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The Consolations of Philosophy Paperback – 1 Mar 2001

88 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140276610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140276619
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alain de Botton is the author of Essays in Love (1993), The Romantic Movement (1994), Kiss and Tell (1995), How Proust can Change your Life (1997), The Consolations of Philosophy (2000) The Art of Travel (2002), Status Anxiety (2004) and most recently, The Architecture of Happiness (2006).

Product Description

Amazon Review

Flushed with the success of How Proust Can Change Your Life, philosophical agony uncle Alain de Botton once more matches his precocious talents to addressing the anxieties of modern life with Consolations of Philosophy. Dubbed the "Naked Philosopher", de Botton's cherubic charms match his grey matter, and this book, which has already inspired a Channel 4 series, sees him continue his one-man mission to sugar the pill of learning with his brilliant mixture of wit, wisdom and whimsy. So humans have six gurus and six concerns: Socrates on unpopularity, Epicurus on lack of money, Seneca on frustrations, Montaigne on inadequacy, Schopenhauer on a broken heart and Nietzsche on the necessity of difficulties. And then there is a seventh: de Botton himself, artfully infusing others' palliative musings with souffléd epigrams of his own, and marshalling his arguments with an insouciance that belies considerable skill. De Botton was already appealing to the likes of Wittgenstein, Aristotle and Montaigne for romantic guidance in his novels, Kiss and Tell, Essays in Love and The Romantic Movement, and with How Proust Can Change Your Life, he finally dropped the pretence of plot and concentrated on the digressions, albeit with a slightly eager charm. Where that book was dazzling, the glow of Consolations of Philosophy burns more deeply, displaying a more sober and polished application of his undoubted mental prowess, without losing his distinctive playfulness. He brings to the essay form something of what Milan Kundera brings to the novel and, like him, while still respecting the boundaries he oversteps, he hopscotches genres with spring heels. It is Montaigne whom de Botton most admires and, indeed, most resembles in style--he says of the 16th-century Frenchman: "in Montaigne's scheme of intelligence, what matters in a book is usefulness and appropriateness to life" and it's a recipe he himself assiduously and rewardingly follows. Jamie Oliver take note, dry crusts have rarely been made so appetising and digestible. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Witty, thoughful, entertaining ... a stylish book, which manages to make philosophy both enjoyable and relevant, at the same time providing a very sensible digest of consolations for many of our current psychological ills Literary Review Single-handedly, de Botton has taken philosophy back to its simplest and most important purpose: helping us to live our lives Independent A pleasure to read. And good writing, like good philosophy, is always a consolation -- John Banville Irish Times

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 April 2002
Format: Paperback
Alain De Botton enlists the collective wisdom of six philosophers, from the ancients to the 19th Century, and reflects on maladies such as frustration, a broken heart and not having enough money. What a timely work! Through this examination, De Botton is able to shed light on the whys and wherefores of 'pain' and submit the wisdom of those who have gone before us.
Socrates advises us on thriving despite unpopularity; Epicurus reassures us that it is all right to not have enough money; Seneca enlightens us on the cure for frustration; Montaigne consoles us for feeling inadequate; Schopenhauer heals our broken hearts; and Nietzsche helps us overcome our difficulties.
De Botton is an entertaining and enlightening writer. He seems to know just what it is that worries the human being and interprets these philosophers for us mortals. He has a gentle and insightful wit and a strong sense of irony.
This book is highly recommended for those who love wisdom (the true 'philo-sophia') and the search for answers.
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81 of 87 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 July 2003
Format: Paperback
I was interested in this book because I had recently gained a degree in philosophy. I do, to some extent understand the criticism that de Botton has over-simplified certain topics. However the point of the book (I think) was to highlight just how relevant philosophy is to EVERYBODY and not just the high minded and somewhat elitist academics. De Botton makes philosophy not only much more accessable and relevant but he does so with humour and compassion. I've yet to read any other general philosophy text that was so suitable for a wide audience. Well done!
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Ame on 14 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent introduction to philosophy. I have always been put off reading philosophy books as they are over-complicated and irrelevant to everyday life. This book, however, is easy to read and difficult to put down. It brings the philosophers' theories down to a very basic level that anyone can grasp, and then applies them to common problems that people face: unpopularity (Socrates); not having enough money (Epicurus); frustration (Seneca); inadequacy (Montaigne); broken heart (Schopenhauer); and difficulties (Nietzsche). Now I know the basic philosophies of these men, I am going to read more about them from the books recommended in the bibliography at the back of the book. An excellent read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Vernon on 30 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
I enjoy de Botton's books for their breadth of reading and thinking, in which he applies philosophy to everyday life. I have also read his `Status anxiety', which is somewhat more original.

