Sophie’s World

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Alberto Knox is Sophie Amundsen’s friend, teacher, and—when they realize they’re fictional characters in Albert Knag’s novel—partner in escape. Alberto is an immensely intelligent, well-educated person, who has no trouble rattling off obscure historical facts or summarizing the ideas of great Western philosophers. In archetypal terms, Alberto resembles a magician, leading his young apprentice through a series of increasingly fantastical challenges. He teaches Sophie her most important lessons: that a good philosopher never stops asking “Why?”; that humans should never lose their sense of wonder; and that philosophy is an ongoing process. In the end, Alberto and Sophie seem to escape the confines of their own text (whether they really do so or not is up to us to decide). Surprisingly, Alberto shows some signs of weariness and cynicism about their possibilities of escape, and it’s Sophie who has to lead Alberto, not the other way around. This reminds us how good a teacher Alberto has been: Sophie has obviously learned a lot from her mentor.

Alberto Knox Quotes in Sophie’s World

The Sophie’s World quotes below are all either spoken by Alberto Knox or refer to Alberto Knox. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Sophie’s World published in 2007.
Chapter 2 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sophie reads a letter from Alberto Knox, her mentor and friend. Knox makes an interesting point: people don't usually ask themselves deep questions about the "magic" of the universe. Although the universe is full of wonder, people are so used to their everyday lives that they never stop to ask where the world comes from, how life is possible, and other philosophical questions. It's as if the world is one big magic trick, and people are so used to seeing it that they've stopped wondering how it works, or even being entertained by it.

And yet Alberto insists that the desire to understand the magic trick—to understand the universe—is precisely what makes humans human. Humans have been blessed with the gift of self-consciousness, so they should use their intelligence and wisdom to study life's mysteries, especially through the study of philosophy.

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Chapter 4 Quotes

All the earliest philosophers shared the belief that there had to be a certain basic substance at the root of all change. How they arrived at this idea is hard to say. We only know that the notion gradually evolved that there must be a basic substance that was the hidden cause of all changes in nature. There had to be “something” that all things came from and returned to. For us, the most interesting part is actually not what solutions these earliest philosophers arrived at, but which questions they asked and what type of answer they were looking for. We are more interested in how they thought than in exactly what they thought.

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alberto Knox, speaking to his student, Sophie, offers an interesting take on the history of philosophy, and a model for how to study philosophy through a historical lens. Knox acknowledges that the earliest philosophers offered explanations for the mysteries of the universe that we now know to be false. (For example, some Greek philosophers thought everything was made out of water.) And yet even though early philosophers' ideas have become obsolete, Knox insists that they're still worth studying: it's worth examining how philosophers went about answering basic questions, even if the answers they arrived at have been disproved.

Knox's ideas can be applied to the rest of the novel: even if we disagree with Kant or Hegel, it's worth studying them to see how their minds worked. Their conclusions, we might think, are wrong, but their methods can be put to good use. In other words, it's necessary to study the history of philosophy if we want to practice philosophy now.

Chapter 7 Quotes

A philosopher is therefore someone who recognizes that there is a lot he does not understand, and is troubled by it. In that sense, he is still wiser than all those who brag about their knowledge of things they know nothing about.
“Wisest is she who knows she does not know,” I said previously. Socrates himself said, “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Remember this statement, because it is an admission that is rare, even among philosophers. Moreover, it can be so dangerous to say it in public that it can cost you your life. The most subversive people are those who ask questions. Giving answers is not nearly as threatening. Any one question can be more explosive than a thousand answers.

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, Socrates
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, Alberto Knox tells Sophie about the life and death of Socrates. Socrates, Knox argues, is important in the history of philosophy because of his method—the method of asking questions—moreso than any of the specific answers he provided. Socrates' questioning was considered radical and even dangerous, because it showed how little the average person understood about the world.

Knox's analysis of Socrates illustrates how important philosophy is, and how important studying the history of philosophy can be. Philosophy isn't just an esoteric hobby—it's a genuinely heroic, dangerous undertaking that can be used to change society. (If it wasn't, then Socrates wouldn't have been executed.) Furthermore, it's important for Knox and Sophie to study the history of philosophy so that they can learn from philosophers' methods. Socrates' theory of forms might not hold much weight anymore, but his method of persistent questioning is still very important: it's the method philosophers still use today.

“We don’t learn anything there. The difference between schoolteachers and philosophers is that school-teachers think they know a lot of stuff that they try to force down our throats. Philosophers try to figure things out together with the pupils.”
“Now we’re back to white rabbits again! You know something? I demand to know who your boyfriend really is. Otherwise I’ll begin to think he is a bit disturbed.”
Sophie turned her back on the dishes and pointed at her mother with the dish mop.
“It’s not him who’s disturbed. But he likes to disturb others—to shake them out of their rut.”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Mom / Sophie’s mother / Helene Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Sophie argues with her mother—a rather worldly woman who is clearly concerned about her daughter's new ideas. Sophie tries to tell her mother what Alberto Knox has been teaching her about the importance of philosophy, but Sophie's mother doesn't really listen to her daughter at all. On one hand, Sophie's mother is being condescending in assuming that Sophie just has a new boyfriend, but on the other hand Sophie is acting rather pompous all of a sudden, delivering grand statements like this one about "the difference between schoolteachers and philosophers."

The scene is important because it dramatizes a point Alberto has already made: most people are too busy with their everyday lives to bother with the basic philosophical questions of the universe. Sophie's mother may have been inquisitive and curious when she was a child, but the pressures of adulthood have distracted her from philosophy: she's so concerned with her career and her duties as a mother that she seems uninterested in her daughter's investigations.

