that nothing surprises you any more."

    "What on earth are you talking about?"

    "I'm talking about you getting so used to everything. Totally dim, in other words."

    "I will not be spoken to like that, Sophie!"

    "All right, I'll put it another way. You've made yourself comfortable deep down in the fur of a white rabbit that is being pulled out of the universe's top hat right now. And in a minute you'll put the potatoes on. Then you'll read the paper and after half an hour's nap you'll watch the news on TV!"

    An anxious expression came over her mother's face. She did indeed go into the kitchen and put the potatoes on. After a while she came back into the living room, and this time it was she who pushed Sophie into an armchair.

    "There's something I must talk to you about," she began. Sophie could tell by her voice that it was something serious.

    "You haven't gotten yourself mixed up with drugs, have you, dear?"

    Sophie was just about to laugh, but she understood why the question was being brought up now.

    "Are you nuts?" she said. "That only makes you duller'."

    No more was said that evening about either drugs or white rabbits.

  3. njiwa

    njiwa JF-Expert Member

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    Chapter 3

    The Myths
    "... a precarious balance between the forces of good and evil …"

    There was no letter for Sophie the next morning. All through the interminable day at school she was bored stiff. She took care to be extra nice to Joanna during the breaks. On the way home they talked about going camping as soon as the woods were dry enough.

    After what seemed an eternity she was once again at the mailbox. First she opened a letter postmarked in Mexico. It was from her father. He wrote about how much he was longing for home and how for the first time he had managed to beat the Chief Officer at chess. Apart from that he had almost finished the pile of books he had brought aboard with him after his winter leave.

    And then, there it was-a brown envelope with her name on it! Leaving her schoolbag and the rest of the mail in the house, Sophie ran to the den. She pulled out the new typewritten pages and began to read:


    Hello there, Sophie! We have a lot to do, so we'll get started without delay.

    By philosophy we mean the completely new way of thinking that evolved in Greece about six hundred years before the birth of Christ. Until that time people had found answers to all their questions in various religions. These religious explanations were handed down from generation to generation in the form of myths. A myth is a story about the gods which sets out to explain.

    Over the millennia a wild profusion of mythological explanations of philosophical questions spread across the world. The Greek philosophers attempted to prove that these explanations were not to be trusted why life is as it is.

    In order to understand how the early philosophers thought, we have to understand what it was like to have a mythological picture of the world. We can take some Nordic myths as examples.(There is no need to carry coals to Newcastle.) You have probably heard of Thor and his hammer.

    Before Christianity came to Norway, people believed that Thor rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats. When he swung his hammer it made thunder and lightning. The word "thunder" in Norwegian-"Thord0n"- means Thor's roar. In Swedish, the word for thunder is "aska," originally "as-aka," which means "god's journey" over the heavens.

    When there is thunder and lightning there is also rain, which was vital to the Viking farmers. So Thor was worshipped as the god of fertility.

    The mythological explanation for rain was therefore that Thor was swinging his hammer.

    And when it rained the corn germinated and thrived in the fields.

    How the plants of the field could grow and yield crops was not understood. But it was clearly somehow connected with the rain. And since everybody believed that the rain had something to do with Thor, he was one of the most important of the Norse gods.

    There was another reason why Thor was important, a reason related to the entire world order.

    The Vikings believed that the inhabited world was an island under constant threat from outside dangers. They called this part of the world Midgard, which means the kingdom in the middle.

    Within Midgard lay Asgard, the domain of the gods. Outside Midgard was the kingdom of Utgard, the domain of the treacherous giants, who resorted to all kinds of cunning tricks to try and destroy the world. Evil monsters like these are often referred to as the "forces of chaos." Not only in Norse mythology but in almost all other cultures, people found that there was a precarious balance between the forces of good and evil.

    One of the ways in which the giants could destroy Midgard was by abducting Freyja, the goddess of fertility. If they could do this, nothing would grow in the fields and the women would no longer have children. So it was vital to hold these giants in check.

    Thor was a central figure in this battle with the giants. His hammer could do more than make rain; it was a key weapon in the struggle against the dangerous forces of chaos. It gave him almost unlimited power. For example, he could hurl it at the giants and slay them. And he never had to worry about losing it because it always came back to him, just like a boomerang.

    This was the mythological explanation for how the balance of nature was maintained and why there was a constant struggle between good and evil. And this was precisely the kind of explanation that the philosophers rejected.