This book is a commentary and summary of the thoughts of six great philosophers, with a pleasantly quirky individualism from the author intruding. In addition to giving us the essence of their philosophies, he outlines what is known of their lives. The heavy sprinkling of illustrations is entertaining, and relevant to the text.

The six are:
Socrates - Consolation for unpopularity
Epicurus - Consolation for not having enough money
Seneca - Consolation for frustration
Montaigne - Consolation for inadequacy
Schopenhauer - Consolation for a broken heart
Nietzsche - Consolation for difficulties

This is not high-falutin' exegesis of difficult philosophy, but neither it is condescending or simplistic. The author strikes the right note (to my mind), with humour and sagacity. If you want a quick "bluffers guide" to these philosophers, I would recommend this book. De Botton himself has clearly done a deal of research to write these essays. He quotes extensively from the works, annotating the source of every single quotation from an astonishing wide range of books. He has done a lot of digesting for us. He has also travelled to several relevant sites, such as Montaigne's famous circular library.

I learned much from this book. For instance, I knew virtually nothing of Schopenhauer, but now I can place him in the history of thought. I read some Nietzsche at university, but could not grasp the overall point of what he was trying to say - now I think I have grasped the theme. It also inspired me to pick up another book which I have had on my shelves for 30 years - a Penguin edition selection of Montaigne's essays. He is probably the most worthwhile of these six to pursue further.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By McBoab on 13 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
To appreciate this book I think you need to be in the right frame of mind - relaxed, motivated, analytical and receptive. I have enjoyed it and discovered much resonance. It is nicely structured with quirky illustrations. The only criticism I have is that there is no formal bibligraphy, although references are included in a seven-page notes section. For the layperson (like me) it provides a simple yet effective introduction into the world of philosophy which, hitherto, I have avoided. A book to keep and, possibly, return to.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Adam Graham Malster on 27 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
The Consolations of Philosophy is a brief little book with lessons from famous philosophers. De Botton's idea is that the point of philosophy is to make us feel better. I'm sure that philosophy's purpose can entail much more than that, but it's a nice idea for a book nevertheless. It is divided into sections giving us brief descriptions of the theories of six philosophers. Beginning with Socrates and ending with Nietzsche, we are given consolation for unpopularity, not having enough money, frustration, inadequacy, a broken hearts and difficulties.

The tone is mostly that of a self-help book but I think that there is a little more to it than that. The short biographies of the philosophers are interesting in themselves. De Botton does a good job of bringing the different historical figures to life. This would be a good starting point were you to be interested in the history of philosophy. De Botton connects the philosophers together and explains a little about how they influenced or disagreed with each other. Bringing the philosophers to life in this way is important, as it is not just their teachings that are intended to help us, but also the examples they set in the way they lived their lives.

The book is jam packed with interesting pictures. Some of these are really helpful in helping us to understand the theories and how they apply to our lives. I particularly liked the graphs explaining Epicurus's ideas on happiness. There are however, far too many pictures. Sometimes they seem rather superfluous and annoying; I know what a remote control looks like, thank you.

The first two sections of the book are the best. The lessons De Botton takes from Socrates and Epicurus seem to me to be very pertinent.
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