Chapter 11 Quotes

Finally, let us look at Aristotle’s views on women. His was unfortunately not as uplifting as Plato’s. Aristotle was more inclined to believe that women were incomplete in some way. A woman was an “unfinished man.” In reproduction, woman is passive and receptive whilst man is active and productive; for the child inherits only the male characteristics, claimed Aristotle. He believed that all the child’s characteristics lay complete in the male sperm. The woman was the soil, receiving and bringing forth the seed, whilst the man was the “sower.” Or, in Aristotelian language, the man provides the “form” and the woman contributes the “substance.”

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, Plato , Aristotle
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sophie learns about Aristotle, a philosopher who was arguably even more influential than Plato, but whose philosophy wasn't as friendly to women. Aristotle disagreed with Plato in arguing that women were intellectually and physically inferior to men.

And yet even if Sophie (or we, the readers) disagrees with Aristotle on women's rights, it's important to study his ideas. Aristotle was an intelligent man, and yet he allowed the sexist culture of his era to influence his thinking: he used philosophy to rationalize the subjugation of women that he saw all around him. By studying Aristotle, Sophie learns how to take great philosopher's ideas with a grain of salt: to accept some of their ideas while rejecting others as the products of ignorance or bigotry.

Chapter 15 Quotes

“St. Augustine’s point was that no man deserves God’s redemption. And yet God has chosen some to be saved from damnation, so for him there was nothing secret about who will be saved and who damned. It is preordained. We are entirely at his mercy.”
“So in a way, he returned to the old belief in fate.”
“Perhaps. But St. Augustine did not renounce man’s responsibility for his own

life. He taught that we must live in awareness of being among the chosen. He did not deny that we have free will. But God has ‘foreseen’ how we will live.”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox (speaker), Saint Augustine
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Sophie meets Alberto Knox in a church. There, Knox tells Sophie about the life of Saint Augustine, one of the most important Christian philosophers. In doing so, Knox brings up an important philosophical concept: the idea of free will.

As Knox puts it, Augustine believed that humans' lives were predestined according to the wisdom of God. And yet Augustine didn't believe in fate, plain and simple—he believed that humans had the freedom to make their own choices. While Augustine beliefs may seem contradictory, Augustine fashioned a sophisticated model of human freedom that didn't infringe on God's omnipotence. The idea of free will becomes increasingly important to the novel as we realize that Sophie and Alberto are not, strictly speaking, free. In general, then, the problems with Augustine's philosophy—the problem of how free will can coexist with a divine, all-knowing entity—foreshadow the second half of the novel.

“It’s interesting to note that the eggs of mammals were not discovered until 1827. It was therefore perhaps not so surprising that people thought it was the man who was the creative and lifegiving force in reproduction. We can moreover note that, according to Aquinas, it is only as nature-being that woman is inferior to man. Woman’s soul is equal to man’s soul. In Heaven there is complete equality of the sexes because all physical gender differences cease to exist.”

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, Saint Thomas Aquinas
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Alberto Knox educates Sophie about the history of Western philosophy in the late Middle Ages. Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the key Christian philosophers, believed that women were inferior to men physically, and yet equal spiritually. On Earth, women were weaker than men, and yet in Heaven, their souls were the same.

It's possible to criticize Aquinas for his sexism—for arguing that women were inferior to men during the course of their natural lives. But it's also possible to praise him for being progressive, at least by the standards of the late Middle Ages, on women's rights. When studying the history of Western philosophy in general, it's important to refrain from criticizing every philosopher for sexism and racism, even if such critiques are easy to make. Even if Aquinas isn't totally "PC" by 21st century standards, he pushed philosophy in the right direction—toward gender equality—and he deserves some credit for doing so.

Chapter 16 Quotes

“When Newton had proved that the same natural laws applied everywhere in the universe, one might think that he thereby undermined people’s faith in God’s omnipotence. But Newton’s own faith was never shaken. He regarded the natural laws as proof of the existence of the great and almighty God. It’s possible that man’s picture of himself fared worse.”
“How do you mean?”
“Since the Renaissance, people have had to get used to living their life on a random planet in the vast galaxy. I am not sure we have wholly accepted it even now. But there were those even in the Renaissance who said that every single one of us now had a more central position than before.”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox (speaker), Sir Isaac Newton
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:

Alberto Knox teaches Sophie about Sir Isaac Newton, one of the key figures in Western philosophy (even though he wasn't a philosopher!). Newton's contribution to philosophy is crucial: he showed that the natural world functions according to a number of predictable, mathematical rules. Newton's insights into the laws of science are themselves one part of an important trend in the history of Western thought: scientists following Newton used their training to show that humanity was, in a word, not special—for example, that humans evolved over time, the same as monkeys (Darwin), or that humans' brains were chaotic and unpredictable, like animals' (Freud).

While it's possible to interpret Newton and his successors as dangerous figures who ushered in an age of chaos and uncertainty, Knox disagrees. Newton, Darwin, and other may have used science to show that man wasn't "at the center of the universe," but they also suggested the importance of individuality and personal freedom. Ironically, if scientific laws, not God, control the natural world, individual people become more powerful and central than ever before.

Chapter 18 Quotes

“But Descartes tried to work forward from this zero point. He doubted everything, and that was the only thing he was certain of. But now something struck him: one thing had to be true, and that was that he doubted. When he doubted, he had to be thinking, and because he was thinking, it had to be certain that he was a thinking being. Or, as he himself expressed it: Cogito, ergo sum.”

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, Rene Descartes
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

Knox describes an important philosopher, Rene Descartes. As with other important philosophers, Descartes is important to Sophie not so much for his ideas as for his methods: somewhat like Socrates, Descartes used a method of "systematic doubt": denying the existence of anything until it was proven true. Using systematic doubt, Descartes arrived at one conclusion: he, a thinking being, existed. ("I think, therefore I am.")

