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on 3 April 2002
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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on 31 July 2003
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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on 14 January 2002
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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on 13 August 2002
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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on 13 August 2005
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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on 13 June 2001
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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on 27 November 2008
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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on 30 January 2010
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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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on 3 July 2013
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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VINE VOICEon 27 January 2002
Its a terrible shame that philosophy has the reputation as dull and irrelevant, because it is this reputation that has no doubt meant that a lot of people have overlooked this book. I could have been one of those people - i used to believe that philosophy was only for people who had too much time on their hands - but i took a risk and gambled six pounds on a book i was sure i wouldn't like.
I do not exaggerate when i say that this book is so easy to read, so enjoyable that you laent when it is finished and are just as happy to read it all over again. Not only do you enjoy the experience, but you come out of it all feeling a much wiser person than you thought you were.
THis is a terrific book and i thouroughly recommend it to anyone.
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