I liked reading about Marxism; I have long felt the need to get informed about it since many of its aspects are still live and present in today’s society. I met hundreds of people since last summer, with the trip to Milan to get a Visa, to Rome to leave the country, and to Michigan, and I know that many of them (not the majority, but more than I had imagined) believe in communism or are influenced by its ideology. I don’t deny being of socialist ideas, and I mostly formed this belief since I left my mother’s home, but I wasn’t aware of the number of people that are linked to communist or communist-like parties. Now I know what they talk (or seem to talk) about, and I can tell whether I agree or not agree on specific topics.
More generally (a lot more generally), I think the American bipartisan government has many commodities and strengths, but also some flaws. Identifying with one party or the other has become really difficult, as the world acknowledges minorities and differences in its population literally every day, and I think there is no real representation for them in the national government, while there is still struggle for local representation. I know the United States are just now starting to reconsider accepting communism as an ideology (a utopistic one, but still an ideology), and that’s why I want to make this point; American socialists are not represented and therefore generally mocked by politicians as weak and powerless, just like their ideology. I’m starting to feel bitter about a system of several parties if it is not regulated enough, too, like what’s happening in Italy. There are very similar parties who cannot agree on one topic, and therefore split their voting poll and make it difficult to reach the quorum in any decision, and there are consequent “alliances” of parties, made up on unstable premises of “I give in this, you give in that” and with unclear purposes.
Simply, I’m starting to feel bitter about Politics. And I’m only seventeen!
I particularly enjoyed reading the Freud chapter, probably because I’m in a Psychology class and I highly regret not taking AP Psychology this year. Although I know that some of his ideas were proven wrong years later, I do admire his look on life and the identification of the different phases of a human being’s life, he was able to analyze reality in a much different and analytical way than the other philosophers we’ve studied, which I like. Moreover, I am interested in dream theories and the significance of dreams, and I think Freud made a provocative but important point in the matter.
On the other hand, I am not particularly liking the storyline. Unfortunately, as the seniors are leaving and need to return their school books, this will officially become one of the very few books I never finished reading. To be honest, it’s not even the storyline that I don’t like, I’m sure it twists at some point towards the end of the novel, but rather the way it’s written. Another one of the reasons I want to study languages (and I’ve started studying Norwegian) is to read books and literature in its first language, the language it was written in. I’m sure dear ol’ Jostein is actually a good writer, I just wish we had a different translation.
About the Romantics’ Pantheism and Kierkegaard’s Individualism: I don’t think I could ever choose between the two. I tend to prefer Individualism because I am a perfectionist, I like details, I cure them whenever I do or make something, I always look for small clues and hidden stories about everything because I am very much a curious observer and listener. However, I do it so I can see the whole picture in a more complete way. Most of the times, as I am the quiet one, I look and listen to my friends and I am able to see and understand many things that they are not saying to me, and thanks to little details like an instant reaction to something I say or a certain look I am able to emphasize with them and interact with them in the best way possible from that moment on.
Furthermore, I tend to agree with Kierkegaard’s point of view on each man’s existence: we relate to our own existence only when we act and make significant choices. Making significant choices is definitely what I wish I could do on a daily basis. Actually, I’d probably be very stressed all the time if it happened. I know I am able to procrastinate taking a stand and decide on any matter until the last minute (which is usually what I do), but eventually, this would help me refine my life. On the other hand, our own personal existence cannot be the only important thing in our life, our society should be. There is no path to improvement without a supporting and healthy society. We need to think more about others than we do about us, and I think some religions (or religious communities) have lost this important preconception. After all, Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive”; “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
I really enjoy reading about contrasting philosophies; reading both (sometimes there are more than two) sides of a topic gives the reader very good information about it. For instance, Kierkegaard’s stand on Hegel’s philosophy is very interesting, in that it takes Hegel’s “historicism” and refutes it. I found myself in agreement with Hegel, reading his chapter. I do believe that we are “children of our time”, as I think generations act and live differently from one another, especially two adjacent ones. But Kierkegaard proposes an interesting point: it is more important to find “the truth for myself”, rather than the truth for our generation or time in history. It is definitely a great idea. Who cares if I know what everybody thinks, to live my life to the fullest I’ve got to know what I want to do, what I want to leave behind me, what I want to believe in. There is no point in looking for a societal truth if there aren’t individual ones to put together. Moreover, I liked the comparison with Buddhism: I truly feel Western “culture” needs to be informed about Eastern philosophies and religions (globalization should not only mean global trade, it should also mean global education).