Knox's gloss on Descartes is important because it shows how greatly philosophy changed since the Middle Ages. Where Augustine and Aquinas believed that all thought must begin with belief—the belief in a Christian God—Descartes argued that philosophy must begin with doubt. Descartes wasn't a nihilist; rather, he maintained that the only way to truly believe something was first to doubt it and then use logic to prove it. The quotation also suggests that philosophy begins with introspection: for example, Descartes examining the capacity of his own mind. In this way, Knox’s discussion of Descartes takes us back to the beginning of the novel, in which Sophie looks at her own reflection in the mirror.

Chapter 19 Quotes

“Or think of a lion in Africa. Do you think it makes up its mind to be a beast of prey? Is that why it attacks a limping antelope? Could it instead have made up its mind to be a vegetarian?”
“No, a lion obeys its nature.”
“You mean, the laws of nature. So do you, Sophie, because you are also part of nature. You could of course protest, with the support of Descartes, that a lion is an animal and not a free human being with free mental faculties. But think of a newborn baby that screams and yells. If it doesn’t get milk it sucks its thumb. Does that baby have a free will?”
“I guess not.”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox (speaker), Rene Descartes
Page Number: 250
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alberto Knox clarifies some of the ideas of Spinoza, one of the most important—and difficult—of all Western philosophers. Spinoza argued that free will was an illusion. Humans were no freer than lions or other animals—just like lions, they have an inborn nature that leads them to crave certain things (food, love, art, etc.). Humans only believe that they’re free because they can’t stand the idea that they’re slaves to their own nature.

In addition to being a good explanation of a complicated philosopher, the passage is also an illustration of Knox’s philosophical method. Knox doesn’t tell Sophie how to understand Spinoza; instead, he uses a series of short, pointed questions to keep Sophie engaged in the discussion. Like Socrates, he pushes Sophie to broaden her mind and consider ideas she would have otherwise dismissed. 

Chapter 20 Quotes

“Before we sense anything, then, the mind is as bare and empty as a blackboard before the teacher arrives in the classroom. Locke also compared the mind to an unfurnished room. But then we begin to sense things. We see the world around us, we smell, taste, feel, and hear. And nobody does this more intensely than infants. In this way what Locke called simple ideas of sense arise. But the mind does not just passively receive information from outside it. Some activity happens in the mind as well. The single sense ideas are worked on by thinking, reasoning, believing, and doubting, thus giving rise to what he calls reflection. So he distinguished between ‘sensation’ and ‘reflection.’ The mind is not merely a passive receiver. It classifies and processes all sensations as they come streaming in. And this is just where one must be on guard.”

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, John Locke
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Knox explains the philosophy of John Locke to Sophie. Locke believed that the mind is born a “blank slate”—just an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge. And yet Locke also believed that the mind was born with the capacity to perform certain actions, such as thinking and reflecting. Humans are unique from animals, he argued, in that they can reflect on what they observe, and learn from their experiences.

Knox’s explanation of Locke has clear ramifications for his lessons with Sophie. Just as Locke argued, Sophie is using her experiences and observations to learn. One could even say that she’s classifying and processing her lessons with Knox, converting them from experience to wisdom.

Chapter 24 Quotes

“One of those who fought hardest for the rights of women during the French Revolution was Olympe de Gouges. In 1791—two years after the revolution—she published a declaration on the rights of women. The declaration on the rights of the citizen had not included any article on women’s natural rights. Olympe de Gouges now demanded all the same rights for women as for men.”

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, Olympe de Gouges
Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:

 As Sophie moves on with her history of philosophy, she’s delighted to finally encounter some female philosophers. Olympe de Gouges, a figure of the French Revolution, was executed for demanding equal rights for men and women—a clear sign of the radicalism of her ideas. De Gouges’s execution further demonstrates the deep sexism of Western society—it’s telling that after thousands of years with no prominent female philosophers, the first such female philosopher was murdered. It’s also no coincidence that de Gouges emerged at the same time as the French Revolution: at a time when people were questioning the most basic assumptions about how society should work (that there should be a monarchy, for example), de Gouges rode the wave of radicalism to write her own declaration of gender equality.

Chapter 25 Quotes

“So now let’s sum up. According to Kant, there are two elements that contribute to man’s knowledge of the world. One is the external conditions that we cannot know of before we have perceived them through the senses. We can call this the material of knowledge. The other is the internal conditions in man himself—such as the perception of events as happening in time and space and as processes conforming to an unbreakable law of causality. We can call this the form of knowledge.”

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, Immanuel Kant
Page Number: 325
Explanation and Analysis:

Knox sums up the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, one of the giants of Western philosophy. Kant elaborated on Locke in believing that the human mind was a combination of passivity and activity. The mind passively absorbed experiences, using the five senses. At the same time, however, Kant believed that the mind was hard-wired to interpret these experiences in certain ways: to feel the sense of time, space, etc. There were also certain “ideas” about the universe, which were impossible to prove but which also determined the way the human mind experienced life—causation was one such idea.

In all, Kant’s view of the human mind is important to Sophie’s education because it suggests the way that she interprets Knox’s lessons: she hears his voice and reads his letter, but she also brings to the table certain predetermined ideas of her own, such as causation. Kant is also important because he argues that there’s a limit to what logic and philosophy can prove: the idea of causation, for example, is impossible to prove or disprove. Kant foreshadows his philosophical successors, who will go much further in challenging Western philosophy’s faith in logic and reason.