    But it was not a question of explanations alone. Mortals could not just sit idly by and wait for the gods to intervene while catastrophes such as drought or plague loomed. They had to act for themselves in the struggle against evil.

    This they did by performing various religious ceremonies, or rites.

    The most significant religious ceremony in Norse times was the offering. Making an offering to a god had the effect of increasing that god's power. For example, mortals had to make offerings to the gods to give them the strength to conquer the forces of chaos. They could do this by sacrificing an animal to the god. The offering to Thor was usually a goat.

    Offerings to Odin sometimes took the form of human sacrifices.

    The myth that is best known in the Nordic countries comes from the Eddie poem "The Lay of Thrym." It tells how Thor, rising from sleep, finds that his hammer is gone. This makes him so angry that his hands tremble and his beard shakes. Accompanied by his henchman Loki he goes to Freyja to ask if Loki may borrow her wings so that he can fly to Jotunheim, the land of the giants, and find out if they are the ones who have stolen Thor's hammer.

    At Jotunheim Loki meets Thrym, the king of the giants, who sure enough begins to boast that he has hidden the hammer seven leagues under the earth. And he adds that the gods will not get the hammer back until Thrym is given Freyja as his bride.

    Can you picture it, Sophie? Suddenly the good gods find themselves in the midst of a fullblown hostage incident. The giants have seized the gods' most vital defensive weapon. This is an utterly unacceptable situation. As long as the giants have Thor's hammer, they have total control overthe world of gods and mortals. In exchange for the hammer they are demanding Freyja.

    But this is equally unacceptable. If the gods have to give up their goddess of fertility- she who protects all life-the grass will disappear from the fields and all gods and mortals will die. The situation is deadlocked.

    Loki returns to Asgard, so the myth goes, and tells Freyja to put on her wedding attire for she is (alas!) to wed the king of the giants. Freyja is furious, and says people will think she is absolutely man-crazy if she agrees to marry a giant.

    Then the god Heimdall has an idea. He suggests that Thor dress up as a bride. With his hair up and two stones under his tunic he will look like a woman. Understandably, Thor is not wildly enthusiastic about the idea, but he finally accepts that this is the only way he will ever get his hammer back.

    So Thor allows himself to be attired in bridal costume, with Loki as his bridesmaid.

    To put it in present-day terms, Thor and Loki are the gods' "anti-terrorist squad."

    Disguised as women, their mission is to breach the giants' stronghold and recapture Thor's hammer.

    When the gods arrive at Jotunheim, the giants begin to prepare the wedding feast. But during the feast, the bride-Thor, that is-devours an entire ox and eight salmon. He also drinks three barrels of beer. This astonishes Thrym. The true identity of the "commandos" is very nearly revealed. But Loki manages to avert the danger by explaining that Freyja has been looking forward to coming to jotunheim so much that she has not eaten for a week.

    When Thrym lifts the bridal veil to kiss the bride, he is startled to find himself looking into Thor's burning eyes. Once again Loki saves the situation by explaining that the bride has not slept for a week because she is so excited about the wedding. At this, Thrym commands that the hammer be brought forth and laid in the bride's lap during the wedding ceremony.

    Thor roars with laughter when he is given the hammer. First he kills Thrym with it, and then he wipes out the giants and all their kin. And thus the gruesome hostage affair has a happy ending. Thor-the Batman or James Bond of the gods-has once again conquered the forces of evil.

    So much for the myth itself, Sophie. But what is the real meaning behind it? It wasn't made up just for entertainment. The myth also tries to explain something. Here is one possible interpretation: When a drought occurred, people sought an explanation of why there was no rain. Could it be that the giants had stolen Thor's hammer?

    Perhaps the myth was an attempt to explain the changing seasons of the year: in the winter Nature dies because Thor's hammer is in jotunheim. But in the spring he succeeds in winning it back. So the myth tried to give people an explanation for something they could not understand.

    But a myth was not only an explanation. People also carried out religious ceremonies related to the myths. We can imagine how people's response to drought or crop failure would be to enact a drama about the events in the myth. Perhaps a man from the village would dress up as a bride- with stones for breasts-in order to steal the hammer back from the giants. By doing this, people were taking some action to make it rain so the crops would grow in their fields.

    There are a great many examples from other parts of the world of the way people dramatized their myths of the seasons in order to speed up the processes of nature.

    So far we have only taken a brief glimpse at the world of Norse mythology. But there were countless myths about Thor and Odin, Freyr and Frey a, Hoder and Balder and many other gods.