About the actual storyline of the book: I cannot drive myself to like Sophie and her a-little-too-much frequent comments, and I still think she is meeting Alberto too many times. I know it’s Norway and Norwegian mothers are not like American ones (nor Italian ones), and this is actually true (I have proof of Norwegian parents buying alcohol for their kids so that they don’t find themselves drinking shady stuff, which makes sense! ‘Cause they’re gonna drink anyway), and of course it is all done for the ultimate purpose of the book, but it is getting a little bit heavy.
I’ve been thinking about books and the time when I used to have the time to read them. Growing up, I would read every day, every evening before going to bed, sometimes during car rides from my mother’s house to my father’s house. I would break my leg skiing (okay, I only did it once) and stay at home every afternoon after school, rereading my favorite fantasy series twice in two months because Nintendo’s games got boring after a while. All of this because I loved living in those books, I loved the feeling of building a world in my mind, with good characters and bad ones, good moments and anxious, page-turning ones. I lived in the Elves’ forest of Eragon’s world for a while, then I lived in Narnia, at Hogwarts, I even traveled on Ulysses Moore’s boat to past times and faraway places. It felt great. However, if what Berkeley claims is true, I feel like Saint Thomas in John’s gospel: I will not believe it until I see it. Evidently, I do not have enough faith to believe in an entity capable of building this Universe just like Christopher Paolini created Alagaësia. I’ve always found Thomas’ doubt to be necessarily rational, also; how can I believe in something I cannot comprehend at least partially? And how can I believe in it if I don’t have even the smallest mean to investigate it? Someone might argue that the Bible perfectly constitutes the proof of God’s work and will, but we don’t know where it comes from, who wrote it, how, when; we don’t have the basis to start analyzing the Bible as truthfully as we can. I guess I’m a little Cartesian in this matter.
Ooooh boy. I think this Jostein Gaarder is really trying to mess with our minds.
Recently in the book, we discover the story of Hilde on the day of her 15th birthday. As she wakes up, she recalls watching out of her bedroom windows some past events in her young life; they reconnect to the strange visions and dreams that Sophie has had in the previous chapters. When she unwraps the large binder, I first thought it was the same ring binder Sophie was keeping her philosophy lessons, but it actually was a book with the entire story written down, all the events, the conversations, Sophie’s thoughts. This is where the readers understand that Sophie’s life could just be fictional. Invented. Written by someone we don’t know a lot about, except that he is a father, he is relatively far away, and he is fighting for the safety and good of the world. And that he’ll eventually come back home. Sounds familiar? Right. I don’t want to jump to conclusions too soon, but I can see how the book is Religion-oriented; moreover, it is perfectly logical for a book about philosophy to have its own philosophy. I also find the analogy to be pretty accurate: Alberto, the philosopher, somehow knows that Albert Knag is a sort of God in his reality, and that is because that God allows him to know, sends messages, performs miracles. Alberto also represents the skeptics: he does not like Albert’s interventions in his life.
I am interested to see how the story develops.
Reading about Descartes and Spinoza was very interesting to me. They were both rationalists, meaning they believed reason was the foundation of certainty in knowledge. Descartes was, also, the first philosopher since the Renaissance to build a whole philosophical system. He is probably mostly known for his phrase “cogito, ergo sum”, which I totally believe in. Thinking makes your mind work altogether, and what you come up with is who you are. If one does not think and simply accepts, without questioning, what someone else says, that makes them very less of a person. About his theory on the two substances and his dualism, I do not agree with him, but rather prefer Spinoza’s monist take on the subject. His basic Substance, which he occasionally calls God or nature, and the modes it assumes are simple enough to explain what the world is.
