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Aestheticism rather than philosophy
on 17 January 2012
A short and sweet book, elegantly written and nice little encouragement to appreciate the things we normally see as routine. However, as a philosophical piece it's definitely a case of style over substance - de Botton doesn't so much discuss philosophical concepts in his essays as romanticise them. For example, in 'On Authenticity', there is virtually no discussion of the 'authentic self', and in fact he begins with the assumption that there is such a thing. He also seems woefully ignorant of the world outside his own (modern, Western, male, bourgeois) sphere of life, something that reflects poorly in his generalised statements (particularly puzzling is his theory that 'our culture' is defined by its career, whereas our predecessors were not, and that everyone expects work to be enjoyable). So, if you're looking for philosophy, you'd be better off turning away now. But if you're looking for unabashed but elegant aestheticism and a little something to think about while on the train, perhaps this is what you're looking for.