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on 20 July 2005
As I understand it, this book is not aimed at people with any more than a passing interest in philosophy. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I can't help but compare it to "Best of the Classics" type CDs containing excerpts of classical music which have become 'semi-hits' through featuring in TV ads.
How you feel about this book will then largely depend on how you feel about this popularization of was once believed to be culture intended exclusive for the intelligentia.
I've never had any interest in really studying philosophy, so this was a good introduction to some of philosophy's Greats for me, but the book only skims the surface of each. Anyone with a real interest in a particular philosopher or philosophy in general will certainly need to dig deeper. Having said that, this book could be a good starting point - I have highlighted some passages in my copy as cues for further reading.
As to whether this book can serve as "consolation" or help in dealing with "the problems of everyday life" I'd have to say that my jury's still out.
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on 12 April 2000
I must admit that I approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation. And whilst it is well-written, my concerns were mostly confirmed. Is this a book on self-help or an introduction to philosophy? If the former, it is hard to recommend. In the end we are only taught how to move the goal-posts (something governments do) so that instead of getting thrashed 10-0, we lose only by the odd goal. Surely, we should rather be playing for a more ambitious team. And If we are to look at historical figures for wisdom and advice, we would do better to look elsewhere. You don't have to be a Christian or a Buddhist (I am neither) to recognise (and draw inspiration from) the ambition and radicalism in the teachings of Jesus and Buddha. If this book is meant as an introduction to philosophy, whilst it introduces some lesser-known figures, it is too bitty and readers would do better to read books like 'Introducing Philosophy' or 'Introducing Ethics'. Perhaps, ultimately, it is the title that really gives the game away. The 'consolation of' rather than the 'overcoming of' life's problems.
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on 28 November 2011
I recently bought this to give me a little background information on philosophy for part of an Open University course. I must admit I was not looking forward to this part of the course..... I decided last night to start reading this book and was almost dreading it as I was expecting it to be dry and boring. I was very happy to discover that not only was it written in a way that didn't rely on archaic language but was easy to understand and a pleasure to read. My only problem was that the batteries in my booklight died on me and I had to give up! Well written and informative without being stuffy or overbearing, thanks for not making me feel ignorant while explaining philosophy. :-)
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on 1 June 2016
Wonderfully consoling
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on 14 May 2015
very interesting book
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on 22 May 2000
Instead of a hard slap across the face as an introduction to philosophy, this is a tea-sipping and gentle amble through the warm glade of thought.
As a philosophy virgin, I enjoyed the book, though I would have to read it again to remember the precise references.
I read the book to see what guides us/society/me today. The book does not give answers or even a "meaning to life" or thought but de Botton's use of six well-known philosophers is varied enough to make the short journey pleasurable. The human-ness of the six philosophers also makes the book accessible to the reader, for example, if Socrates were a tramp in the street today we would probably ignore him or have him arrested for obstruction (which is probably what happened in ancient times).
This book is obviously European in its sources, and of course "thought" has been around longer than just Europe, so the reader is not overloaded with too much deep and meaningful translated prose.
I agree with de Botton that art does release a "self" or meaning but my examples would be more down-to-earth, for example, the brush-stroke of a Van Gogh, the sound of Maria Callas's voice, the pleasure in a piece of chocolate or a hot cup of tea after a long walk on a Winter's day.
I asked Mr de Botton whether there were any modern day philosophers and (without being conclusive) he suggested that philosophy had manifested itself in other forms, eg psychoanalysis. I suggested eg Marxism or religion.
What is overly evident is that de Botton's book makes the reader aware that philosophy is like the Bible in that you can find contradiction and what you want from it (solace, love, guidance...).
I have teetered my second step on the path of thought (the first we do everyday, but probably don't realise it).
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on 8 January 2015
Brilliant read!
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on 16 October 2014
Wisdom and fun
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on 23 November 2013
What a set of ideas, no sooner had you agreed with one chapter, pronouncing it wise, insightful and definitely what you now 'think', then he brings in new philosophy at odds with the first. Do not read this book if you are not prepared to have ideas challenged. The final joke Alain makes is to say that consolation is not always good for you, touchee Alain, touchee.
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on 14 June 2015
well written
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