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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy takes the discipline of logic and the mind back to its roots.
Drawing inspiration from six of the finest minds in history - Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche - he addresses lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety and conformity. De Botton's book led one critic to call philosophy ' Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy takes the discipline of logic and the mind back to its roots.
De Botton's book led one critic to call philosophy 'the new rock and roll'. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published April 3rd by Vintage first published January More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews.
To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Consolations of Philosophy , please sign up. It's on page in the Vintage International edition. Ok for a year old who has experienced a personal tragedy?
Scott Cinsavich Yes, especially for a person who is not particularly spiritual. See all 3 questions about The Consolations of Philosophy…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Consolations of Philosophy. First published by Hamish Hamilton in The title of the book is a reference to Boethius's magnum opus Consolation of Philosophy, in which philosophy appears as an allegorical figure to Boethius to console him in the year he was imprisoned, leading up to his impending execution.
In Consolations, de Botton attempts to console the reader through everyday problems or at least help them to understand them by extensively quoting and interpreting a number of philosophers. These are categorised in a number of chapters with one philosopher used in each. As I went through the book I was unable to make up my mind whether it was a work on philosophy masquerading as a self-help book to reach a wide audience or if it was a pretentious self-help book with aspirations to be a book on deep philosophy.
Even after I finished it, I am not sure how to judge it. Should I judge it harshly for picking and choosing among the works of these great philosophers to fit them into the narrow framework that Botton has drawn for them and thus making them draw his yoke? Or should I be lenient that Botton makes lofty thoughts so accessible by dragging them down and tethering them to the normal privations of men and offering consolations for the same?
The title is of course a brilliant one and almost irresistible. Not original maybe, as Boethius has already used it, but Boethius' was a private consolation with his own philosophy personified as a woman while Botton offers up his philosopher's thoughts for a public audience for his reader's consolation.
I am no judge on which was the more effective work as I am yet to read the original work. As for the book itself, Botton tries hard to make it entertaining and relevant and uses almost a bullet-point like efficiency to ensure that he can pack everything into an 'airport size' book. The framework of the book is to use the wisdom of six philosophers, almost in chronological order, to offer consolations for some of the common maladies that afflict the average person.
The fact that he spends more time and pages detailing out the lives of the philosophers should not deter from the fact that he does manage to stick admirably to the overall structure of the book and does offer a coherent sequence and logic of 'consolations'. Consolation For Unpopularity Botton uses the example and philosophy of Socrates and his life to illustrate that the judgement of others should have no real bearing on how we judge ourselves. This is not to say that we should count ourselves superior by being in the minority.
No, the real message is that the weight of numbers supporting any argument or moral standpoint has nothing to do with the real strength of that position. Only reason should guide us in our judgements of ourselves and of others.
In the hatred unfairly directed towards an innocent philosopher we recognize an echo of the hurt we ourselves encounter at the hands of those who are either unable or unwilling to do us justice.
But if your reason tells us we are right, we should stick to our beliefs and we might be redeemed as Socrates was by the very people who condemned him and be consoled by the prospect of posterity's verdict. Is it mere material wealth or is it anything that provides us real happiness? These were the questions that Epicurus grappled with. His answer was that just as we are not capable of judging what is good for our physical body and would gladly gorge ourselves with unhealthy food to the point of death as a lot of us do.
I want to belabor this point - If left to ourselves and our instinctive tastes, we would find no reason to refrain from consuming as much as we can of everything that tastes good and this only leads to a decay in bodily health. It takes an expert opinion and self-control to be able to give up this unhealthy habit and adopt a moderate and healthy diet that allows us much better health.
Epicurus says that we similarly gorge on money and all the other pleasurable thing sin life and jump head long into the rat race thinking that is important. But only deep reflection can show us that it is a bad for our spiritual well-being and health as all that good food is for our bodily health. So he says pleasure is the ultimate goal of life - but what gives you true pleasure can only be found by deep reflection. So what should we dedicate all our energies to if we want a happy life?
