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The Call to Wonder from Sophie's World


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#1 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 12:46 AM

I have been wanting to read Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder for years and I finally picked it up.

I am charmed beyond anything I expected. This is going to be pure pleasure. For those who don't know, it merges the history of philosophy with a coming of age story of a young girl.

When I came across the quote below, I simply burst out laughing. This guy Gaarder managed to depict exactly how I feel, with all the quirkiness and everything.

He was talking about the sense of wonder as the starting point for philosophy. I know precisely what he meant since I feel this in some form everyday of my life. Usually the feeling is innocent like a child and intense like a first lover. It's been that way ever since I returned from the death of addiction. I treasure this feeling more than anything else I own and it's a sad day when it only comes a little.

This is sappy to the point of goody-goody-two-shoes, I know, but that's the way it is.

I think I'm a hambone protopanpsychic dork at heart, despite flirting with the conceit of a pseudo-epiphenomenalistic hard-nose on his high horse.

:smile:

Gaarder also talked about how we lose this sense of wonder as we grow older and get settled into our routines. He expanded on this with a metaphor about how life, or even existence on a large ball spinning through the universe, can appear to us like a magician's rabbit and some other stuff that I found very clever and spot on, but I merely mention this to provide context for the quote.

The part that produced my guffaw is the following:

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?

:smile:

If you don't resonate with this, that's OK.

It's one of those things where you have to see the world from the same cockeyed angle I do.

But if you do, it's funny as all get-out.

If it didn't perfectly depict the loneliness I sometimes feel, it would even be funnier.

Michael

Know thyself...


#2 Xray

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 05:31 AM

I have been wanting to read Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder for years and I finally picked it up. I am charmed beyond anything I expected. This is going to be pure pleasure. For those who don't know, it merges the history of philosophy with a coming of age story of a young girl.

Sophie's World is a wonderful book, which has the power to create in the reader a long-lasting interest in philosophy. It was one of the books that got me me 'on the philosophical track', so to speak.

He was talking about the sense of wonder as the starting point for philosophy.

And that sense of wonder will never cease. Homo philosophicus will never die out, despite, admittedly, the demands of everday life coming in between so often:


Jostein Gaarder said:

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?

:smile:

If you don't resonate with this, that's OK.

It perfectly describes the situation humanity finds itself in. We must struggle to survive in our everyday lives, and for many, the struggle is so all-consuming that little time is left to reflect on existence as such.
An Armenian proverb says: "Of what use is the wideness of space to me if my shoes are too tight?"
But I think even those who tend to push away from them philosophical questions, when they are suddenly confronted, as we all are during our lives, with situations shattering their world, will at least then ask questions like "Is there a sense to all this"?
But as soon as the situation has stabilized, the impulse to install oneself back in a comfort zone will kick in again. The human wish to be in a comfort zone is inderstandable from our biological condition: a comfort zone connotes 'security'.
Whereas looking out into space, trying to fully realize what it means to float in the universe at high speed, and all that happening in incredibly vast cosmic dimensions - this can make our head spin, and is definitely leaving our comfort zone.

Philosophers are all comfort-zone leavers. Pioneers of the spirit and mind, who make us marvel at the height of reflection and deep insight man is capable of.
I can imagine that in future times, mankind will use that capacity more and more, in step with the ongoing evolution of the human mind and spirit.

#3 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 12:20 PM

I just looked up Jostein Gaarder on Google to find out about his recent works.

I'm reading Sophie's World in a make-believe childlike universe of delight and wonder. What a feeling--to be able to experience this in a work that can keep me engaged intellectually.

So off I went Googling. Surely an author this wise, one who did not lose the charm of the child's soul within him as he grew and learned, would have other works well worth reading.

Then I discovered that this man has used his fame to bash Israel and stepped right into the dung-heap of Jew-hatred, even as he later tried to clarify, explain, sidestep and whatever.

My sense of wonder on looking at the cover of Sophie's World is now shriveling. The author is not as wise as I imagined. He is just as willing to flirt with collectivist hatred as any sheeple, and just as willing to back-peddle when the hatred he spewed at others gets turned on himself.

That sucks!

What a disappointment!

Oh well...

One of the great things about the human mind is the capacity to frame thoughts and experiences. We all do this naturally, but we can, also, choose our mental boundaries. There's a similar concept in Objectivism called "context," but it goes beyond that. We have the capacity to consciously establish the background when we focus on ideas. There are specific ways to do that, as even Gaarder showed: a young girl's coming of age.

Another has become important to me here: timeline.

I do not want to give up the feelings I had on starting Sophie's World. But I cannot ignore what I now know about the author. So I am simply going to read the rest of the book as if I can time-travel--back to before my Google experience when I found the contaminating hatred and cowardice in this man.

I'll know my current knowledge is there, hidden under some rock in my mind, but at least it will not be in plain mindsight. So I will be able to pretend it does not exist for a while as I once again become charmed by how the history of philosophy dances through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old girl.

