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The Consolations of Philosophy [Paperback]

Alain de Botton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2001

The Consolations of Philosophy is Alain de Botton's internationally bestselling guide to life.

Alain de Botton, bestselling author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, has set six of the finest minds in the history of philosophy to work on the problems of everyday life. Here then are Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on some of the things that bother us all: lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety; the fear of failure and the pressure to conform.

'Singlehandedly, de Botton has taken philosophy back to its simplest and most important purpose: helping us live our lives' Independent

'No doubt about it, philosophy is the new rock and roll and Alain de Botton is its Colonel Tom Parker . . . A pleasure to read. And good writing, like good philosophy, is always a consolation' John Banville, Irish Times

'Few discussions on the great philosophers can have been so entertaining . . . an ingenious, imaginative book' Humphrey Carpenter, Sunday Times

'Witty, thoughtful, entertaining . . . a stylish book, which manages to make philosophy both enjoyable and relevant' Anthony Clare, Literary Review

'Gentle, helpful and humane . . . De Botton's instinct is surely right: if we are to bring philosophy to life we should look again at those thinkers who have sought to be not clever or paradoxical, but simply wise' Roger Scruton, Mail on Sunday

Alain de Botton's bestselling books include The News, Religion for Atheists, How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work and The Architecture of Happiness. He lives in London and founded The School of Life (www.theschooloflife.com) and Living Architecture (www.living-architecture.co.uk). For more information, consult www.alaindebotton.com.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue 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 (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,165 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.

Review

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely consolation 3 April 2002
By A Customer
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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78 of 84 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars thumbs up 31 July 2003
By A Customer
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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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy made easy! 14 Jan 2002
By Ame
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very short introduction to wisdom 3 July 2013
By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is something rather special about us humans. We have a disposition for enquiry; to look closer, further and deeper. We seek to understand more and answer the questions that the cosmos presents us. But then we must understand our limits. How do we progress gracefully and curb our enthusiasm?

The temptation is to know everything but sometimes its just a darn sight easier to listen to those who know more - and even though it seems the populate is being dumbed down by the pressures of capitalism and materialism the fortunate thing is that in order to sell books most of the educational material is being dumbed down to suit.

I'm not taking anything away from this book, this is just a fatuous tongue-in-cheek moment.

Alain De Botton knows his onions. And he's here to help. But remember Alain is just paraphrasing and is drawing from the classics. Soppy self-help fads like this are also plagiarised. Unfortunately it is a sign of the times that most of our answers have been found before and conveyed more lucidly.

Enough of the reality check because in fairness to Alain this is a truly remarkable book. This is a very short introduction / dummies guide to some of the best thinkers that have come before us, and specifically the wisdom they gained through their philosophising.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reminding me to read Montaigne 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 11 days ago by SusanS
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wisdom and fun
Published 13 days ago by Sophie O'Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great
Published 1 month ago by Mike Arch
5.0 out of 5 stars Recomended
Excellant overview of philosophy, an informative and easy read.
Published 2 months ago by Anja Convey
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy
Standard book but not standard content.
Very interesting and approaches the everyday life with not so everyday philosophy.
Good quality and came safe and sound. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Danielle
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Communication
I feel compelled to give this audio book the strongest recommendation possible. I just sat in the worst traffic ever back from Dorking to Dorset, and yet had one of the best... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. N. A. McKee
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy need not be dull and difficult
very readable; gives interesting background to each philosopher; links philosophy to the problems of everyday life. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Michael H
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Excellent
Why we all still believe that philosophy is something most of us will never get our heads round, is rarefied and only for the select few to understand, I will never know. Read more
Published 9 months ago by James M-C
4.0 out of 5 stars Skimming the surface nicely
It's all in the title really. A really easy read. The author ties some quotes together and then asserts them to the philosophers own life stories as an example of how to follow... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Gareth
5.0 out of 5 stars Just great
The use of philosophical meanderings to open the mind to the ruts we can all fall into is quite inspired. The choice of material is well rounded and not at all preachy. Read more
Published 11 months ago by R. Mcauley
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