    Mythologica notions of this kind flourished all over the world until philosophers began to tamper with them.

    A mythological world picture also existed in Greece when the first philosophy was evolving. The stories of the Greek gods had been handed down from generation to generation for centuries. In Greece the gods were called Zeus and Apollo, Hera and Athene, Dionysos and Ascle-pios, Heracles and Hephaestos, to mention only a few of them.

    Around 700 B.C., much of the Greek mythology was written down by Homer and Hesiod.This created a whole new situation. Now that the myths existed in written form, it was possible to discuss them.

    The earliest Greek philosophers criticized Homer's mythology because the gods resembled mortals too much and were just as egoistic and treacherous. For the first time it was said that the myths were nothing but human notions

    One exponent of this view was the philosopher Xe-nophanes, who lived from about 570 B.C. Men have created the gods in their own image, he said. They believe the gods were born and have bodies and clothes and language just as we have. Ethiopians believe that the gods are black and flat-nosed, Thracians imagine them to be blue-eyed and fair-haired. If oxen, horses, and lions could draw, they would depict gods that looked like oxen, horses, and lions!

    During that period the Greeks founded many city-states, both in Greece itself and in the Greek colonies in Southern Italy and Asia Minor, where all manual work was done by slaves, leaving the citizens free to devote all their time to politics and culture.

    In these city environments people began to think in a completely new way. Purely on his own behalf, any citizen could question the way society ought to be organized. Individuals could thus also ask philosophical questions without recourse to ancient myths

    We call this the development from a mythological mode of thought to one based on experience and reason. The aim of the early Greek philosophers was to find natural, rather than supernatural, explanations for natural processes.

    Sophie left the den and wandered about in the large garden. She tried to forget what she had learned at school, especially in science classes.

    If she had grown up in this garden without knowing anything at all about nature, how would she feel about the spring?

    Would she try to invent some kind of explanation for why it suddenly started to rain one day?

    Would she work out some fantasy to explain where the snow went and why the sun rose in the morning?

    Yes, she definitely would. She began to make up a story: Winter held the land in its icy grip because the evil Muriat had imprisoned the beautiful Princess Sikita in a cold prison. But one morning the brave Prince Bravato came and rescued her. Sikita was so happy that she began to dance over the meadows, singing a song she had composed inside the dank prison. The earth and the trees were so moved that all the snow turned into tears. But then the sun came out and dried all the tears away. The birds imitated Sikita's song, and when the beautiful princess let down her
    golden tresses, a few locks of her hair fell onto the earth and turned into the lilies of the field ...

    Sophie liked her beautiful story. If she had not known any other explanation for the changing seasons, she felt sure she would have come to believe her own story in the end.

    She understood that people had always felt a need to explain the processes of nature. Perhaps they could not live without such explanations. And that they made up all those myths in the time before there was anything called science.

    to be continue ....

    kutokana na copy rights issues you can buy this book from amazon click hapa


  4. Gaijin

    Gaijin JF-Expert Member

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    Kwa hiyo njiwa umetuwekea hadi hapo ili tukakinunue au?
  5. njiwa

    njiwa JF-Expert Member

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    haha! i can continue but mkuu invisible kanambia ati ana wasiwasi na copy rights issues .. basi nikamwambia nitaishia hapa..

  6. Gaijin

    Gaijin JF-Expert Member

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    Basi aruhusu unitumie kwa PM ....:D

    Copy right issue kwenye PM haihusiki au (@-@)
  7. njiwa

    njiwa JF-Expert Member

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    hehe! ni story nzuri sana wengi wangefaidika it expands the way of thinking .. kuna watu wanawasikia tu kina Aristotle , kina Socrates, kina Alexander the great , civilization ya spain sababu before spain ilikuwa ni muslims country .. story ina cover kila angle hadi huko palestine & israel ... but teacher make sure it doesn't shake your faith what ever religion you are in .. hehe si unajuwa philosophers tena wanajadili hadi yale maswali ambayo kwa sisi watu wa kawaida tunakosa explanations tunaishia na kusema "only god knows" ...

    nipe siku mbili nitatafuta jinsi ya kukutumia the whole story ...

  8. Gaijin

    Gaijin JF-Expert Member

    Nov 25, 2011
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    Usijali sana nitakitafuta amazon kwa wakati wangu.

    Nna tabia mbaya nikikianza kusoma kitabu chochote lazima nikimalize.