Note: this is part of a series of posts about Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy. I’m reading it in tandem with Amateur on the Loose as a kind of virtual book club experiment.

Chapter 2: The top hat

… the only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder…

Maybe this means seeing things with fresh eyes, looking beyond what we take for granted. We can’t reason from the ground up on everything or we couldn’t live. Thinking here of Adam Smith walking into the hole in the street, absentminded professors..

We can dissect our experiences only in small bits and discrete times. Cf. hallucenigens that can reveal the underlying mental workings.

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

We can’t focus on that all the time, and younger folk have to learn meta-cognition skill first. Studying philosophy can be alienating from the non-self-reflective.

“Course in Philosophy. Handle with care.”

We have already seen that a preoccupation with PHIL can cause one to neglect normal life (badminton, for example).

Yes, dear Sophie, there are questions that certainly should interest everyone.

They don’t, or one wouldn’t have to mention the unexamined life.

What is the most important thing in life? If we ask someone living on the edge of starvation, the answer is food. If we ask someone dying of cold, the answer is warmth.


What happens, though, when one’s needs are oversaturated with affluence? Perhaps those unexposed to PHIL would revert to tribalism, religion, conspiracy. “Cultural diabetes”.

So it is easier to ask philosophical questions than to answer them.

Maybe it’s more important to ask than answer them.

reading what other people have believed can help us formulate our own view of life.

what others have thought about

Either there is a kind of existence after death—or there is not.

I’ll push back on that. Consider the continued existence of a thing that has no self-awareness.

We know that the world is not all sleight of hand and deception because here we are in it, we are part of it.

Consider “world is a simulation” theories

The only difference between us and the white rabbit is that the rabbit does not realize it is taking part in a magic trick.

Pascal’s thinking reed, but I like this version better. The sudden appearance also reminds me of Heidegger.

this short course in philosophy will come in handy-sized portions

Mail order mystery schools of the early 19th c.

We who are older and wiser may feel somewhat exhausted by the child’s enthusiasm. “All right, all right, it’s a bow-wow,” we say, unimpressed. “Please sit still.”

Again, the requirement to gloss over established patterns in order to live a normal life. We abstract them away, experiential black boxes.

—the world we have become a habit. A pity, if you ask me.

I don’t see a way around it. Seeing everything with fresh eyes all the time would exhausting, maddening.

have you ever given any thought to the fact that you are a Martian yourself?

butterfly dream, simulation

It all has to do with habit. (Note this!) Mom has learned that people cannot fly. Thomas has not.

Civilzation is a house of cards. The lower levels are abstractions, assumptions, a priori. To live in the world of vonstant wonderment is to live in savagery.

as if in the process of growing up we lose the ability to wonder about the world.

Progress requires it.