Chapter 26 Quotes

“The fairy tale was the absolute literary ideal of the Romantics—in the same way that the absolute art form of the Baroque period was the theater. It gave the poet full scope to explore his own creativity.”
“He could play God to a fictional universe.”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox (speaker)
Page Number: 349
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Knox discusses the Romantics with Sophie. He argues that the fairy tale was the most important literary form for Romantic writers, because it allowed such writers to “play god” over their own literary creations. By this point in the novel, we’re well aware that Sophie and Alberto are themselves the creations of a writer, Albert Knag (who is himself a character in the text!). In other words, Alberto and Sophie are talking—obliquely—about their own situation: they’re puppets in a writer’s fictional universe, just like characters in a Romantic author’s fairy tale, or actors in a Baroque writer's play. The question then becomes: are Alberto and Sophie exercising any real freedom by talking about their own existence? They’re still fictional creations, and yet it’s suggested that by acknowledging their own artificiality, they reach some form of freedom from authorial control. (An even better question might be: are we, the readers, any more free than Sophie and Alberto? We’re probably not characters in a book, but are our decisions any less predetermined?)

Chapter 29 Quotes

“That society would be a just society. It would have arisen among equals.”
“Men and women!”
“That goes without saying. None of them knew whether they would wake up as men or women. Since the odds are fifty-fifty, society would be just as attractive for women as for men.”
“It sounds promising.”
“So tell me, was the Europe of Karl Marx a society like that?”
“Absolutely not!”
“But do you by any chance know of such a society today?”
“Hm ... that’s a good question.”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox (speaker), Karl Marx
Page Number: 398
Explanation and Analysis:

Alberto tells Sophie about a thought experiment designed by the famous political philosopher John Rawls. Rawls argued that the only truly “equitable” society would be one in which the planners would be randomly assigned a place in the society they just invented (so that the creators/leaders of the society couldn't give themselves preferential treatment to others). Such a scenario is, of course, hard to enact in real life. Sophie and Alberto’s discussion ties in with Alberto’s lessons on Karl Marx, the political philosopher who argued that society is always designed to help the powerful and the wealthy maintain their control of the “means of production” (i.e., the tools and resources that produce goods and allow the wealthy to stay wealthy).

Alberto’s rhetorical question to Sophie (“But do you by any chance …”) raises another interesting point—perhaps one of the goals of philosophy should be to make society more equitable. Up to now, philosophy has generally seemed abstract, loose, and metaphysical—with Marx, philosophy becomes a concrete, economic subject, aiming to change the world instead of simply describing it.

Chapter 31 Quotes

“Our actions are not always guided by reason. Man is not really such a rational creature as the eighteenth-century rationalists liked to think. Irrational impulses often determine what we think, what we dream, and what we do. Such irrational impulses can be an expression of basic drives or needs. The human sexual drive, for example, is just as basic as the baby’s instinct to suckle.”

Related Characters: Alberto Knox (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, Karl Marx , Sigmund Freud
Page Number: 426
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Alberto marks a turning point in his lessons for Sophie. For many chapters now, the philosophers he’s chosen to discuss have been rational and logical—they’ve trusted that reason coulb be used to solve almost any problem. After this chapter, however, Alberto turns to modern thinkers like Freud and Nietzsche—figures who don’t have the Enlightenment era’s faith in logic. As Alberto explains, Freud believed that the human mind was controlled by irrational impulses more than rational thoughts—urges like sex, hunger, and violence are far more important than reason in determining what a human being does. This complicates things, and means that the realm of philosophy blends more with other studies like psychology and economics.

Chapter 33 Quotes

“They have vanished into thin air,” said Helene Amundsen, not without a touch of pride.
She drew herself up to her full height, walked toward the long table and began to clear up after the philosophical garden party.
“More coffee, anyone?”

Related Characters: Mom / Sophie’s mother / Helene Amundsen (speaker), Sophie Amundsen, Alberto Knox
Page Number: 478
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Sophie and Alberto—now fully aware that they’re just characters in someone else’s book—find a way to escape from their text: they simply “vanish into thin air.” The paradox is this: Alberto and Sophie seem to have “chosen” to escape their text, but in fact, their author (Albert Knag) has just written them out of the text—in short, they’re just as obedient to Knag’s will as ever.

At the same time, the passage marks a turning point in the novel: after this point, Sophie and Alberto will continue their adventures, though it's not clear who, if anyone, is writing their story (besides the book's real author, Jostein Gaarder). In a sense, Sophie and Alberto have "escaped" Knag, but they're just as obedient as ever to Gaarder, the author of Sophie's World.

Chapter 35 Quotes

They jumped out of the car and ran down the garden.
They tried to loosen the rope that was made fast in a metal ring. But they could not even lift one end.
“It’s as good as nailed down,” said Alberto.
“We’ve got plenty of time.”
“A true philosopher must never give up. If we could just... get it loose …”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox (speaker), Hilde Møller Knag , Albert Knag / The Major
Page Number: 506
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of Sophie's World, Sophie and Alberto—fictional characters who've somehow attained a degree of independence from their creator—find themselves in a strange world. Everything around them, including people, is frozen. In spite of the hopelessness of their situation, Sophie and Alberto try to move a metal ring, which is attached to a boat near to where Hilde and Albert are sitting. Sophie is persistent in her attempts to the move the ring—in spite of the unlikelihood of moving the ring, she keeps trying, confident that philosophers never give up.

In all, the novel ends on a note of cautious optimism. Sophie seems to have no chance of moving the ring, but her intellectual training gives her hope and confidence. Gaarder suggests that philosophy, in addition to being an important area of study, can also be something like a religion for its students: it can provide people with hope and confidence in their own abilities. As the novel began, Sophie was a timid, shy young girl—now, with philosophy as her weapon, she's brave and determined.