By the way, the way the book is written makes it difficult to extract a philosopher’s thinking in essence and elaborate on it. Everything is so scattered between Sophie’s comments (which seem to be asking just the right question every time) and Alberto’s explanations. Also, Hilde’s father’s interference with their lives kind of disturbs me. What also disturbs me is how it is continuously Hilde’s birthday, every time the father writes something. I want the whole mysterious story to be over as soon as possible.
I remember studying Descartes in French literature last year. I really related to the four rules of his “Method”:
- Never accept anything for true that you are not sure is such;
- Divide the problem into as many parts as possible;
- Solve simple problems first, then move to more complex ones;
- Calculate, organize, and present in general, so that you don’t miss anything in the solution.
I was never a fan of Math and Geometry tests and exams, but I loved the logic required for them. I was in the ninth grade when I first started solving geometrical problems, and I remember my teacher being extremely strict about our final exposition of the solution; I learned to phrase my steps, explain even the smallest one of them, and I took a lot of pride in it. I even used my nice pen. I had always been an organized person, and growing up knowing that what I considered a need for order was not a crazy thing but a real thing, with a whole philosophy to back it up, gave me tranquility.
As for Spinoza’s thinking, I recently discovered that there are historicocritical studies about the writing of the Bible, and I actually am really interested to know more about them. I never think about it when I first read a book that was written decades or centuries ago, but the reasons for and the context in which the books are written matter a lot. If those studies were taught (if not in churches, at least at school), some of our major societal rules would shift and change. Probably for the better.
This time, I didn’t really enjoy reading about the Middle Ages. It has never interested me as a historical period itself, and the overall line of thought is, in my regards, almost plain and unexciting. Probably my past experiences influence me to the point where I particularly despise St. Augustine’s philosophy, in which he rearranges Platonic ideas in a Christian world. I have always been fond of Plato and his reasoning, but I don’t like comparing his world of Ideas to a god’s divine mind. Moreover, St. Augustine’s division between good (God’s work) and evil (falling away from God’s work) is rather extreme; I guess in the Middle Ages this separation was normal, in a simplistic type of society it’s easier to reduce the world to black and white. However, I generally think there is way more than that. On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy and his proof of God’s existence are, to me, shallow and unsatisfying. His four cosmological arguments don’t prove any god’s existence in a definite way, however logical it could be, and his teleological argument still doesn’t provide actual evidence: analogy only works up to a certain degree.
But maybe it’s just me, I am rather sensitive to religious matters and faith in general, I can’t give in to something that can’t be cleared by logic.
I love Renaissance. Perhaps it’s because I live in Italy and I take pride in my country’s historical achievements, perhaps it’s just because Renaissance it’s one of my favorite historical periods. I love the concept of rebirth, and what happens during the Renaissance is exactly that: they went back to glorious past eras and rebuilt the world on that ancient magnificence. But they didn’t stop there. They worked to start over, and go on. The incredible discoveries they found are what allowed us to reach this point in technology, and physics, and arts.
I see a lot of “let us go back to our former glory, we deserve it” in our lives today. Statements like these have two major fallacies in them. First of all, one can’t go back a former glory if there was no glory to begin with. Where we are now is glory (in many regards, not all yet), and many times the past just pales in comparison. We live in a world that is the most inclusive and diverse world we have ever lived in, this is what glory is now; it’s sad to think that there still are people who don’t think this is glorious and want to return to the time where they had glory, but it was all for themselves. Second of all, if there was a former glory, then let’s bring it back, we need it. But then, let us move on. We need change, we need to adapt, new generations on the rise are going to bring it anyway, so why fight it? Compromise.There is no way the world will ever stay the same for more than a couple of generations (these days, not even one), so: compromise with the future. The future is necessary, the past is only there to teach us what did not work so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.