We should find Friendship , good companionship - association with people who recognize our true nature with all our defects is what we really need. We may seek a fortune for no reason but to secure the respect and attention of people who would otherwise look straight through us. But do we need money to get them to respect us? Would not a true friend value every word of yours and respect you even if you were penniless? The second most important constituent of happiness is Freedom - the freedom to be ourselves.
This eventually connects back to being with people who will accept us as us. Epicurus and his friends made a radical innovation. In order not to have to work for people they didn't like and answer to potentially humiliating whims, they removed themselves from employment in the commercial world of Athens 'We must free ourselves from the prison of everyday affairs and polities' , and began what could best have been described as a commune, accepting a simpler way of life in exchange for independence.
They would have less money but would never again have to follow the commands of odious superiors. Simplicity did not affect the friends' sense of status because, by distancing themselves from the values of Athens, they had ceased to judge themselves on a material basis.
There was no need to be embarrassed by bare walls, and no benefit in showing off gold. Among a group of friends living outside the political and economic centre of the city, there was - in the financial sense - nothing to prove.
So, Happiness, an acquisition list: 1. A hut 2. Friends 3. To avoid superiors, patronization, infighting and competition 4. Thought 5. Happiness may indeed be difficult to attain. The obstacles are not primarily financial. We are frustrated because we expect the world to behave in a particular way and then reality turns out to be different.
Correct your worldview to accept the fact that reality is cruel and thus find escape from these common frustrations. This does not mean that you should accept everything, you may struggle mightily to avoid the misfortune but you just need to be aware of its possibility to be not prey to anger, grief and other frustrations. Consolation For Inadequacy Michel de Montaigne consoles us about the ultimately human nature of us all.
We have to accept that we are not perfect, no one ever was. Once we accept that every inadequacy we find so appalling in ourselves is shared by millions and is one of the side effects of being human and being alive, we will learn to be less embarrassed by them and can live a more fulfilling life. Consolation For Heartbreak The nerve to invoke the greatest pessimist of the western world to console heartbroken young Werthers!
But it is Arthur Schopenhauer who is being called upon to give advice on how to deal with rejection and broken love affairs. Schopenhauer's famous 'will to life' theory which modern readers might as well read as a sort of natural selection through conditioned unconscious eugenics states that we are controlled in who we find attractive and lovable by a great force of nature which is concerned only with the need to propagate the species.
It is not concerned with our happiness and more often than not we will end up with people who are our anti-thesis and inconducive to our happiness. So a happy marriage is a statistical anomaly and unnatural rather than something we can naturally expect.
So, if and when you find yourself a Young Werther with a broken heart or a girl for that matter, understand that it is not you who were rejected but it was just that the union was not approved by the good of the species by the 'will to power' or natural selection. This might sound like an artificial explanation but think about it, please, it is all just genetics.
All life's difficulties are to be embraced. So accept your unpopularity, poverty, inadequacy, frustrations, heart-breaks and every sorrow as necessary to become the best you can be.
The Consolations of Philosophy
First published by Hamish Hamilton in , subsequent publications onwards have been by Penguin Books. The title of the book is a reference to Boethius's magnum opus Consolation of Philosophy , in which philosophy appears as an allegorical figure to Boethius to console him in the year he was imprisoned, leading up to his impending execution. In Consolations , de Botton attempts to console the reader through everyday problems or at least help them to understand them by extensively quoting and interpreting a number of philosophers. These are categorised in a number of chapters with one philosopher used in each. The critical reception for Consolations has been primarily positive. Humphrey Carpenter in The Sunday Times , 2 April said, "The Consolations of Philosophy is certainly a commentary rather than a work of original thought; but few discussions on the great philosophers can have been so entertaining. De Botton takes us on a brisk, playful tour of the lives and ideas of half-a-dozen of the big names in the history of philosophy.
An introduction to some of the greatest thinkers including Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews. Priority to be liked, rather than speak the truth. Laugh at modest jokes.
An ingenious, imaginative book' The Sunday Times 'Witty, thoughtful, entertaining It manages to make philosophy both enjoyable and relevant' Anthony Clare, Literary Review. A pleasure to read. And good writing, like good philosophy, is always a consolation' John Banville, Irish Times.