After I've read the book and savored the delight, I'll come back to the present. Then, I'll deal with what to do about my so-greatly-treasured wonder prompted by this work turning into a shattered mirror--and looking at the author and feeling, "Dumbass!"

But enough of the negative. Despite everything, Sophie's World is a great book.

Right now it's time to follow the yellow-brick road, so off I go...

Michael

Know thyself...


#4 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 09:28 AM

Plato – Theaetetus 155d

“This is an experience which is characteristic of a philosopher, this wondering: this is where philosophy begins and nowhere else.”


Aristotle – Metaphysics 982b12–13

“It is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize.” (Some modern science shares that character with philosophy.*)


Nozick – Invariances 301 (final line of final work)

“Philosophy begins in wonder. It never ends.”

#5 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 09:51 AM

Plato – Theaetetus 155d

“This is an experience which is characteristic of a philosopher, this wondering: this is where philosophy begins and nowhere else.”


Aristotle – Metaphysics 982b12–13

“It is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize.” (Some modern science shares that character with philosophy.*)


Nozick – Invariances 301 (final line of final work)

“Philosophy begins in wonder. It never ends.”


I wonder why? Probably it is due to curiosity. That is a common human impulse. Our species is a race of questioners and blabber-mouths.

Ba'al Chatzaf
אויב מיין באָבע האט בייצים זי וואָלט זיין מיין זיידע

#6 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 07:42 AM

I admit I am forcing myself to finish this book. It started out great, but as it goes on, the progressive agenda starts to honk. I had noticed that this agenda was creeping in during hints and side-comments. But now, the damn book is almost a formal apology for the United Nations (and a few other people-control ideas cherished by the progressive heart).

Part of the charm of the book is a double story where a real girl (Hilde) is reading a tale about an imaginary girl (Sophie) and they are both in very similar situations. Letters appear from the real girl's dad to the real girl in the fictional story and Sophie is always discovering them as a kind of mystery. (Who is Hilde? etc.)

Now... look at the following letter from the chapter dealing with Kant and see the agenda in full-blown flower. (Alberto is a kind of mentor for Sophie.)

Dear Hilde,

It's too bad that Alberto also didn't tell Sophie that Kant advocated the establishment of a "league of nations." In his treatise Perpetual Peace, he wrote that all countries should unite in a league of the nations, which would assure peaceful coexistence between nations. About 125 years after the appearance of this treatise in 1795, the League of Nations was founded, after the First World War. After the Second World War it was replaced by the United Nations. So you could say that Kant was the father of the UN idea. Kant's point was that "practical reason" requires the nations to emerge from their wild state of nature which creates wars, and contract to keep the peace. Although the road to the establishment of a league of nations is laborious, it is our duty to work for the "universal and lasting securing of peace." The establishment of such a league was for Kant a far-distant goal. You could almost say it was philosophy's ultimate goal. I am in Lebanon at the moment.

Love, Dad

After I finished reading that section some time ago, I got the ickiest feeling of bait and switch. So I put the book aside. I picked it back up yesterday. But I'm still feeling bad.

"Philosophy's ultimate goal" is to establish a league of nations?

Gimmee a friggen' break!

This isn't a book about igniting a sense of wonder and using philosophy for that. The wonder and philosophy are merely tools to sneak in the political agenda of progressivism under the radar.

It works like this. First you bond with the reader. Gaarder succeeds in actually enchanting folks. But you also open questions that you don't answer. When the reader trusts you and is not paying attention, but is fully engaged in the story, you gauge the lull in awareness and, when you deem it is at the right point, you plop your message in. Then you quickly go back to the bonding stuff and start closing off the open questions. This "nests" the idea in your subconscious in a context of resolving problems.

This is called embedding in persuasion. When not detected, it tends to work like a charm. And Gaarder is doing it by the recipe book.

My sense of wonder is turning into disgust. Nobody likes to be had--especially when he sees the con unfolding as it is happening.

Michael

Know thyself...


#7 Peter Taylor

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 09:03 AM

Michael wrote:
This is called embedding in persuasion. And Gaarder is doing it by the recipe book. My sense of wonder is turning into disgust. Nobody likes to be had--especially when he detects it as it is happening.
end quote

Brilliant analysis. I have been trying to characterize my experience with the movie, “Avatar,” and you have discovered the trick for me. When I saw it in 3D I recommended it to everyone on OL. The faults and awful philosophy it promulgated were skimmed over by me. I recently saw it again on HBO and it turned my stomach. How could I have liked this garbage? I think we savants are as susceptible to superior propaganda and the mob mentality as lesser mortals.

I remember Tracinski’s doctrinaire, Objectivist put down of “Forrest Gump” and I did not agree with it then. This is an exception, because I still like “Forrest Gump” to this day.
Peter Taylor
Semper cogitans fidele,
Independent Objectivist,
Peter Taylor




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