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Alberto Knox Character Timeline in Sophie’s World

The timeline below shows where the character Alberto Knox appears in Sophie’s World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7: Socrates
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
...silk scarf, she should take care of it—it’s someone’s “personal property.” The letter is signed, “Alberto Knox.” The letter also includes the usual questions for Sophie to ponder, among them—“Is there... (full context)
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...Labrador arrives outside Sophie’s house, carrying an envelope in its mouth. This, Sophie realizes, is Alberto’s messenger. Sophie opens the envelope, entitled “THE PHILOSOPHY OF ATHENS,” and reads. (full context)
Chapter 8: Athens
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...a man standing in front of the Acropolis in Athens. The man introduces himself as Alberto Knox. He points out the large structure on the hill—the Parthenon. Inside, he says, there... (full context)
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
...different version of Athens. The stone ruins have been replaced by glorious, brightly colored buildings. Alberto explains that Sophie is looking at Athens as it once was. Alberto strolls through the... (full context)
Chapter 9: Plato
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
...Plato meant about men and women being sensible, but can’t. Then she remembers something from Alberto’s letter—Socrates claimed that all people have the same innate sense of wisdom. In this way,... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Major’s Cabin
The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
...on the floor that matches the color of Hermes’ fur. She realizes that Hermes and Alberto live in the cabin. Sophie notices a wallet lying on a table. It contains a... (full context)
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
Sophie writes Alberto a letter in which she admits that it was she who visited the cabin. She... (full context)
Chapter 11: Aristotle
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
...envelope, there’s an extra letter in addition to the usual one: in this extra letter, Alberto forgives Sophie for entering his cabin. (full context)
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Sophie begins to read Alberto’s main letter, “PHILOSOPHER AND SCIENTIST.” Aristotle, the letter begins, was a pupil of Plato. Aristotle... (full context)
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The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Back in her room, Sophie begins putting together Alberto’s letters to form a single book on philosophy. She looks forward to her next letter,... (full context)
Chapter 12: Hellenism
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The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
When Sophie gets home, she finds another letter waiting for her: “HELLENISM.” Albertowrites that he will describe philosophy between the death of Aristotle to the beginning of the... (full context)
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The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
Plotinus brings Alberto to an important topic—mysticism. Many thinkers over the centuries have studied mysticism and incorporated it... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Postcards
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
It’s May 16, andSophie and Joanna have planned to go camping. Sophie hasn’t heard from Alberto in a few days. Sophie and Joanna walk into the woods outside their town, with... (full context)
Chapter 14: Two Cultures
The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
In the letter, Alberto tells Sophie that he left Hilde’s father’s postcards in the cabin, assuming that Sophie would... (full context)
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Alberto gives a brief history of Judaism’s influence on Christianity. In the Jewish tradition, the Jewish... (full context)
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Alberto continues to describe Paul’s influence on the Western world. Paul disagreed with the Greeks that... (full context)
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Alberto ends his letter with a few observations. The early Christian era, he points out, was... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Middle Ages
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Another week passes before Sophie hears from Alberto again. On May 25, she hears a tapping at her window—there’s a postcard stuck to... (full context)
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The phone rings, and Sophie answers it. Alberto Knox is on the phone—he greets Sophie by name. He tells Sophie that they must... (full context)
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...churchyard, where she finds a figure dressed in monk’s clothes. The figure, Sophie realizes, is Alberto Knox. Alberto begins telling Sophie about the history of the Middle Ages. During this time,... (full context)
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During the Middle Ages, Alberto goes on, much of Plato and Aristotle was forgotten, though some of it survived. Important... (full context)
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Sophie says that she needs to get going soon, but Alberto begs to tell her about the other great Medieval philosopher, Saint Thomas Aquinas. After Augustine’s... (full context)
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As Alberto falls silent, Sophie asks him about Hilde. Alberto replies, “We don’t know whether there is... (full context)
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Before Sophie leaves, Alberto tells her something more about the relationship between Aristotle and Aquinas. Aquinas tried to broaden... (full context)
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Sophie asks Alberto if there were any female philosophers in the Middle Ages. Alberto mentions one, Hildegard of... (full context)
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Before Sophie leaves, she asks Alberto if there was anyone named Alberto during the Middle Ages. Alberto replies that Aquinas had... (full context)
Chapter 16: The Renaissance
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...asking for Sophie’s whereabouts. Sophie convinces Joanna not to tell anyone about her meeting with Alberto in the church. Then, she leaves Joanna’s house and returns to her own. (full context)
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...her dream. She also notes that Hilde’s father (in the dream) looked a lot like Alberto Knox. She goes downstairs and greets Mom. Mom tells Sophie that a strange dog is... (full context)
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...up many flights of stairs, until she’s in the attic. There, she’s surprised to find Alberto Knox, wearing a yellow jacket with padded shoulders. Sophie demands that Alberto explain how Hilde’scrucifix... (full context)
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Alberto directs Sophie’s attention to the attic, which is full of beautiful old books. He explains... (full context)
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Alberto next begins to tell Sophie about the Renaissance, the period of European history following the... (full context)
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Alberto tells Sophie more about Galileo, one of the key figures of the Renaissance. Galileo was... (full context)
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Alberto goes on to tell Sophie about the history of religion during the Renaissance. During this... (full context)
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Sophie realizes that it’s already4 o’clock—her mother must be missing her. Alberto nods and says goodbye to Sophie, calling her “Hilde.” Sophie challenges Alberto on this, and... (full context)
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Sophie leaves Alberto and begins heading home. Because she has no money, she’ll have to walk home instead... (full context)
Chapter 17: The Baroque
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Sophie doesn’t hear from Alberto for a few more days. To explain her absences to Mom, she lies and says... (full context)
