-The Consolations of Philosophy- by: Alain de Botton

The Consolations of Philosophy was, for me, a fascinating re-introduction to everything I love about philosophy.  In the book, Alain de Botton summarizes the ideologies of 6 great philosophers (Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche) as they apply to modern-day issues: love, popularity, shyness, wealth, and so on.

But it’s much more exciting than that inadequate description makes it sound. It is like he took the entire history of philosophy, the entire history of ideas and thinking,  and made it digestible, enjoyable, fun.  Extolling all its old virtues, but giving it a modern twist.  You have to check it out.

And it is a good summary, too.  If you’re feeling like you want to brush up on the history of Western philosophy (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), I could not recommend a more delightful way of doing it.

This was the best book I had read in a long time.  And I almost immediately went and read everything else of his that I could find.  As a philosopher, he is magnificent, but it is his writing that really takes my breath away (yes, I know I’m gushing.  I don’t care.  He’s that good!)  It is brilliant, but unpretentious.  Unassuming.  Almost like accidental genius.  Impossible to refute, kind of gently hinting at your inadequacy, but in an encouraging way somehow.  Casually amazing.  Insightful, but not pedantic.  Charming.  Wonderful.

Reading philosophy isn’t always easy, or fun.  But this is.  I would highly recommend it, a million times over. There can be a real consolation of philosophy.

4 thoughts on “-The Consolations of Philosophy- by: Alain de Botton

    • We like what we like. I’ve seriously read, in short order, just about everything else of his but How Proust Can Change Your Life. And that’s coming. Great stuff!

  1. What do you believe is the most valuable thing about philosophy? Or do you view certain branches of philosophy as more worthwhile than others?

    Is there any strain of philosophy that actually helps you move towards your goals?

    I just read a very interesting lecture about the bad rap the term “sophistry” has gotten. It was not originally a bad thing (at least, not to everyone) to be known as a sophist.

    • The most valuable thing about philosophy is that it is one of the last remaining areas that still requires thinking. Like real, deep thinking. I enjoy thinking a great deal. Looking at philosophy as thinking about thinking, there is really nothing not to like.

      Philosophy helps me make sense of the world. It articulates for me my deepest thoughts, only more eloquently than I ever could. It makes me feel un-alone intellectually.

      And it challenges me. Pushes me. Humbles me. Reminds me that there were greater minds around long before I came, and will be long after I am gone. But not in a depressing way.

      Sophistry. I don’t know when philosophers went from being sages, beloved and revered, counselors to kings and emperors and generals, to eccentric, virtual unknowns hiding out in liberal universities while the majority of the student body skips their courses entirely anyway, opting for degrees in business and home ec and communications. I think it has to do with money. Philosophers started charging for their teachings, and that’s when “sophistry” took on its negative connotation. Because, in the minds of some, once money is involved, it takes away from the credibility, the temptation being to tell the paying student what he wants to here, rather than the truth, which could offend, and stop the money coming in. If only money was never an issue; I think there would be a lot more philosophers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *