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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely consolation
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...
Published on 3 April 2002

versus
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ever I Went Out The Same Door As In I Went
I heard of the author for the first time quite recently, on Radio 4, also reading a brief piece about him in a newspaper around the same time. The newspaper article was rather dismissive of him, noting his 200 million inheritance as if to write him off as a dilletante. I think that unfair. It was, I believe, Gibbon who thought the existence of a leisured class essential...
Published on 20 Nov 2009 by Ian Millard


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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely consolation, 3 April 2002
By A Customer
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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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars thumbs up, 31 July 2003
By A Customer
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 (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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 
Adam Finn (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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.

These are the chapters and their respective thinkers - I've given you a tasty quote so you get the idea:

Unpopularity (Socrates)"It is not living that matters, but living rightly"

Not having enough money (Epicurus)"It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a pallet, than to have a golden couch and a rich table and be full of trouble"

Frustration (Seneca) "a gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials"

Inadequacy (Montaigne) "I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself"

A Broken Heart (Schopenhauer) "to live alone is the fate of all great souls"

Difficulties (Nietzsche) "that which does not kill us makes us stronger"
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice intro to the application of philosophy, 13 Aug 2005
By 
McBoab (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ever I Went Out The Same Door As In I Went, 20 Nov 2009
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I heard of the author for the first time quite recently, on Radio 4, also reading a brief piece about him in a newspaper around the same time. The newspaper article was rather dismissive of him, noting his 200 million inheritance as if to write him off as a dilletante. I think that unfair. It was, I believe, Gibbon who thought the existence of a leisured class essential for the production of great ideas and he has at least some point there, irritating though it may be to those of us without vast inheritances or other wealth.

De Botton calls himself (and, judging by how he has been described on radio and in print, insists (?) on being described as a "philosopher". That is no doubt correct insofar as a philosopher is, literally speaking, a "lover of truth", but it seems a little self-inflated in a modern world where we think of philosophers as those who produce original works of philosophy, not those merely interested in the subject, or those who popularize the subject in books or on television. No-one would doubt that, say, Nietzsche, was a philosopher, or Plato. I think many may snigger at the author's self-description.

As to the book itself, I found it very readable, which seems to be its raison d'etre: to bring to philosophy those who might think it a pointless and/or dusty waste of time. In my opinion the work succeeds insofar as that was indeed the author's aim. The idea of introducing a public readership to "philosophy through the ages" is far from new. Hundreds of years ago, Boethius did the same and, by the way, called his book "The Consolation of Philosophy". Well, imitation, as Wilde opined, IS the sincerest form of flattery! However, I saw no acknowledgment by de Botton, but I may simply have missed it...A very good similar work of ? exegesis (in my view, far better than de Botton's if one wants a more complete layout of thinking in Europe) is Bertrand Russell's book The Wisdom of the West, which I certainly recommend to anyone interested.

This present work goes through the philosophies of quite a number of philosophers, such as Socrates, Epicurus and many others. It is an idiosyncratic collection, eclectic and not pretending to being a comprehensive "list". That, I think, is a strength and not a weakness of this book, though I was less happy about the mixing of the former with personal anecdotes or stories from the author's life (or so it seemed; they may have been just stories, made up for teaching reasons).

Overall, I consider the book to be a "very good thing" despite its limitations; one which many will find very interesting. Worth reading, for sure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 11 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Alain de B was brought to my attention after seeing him savage various authors on the Booker Prize programme. He had a definite charisma and I went out and bought this book. It's fantastic. His writing is not as witty or luminous as he seemed in person. This wasn't a book which, like some viewers did, I thought was hilarious. It was serious stuff - but never pretentious. He takes 6 philosophers and looks at them in relation to various problems we all suffer today - not having enough money, feelings of failure, broken heart. In that respect, it's wonderful. Most philosophy books leave me cold or go over my head but this author seemed determined to welcome his readers in, make us feel at home, amuse us and entertain us, console us and stimulate us. What is also charming about the book is that occasionally (and more of this would be have even better) he mentions some of his own problems that he's suffered (eg brief sexual inadequacy) which certainly wins the readers over. Rather than being an oh-so-erudite professor above us all, he writes very much with a feeling of being 'one of us'. He puts abstract principles into practical use, with a relevance for everyone and everyday life. While it didn't 'change' my life after reading it and I felt he could taken his 'pursuit of happiness' argument a good deal further, it was oddly compelling. I also discovered that he has a website ... and like many readers I'm looking forwards to exploring it.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Simple as Socrates, 13 Aug 2002
By 
S. M. Rutterford (Oxford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This is a nice, gentle introduction to the world of philosophy. Its style is plain but simple and the examples used by the author are excellent in pinpointing the origins and development not just of western philosophy, but of western culture in general.
In using Socrates as the starting point and origin for the book, Alain de Botton gives us the leitmotif for what is to come. De Botton's style is beautifully uncomplicated and as Socrates helps (punctures the myth of much philosophical psycho-babble). I found it very good in starting to analyse even daily modern life through the eyes of such sages as Socrates, Seneca, De Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzche. Here Consolations of Philosophy helps us to put into context our busy modern lives and assists us in partly unravelling them.
Of course if you want to go deeper then by all means there are other authors and the philosophers own works to read and to analyse, but as a good read and in simplifying philosophical matters then there is no-one better than Alain de Botton to help you start to get to the bottom of things. I thoroughly recommend this book because I really enjoyed it.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible Academia! (No wonder the boffins are edgy�), 13 Jun 2001
By A Customer
I've read with interest the other reviews of this book. Personally, a friend recommended it to me, and sure enough as promised, it has been a most riveting read. De Botton has created a philosophy book ripe for the frustration and disenchantment of the 21st Century. While some reviewers criticise his academic prowess, they are missing the point. This book allows practically anyone to make sense of some basic philosophical ideas, and use the information to adjust their perspectives and become more contented, even better people. In that sense, it may well join readers' collections alongside the Celestine Prophecy and The Road Less Travelled. Funny that the best self-help book I've ever read makes no claim to that genre.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting introduction to philosophy, 27 Nov 2008
By 
Adam Graham Malster (Taiwan) - See all my reviews
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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. After that the book loses its way somewhat descending into a meandering account of how Montaigne can console us for various inadequacies. Still the book continues to be interesting and does get better again towards the end.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It has helped me and has had me reflecting on my own life through the lens of different philosophies.
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