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...her lately. Sophie admits that she’s been getting letters from and visiting a man named Alberto, who lived across town. Sophie explains that Alberto is a philosopher. Mom tells Sophie that... (full context)
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...Sophie will be having a birthday party, however. Sophie mentions that she’s thinking about inviting Alberto—something Joanna finds “crazy.” (full context)
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As she walks home, Sophie crosses paths with Hermes, who guides her back to Alberto’s attic. Outside building No. 14, Sophie finds a letter for Hilde. Hilde’s father explains that... (full context)
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Inside, Sophie greets Alberto and asks him about the letter. Alberto calls Hilde’s father a shallow, shabby man, someone... (full context)
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Alberto launches into a history of the Baroque era (approximately the 16th and 17th century). Following... (full context)
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...processes in the brain.The two greatest philosophers of the Baroque era were Descartes and Spinoza. Alberto prepares to tell Sophie about Descartes. (full context)
Chapter 18: Descartes
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Alberto begins telling Sophie about Descartes. Descartes was born in 1596, and quickly became interested in... (full context)
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...would exist in the real world, as well as in the human mind. Therefore, God exists.Alberto admits that this isn’t very solid logic—many people have criticized Descartes on this count. (full context)
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Sophie is particularly struck when Alberto tells her that Descartes compared the human body to a machine. Descartes was a talented... (full context)
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Alberto tells Sophie to sit in front of a computer in the attic. When Sophie does... (full context)
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...decides to search, “Knag.” The computer begins to type in the person of MajorAlbert Knag. Alberto mutters, “The rat has sneaked onto the hard disc.”“Albert Knag” types a birthday greeting to... (full context)
Chapter 19: Spinoza
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Still sitting in the room with Alberto, Sophie asks him to tell her more about the Baroque era. Alberto begins to tell... (full context)
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Spinoza, Alberto continues, believed that God was present in nature—in short, God is the world. This is... (full context)
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Alberto transitions toSpinoza’s idea of free will. Because Spinoza believed that the world is God, it’s... (full context)
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Alberto offers Sophie a banana, and Sophie, who’s hungry, accepts it. She’s surprised to see a... (full context)
Chapter 20: Locke
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Sophie gets back to her house and tells Mom that she’s been visiting Alberto. Mom tells Sophie she checked the phonebook and couldn’t find anyone by that name in... (full context)
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Two weeks go by. Sophie goes to Alberto’s apartment across town. Outside, she finds another note wishing Hilde a happy birthday. In the... (full context)
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...cut ahead to June 14. Hermes shows up at Sophie’s house and leads her toward Alberto’s apartment once again. Suddenly, Sophie hears a voice, wishing her a happy birthday. She wonders... (full context)
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Inside, Sophie finds Alberto. Sophie explains some of the odd events that have happened to her lately, but Alberto... (full context)
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Locke, Alberto continues, wasn’t as different from Descartes as he’s sometimes said to be. He did think... (full context)
Chapter 21: Hume
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Alberto moves on to discuss David Hume (1711-1766), another important empiricist. Hume wrote a great deal... (full context)
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Alberto explains that Hume acted as a kind of “janitor” cleaning up the philosophy of the... (full context)
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Alberto explains Hume’s notion of ego to Sophie. The ego is the self, the “I,” with... (full context)
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...seeing it happen that our mind tricks us into thinking up a cause for it. Alberto gives another analogy: people think that lightning is the “cause” of thunder because thunder comes... (full context)
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...to solve all our problems—we need to deepen our feelings for other people as well. Alberto clarifies this with an example: the Nazis killed millions of people, but it wasn’t an... (full context)
Chapter 22: Berkeley
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Alberto and Sophie are still in Alberto’s apartment. They stare out the window and see an... (full context)
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Alberto moves on to discuss George Berkeley with Sophie. Berkeley was an Irish bishop and philosopher.... (full context)
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...strange things that have been happening to her lately: Hilde’s father seems to be everywhere. ThenAlbertosuddenly addresses Sophie as “Hilde,” and explains that he’s always known Sophie’s true name is Hilde.... (full context)
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Albertothen tells Sophie “Happy birthday, Hilde!” and suddenly it starts to storm outside. Sophie leaves Alberto... (full context)
Chapter 23: Bjerkeley
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...but quickly resumes reading. She reads the section in which Sophie visits the Acropolis with Alberto. Hilde recalls that her father, during his time with the UN, suggested that the UN... (full context)
Chapter 24: The Enlightenment
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After a short conversation with her mother,Hilde reads about Sophie’s discussions with Alberto in the church. She recognizes that her father is making a point about the relativity... (full context)
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The phone rings in Sophie’s World, and Sophie picks it up. It’s Alberto, who explains to Sophie that he and she may have only been invented for the... (full context)
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Alberto suggests something to Sophie—maybe there is a way for them to exercise free will after... (full context)
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Hilde finishes reading the chapter of Sophie’s World. She finds it odd that Sophie and Alberto are becoming “aware” of their fictional nature. Hilde has a strange feeling that Sophie and... (full context)
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...to Hilde. In the letter addressed to her, Sophie reads about the lesson plan that Alberto will shortly present to her, structured around the Enlightenment. Clearly, the major is watching her... (full context)
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Sophie and Alberto meet up in the major’s cabin, where Alberto dives into talking about the Enlightenment. The... (full context)
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...the universal rights of man. Sophie is curious about the Enlightenment’s attitude toward women’s rights. Alberto explains that Enlightenment philosophers were often progressive about women’s rights. One of the key philosophers... (full context)
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Sophie directs Alberto’s attention to the pictures of Berkeley and Bjerkely. She suggests that Hilde “lives” somewhere in... (full context)
Chapter 25: Kant
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...She tells him she’s delighted with it—she’s read up to the part where Sophie and Alberto reach the major’s cabin. Hilde tells her father she’s learned more in only one day... (full context)
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Hilde falls asleep reading from her book. In the book, Sophie talks with Alberto in the attic. Alberto moves on to tell Sophie about the life of Immanuel Kant.... (full context)
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...is neither a solely abstract concept, nor is it strictly material. To illustrate Kant’s point, Alberto gives Sophie a pair of colored glasses. The glasses let Sophie see the world, but... (full context)
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...departs. Sophie yells that Little Red Riding Hood should look out for the wolf, but Alberto assures her that this warning accomplishes nothing.Sophie’s letter says, “If the human brain was simple... (full context)
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Alberto continues with his discussion of Kant’s morality. Kant believed that the difference between right and... (full context)
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...one who obeys his sense of right and wrong.Sophie finds this difficult to grasp, but Alberto insists, “A mere bagatelle.” (full context)
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It’s almost time for Sophie to leave. Before Sophie leaves, Alberto has an idea. If Kant is correct, Sophie and Alberto will be exercising freedom by... (full context)
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Sophie leaves Alberto and walks through the forest. While she’s there, she notices a figure—Winnie the Pooh. Pooh... (full context)
Chapter 26: Romanticism
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Next Tuesday, Sophie gets a call from Alberto Knox, who explains that he’s received her invitation—he doesn’t say how. He reminds Sophie that... (full context)
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Alberto and Sophie meet up in the major’s cabin that afternoon. Alberto explains that he’s going... (full context)
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Alberto mentions Lord Byron, one of the key English Romantic poets. Another was Novalis, who fell... (full context)
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Alberto moves on with his history of Romanticism, and Sophie listens eagerly—she’svery interested in Romanticism. The... (full context)
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...lived and worked—their compilations of fairy tales were monuments to their respective cultures. In general, Alberto claims, the fairy tale is the ideal Romantic form—a space in which the author can... (full context)
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Alberto continues talking about fairy tales. In the Romantic era, writers wrote works that acknowledged their... (full context)
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A young boy carrying an oil lamp runs up to Alberto and Sophie, claiming that his name is Aladdin, from Lebanon. Aladdin rubs his lamp, and... (full context)
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Sophie tells Alberto that she’s had enough of being controlled by the major—she’s going to run away. Alberto... (full context)
Chapter 27: Hegel
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...in her room, having just read Chapter 26 of her book. She’s dizzied by what Alberto and Sophie have just said—even if Sophie is just the product of someone’s imagination, perhaps... (full context)
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In the book, Alberto is teaching Sophie about Hegel. Hegel, born in 1770, criticized much of Romanticism for its... (full context)
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Alberto clarifies Hegel’s notion of truth. Most Western philosophers before Hegel believed in a timeless definition... (full context)
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...brass mirror in her room. She wonders what the “significance” of this mirror could be. Alberto suggests that only Hilde can answer this question. (full context)
Chapter 28: Kierkegaard
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...inspired her to play tricks on her father. Hilde feels as if she, Sophie, and Alberto are on the same “team,” while her father is their opponent. (full context)
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Hilde continues reading. In her book, Sophie and Alberto hear a knock at the door. Sophie opens the door and finds Alice from Alice... (full context)
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...in the world. The rest of the room seems alien to her—she doesn’t even recognize Alberto anymore. Alberto explains to Sophie that she’s drunk from the bottle of Idealism, the Hegelian... (full context)
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Alberto tries to explain how Kierkegaard’s ideas work in practice. For Kierkegaard, there is no universal... (full context)
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The religious human being has chosen to worship God instead of pleasure or morality. Alberto doesn’t explain what a religious life would look like. However, he stresses that Kierkegaard is... (full context)
Chapter 29: Marx
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Hilde finishes reading the chapter on Kierkegaard. Inspired by Sophie and Alberto, she decides to give her father a “scare” when he returns from Lebanon. She calls... (full context)
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...that the lie comes from “some guiding spirit”) and says that she’s told her friend Alberto that she collects stamps and postmarks. (full context)
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Two days before Midsummer Eve (June 21), Alberto calls Sophie. Alberto tells Sophie that he’s finally found “a way out.” Since Alberto and... (full context)
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Sophie proceeds to the cabin, where she finds Alberto waiting for her. She explains her encounter with Scrooge and the match girl, andAlberto explains... (full context)
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Alberto begins by clarifying the difference between Marx and Hegel. Hegel believed that history was a... (full context)
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Marx’s critique of capitalism was complicated, but Alberto tries to summarize it for Sophie. In a typical capitalist society, the proletariat produced commodities—goods,... (full context)
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...in Russia, led by Vladimir Lenin and later Josef Stalin, was criticized for its brutality. Alberto says that it would be unreasonable to blame Marx for Stalin’s actions, but he also... (full context)
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Alberto concludes his lesson on Marx by telling Sophie about a thought experiment that was designed... (full context)
Chapter 30: Darwin
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In the book, Sophie and Alberto are in the cabin, talking with an old, bearded man who introduces himself as Noah.... (full context)
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Sophiethen notices something outside the cabin—Adam and Eve. Alberto explains that, due to Darwin’s findings, Adam and Eve were eventually recognized as fairy-tale creations,... (full context)
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Sophie asks Alberto why children are biologically different than their parents. Alberto acknowledges that Sophie has pointed out... (full context)
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Sophie asks another question—where did the first life come from? Alberto admits that Darwin didn’t really know how to answer this question, either. But he guessed... (full context)
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Alberto moves on to describe the process by which life might have originated. He begins by... (full context)
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Alberto gives one theory for the origins of DNA. Some 4.6 billion years ago, it’s believed,... (full context)
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...was no greater meaning behind it—it just happened, in response to the finite availability of resources.Alberto disagrees—he suggests that over the millennia, animals’ brains have been getting larger and more complex.... (full context)
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Alberto brings up the eye—an incredibly complex biological organ. Darwin was unable to explain how something... (full context)
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...in which a character complains that life is useless, since it must end in death. Alberto explains that Sophie is voicing the despair that many in the 19th century felt as... (full context)
Chapter 31: Freud
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...by the implications of Darwinism. Furthermore, she finds it hard to believe that Sophie and Albertoare just figments of her father’s imagination. One could also say that she, Hilde, is just... (full context)
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In the evening, Hilde begins reading again. In the book, Sophie and Alberto are standing outside the major’s cabin, talking to a naked man—the Emperor. The Emperor acts... (full context)
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Alberto takes a step back to describe how Freud came to his surprising conclusions. As a... (full context)
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...what his patients’ secretly desired, and how they could satisfy these desires in safe, controllable ways.Alberto gives an example: a man dreams that he receives two balloons from his female cousin.... (full context)
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...great art. Sometimes, Surrealists tried to paint and draw without using their conscious minds at all.Alberto suggests that creativity is a struggle between reason and imagination. (full context)
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...something outside the cabin—a group of Disney figures, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Alberto finds this sad—he and Sophie are just “helpless victims” of the major. Alberto points out... (full context)
Chapter 32: Our Own Time
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...techniques that Freud pioneered. She wonders if she’s repressing anything important. She also wonders what Alberto is planning to do to her father. She considers reading the final page of the... (full context)
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...book, Sophie has left the major’s cabin. She tries to “hold the major’s attention,” as Alberto instructed her. She jumps around, yodels, and climbs a tall tree, only to find that... (full context)
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...She and Mom prepare for Sophie’s garden party the next day. Mom asks Sophie if Alberto is planning to come to the party, and Sophie says he’ll be there. The next... (full context)
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At the Café Pierre, Sophie waits for Alberto. She feels like a real adult—older than her years. The people in the café seem... (full context)
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One important strain of modern philosophy, Alberto begins, is existentialism. Existentialism is the belief that man’s existential situation must be the starting... (full context)
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...His life-long friend and companion was Simone de Beauvoir. Sophie is glad to hear that Alberto is finally talking about a female philosopher. Sartre started from the premise that “Existentialism is... (full context)
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Alberto tries to clarify what Sartre meant when he claimedthat “existence precedes essence.” Sartre believed that... (full context)
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Alberto admits that Sartre’s view of life can be depressing. And yet Sartre wasn’t a nihilist—he... (full context)
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...around her; an escaped criminal might imagine that he sees police officers all around him. Albertothen admits that he was late for his meeting with Sophie on purpose, because hewanted Sophie... (full context)
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Alberto goes on to describe the writings of Simone de Beauvoir, an Existentialist who tried to... (full context)
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Alberto describes the influence of Existentialism on literature. Writers like Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett wrote... (full context)
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Alberto buys a Coke for Sophie and a coffee for himself. When he’s purchased both items,... (full context)
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...some new problems that philosophers try to solve. Philosophy now studies animal rights, environmental decay, etc.Albertosuggests that the world might have arrived at the “end of history”—a period in which there... (full context)
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Alberto and Sophie walk down the street. As they walk by a store, Sophie sees something... (full context)
Chapter 33: The Garden Party
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...about the book she’s bought, a book titledSophie’s World, by Albert Knag. Sophie claims that Alberto gave her the book. Mom says that she read the first page of the book—it’s... (full context)
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...Mercedes) and Sophie’s classmates, Jeremy and David. Soon, the only guest who hasn’t arrived is Alberto.A short while later,Albertoarrives, carrying a bouquet of 15 red roses. Helene introduces Alberto to everyone... (full context)
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Alberto rises—he wants to make a speech as well. He tells the crowd that Sophie has... (full context)
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Alberto turns to Sophie and says, “It’s time.” Helene asks Sophie if Sophie is planning on... (full context)
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...into a tree. Sophie remembers a time when the house was her Garden of Eden—now, Alberto reminds her, she’s being “driven out.” Alberto places his hand on Sophie’s shoulder and shouts,... (full context)
Chapter 34: Counterpoint
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Hilde sits in bed—the story of Sophie and Alberto is over. But what has actually happened to them? Hilde wonders if it’s her job... (full context)
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We cut back toAlberto and Sophie, whotry to avoid the major by sneaking into the cabin.Meanwhile Hilde spends the... (full context)
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In an unidentified story,Alberto and Sophie arrive in Oslo. Alberto assures Sophie that they’re outside the major’s control now.... (full context)
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The chapter cuts back to Sophie and Alberto. They drive through the city in search of Albert. As they drive, Alberto tells Sophie... (full context)
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Alberto and Sophie drive out of the city, toward the town of Fiane. They stop at... (full context)
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We cut back to Sophie and Alberto. They drive to the town of Lillesand and try to figure out how to find... (full context)
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We cut to Sophie and Alberto. Sophie sees Hilde embracing her father, and feels deeply jealous—Hilde is a real person, who’ll... (full context)
Chapter 35: The Big Bang
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We cut back to Sophie and Alberto. They’re sitting in their car, still listening to Albert talk about the Big Bang. Alberto... (full context)
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Albert and Hilde talk about the ending of Sophie’s World, in which Alberto and Sophie run away from the garden party. Albert explains that the story had to... (full context)
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We cut back to Sophie and Alberto. Sophie tells Alberto that she wants to “try the rowboat” resting in the bay near... (full context)
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...notices that their rowboat has come loose of its moorings. She wonders if Sophie and Alberto might have caused this. Albert laughs at this idea, but Hilde insists that it’s Sophie’s... (full context)