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The Consolations of Philosophy

by Alain De Botton

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Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
This is an accessible and well-written introduction to philosophy (not all of them are). Instead of going the textbook route, Alain de Botton mixes short biographies of major philosophers with well-organized explanations of their works to show how philosophy can be used to deal with common problems. Covering only six philosophers in under 300 pages means that there's only space for the essence of each approach, which keeps the reader from being swamped. For instance, there's a lot in Stoicism about physics, cosmology, virtue, and so on. But de Botton's focus is on what in Seneca's life and writings can help us learn to cope with frustration, and so those topics aren't mentioned. And the whole book is saved from turning into a historical work by de Botton's use of modern examples like falling in love with a fellow passenger on a train or a story of a sudden airplane crash. Most pages in this book have at least one photograph, directly tied to whatever is being discussed at that point. I thought this made the book even more interesting, although I'm wondering how some ereaders will handle it, and if the audiobook version has to make allowances for that.

Generally, I recommend this book both as an introduction to Western philosophy and as a practical demonstration of using philosophy to improve lives. ( )
  Silvernfire | Aug 31, 2013 |
This book provides light summaries of several philosophers' lives and ideas told in direct relation to modern experiences. Although I'd heard of these thinkers, I've never read any of them directly, and really appreciated these light-hearted but meaty reviews. In fact, the writing is so humorous and engaging that I actually listened to this book on CD while on a long car trip. Not exactly beach reading, but entertaining, and now I think I could at least keep up in a conversation about any of these philosophers. ( )
  JLSmither | Aug 22, 2013 |
This book manages to make the thoughts of the great philosophers seem breathtakingly banal. And does so in a condescending tone. Avoid at all costs. ( )
  dazzyj | May 12, 2013 |
I'm guessing a lot of people probably hate this book for all the reasons I don't. The first is that it's more like a self-help guide book than a discussion of philosophical ideas and the second is its simplicity. Alain de Botton takes well known thinkers and their thinky thoughts summing up complex ideas in a small short book. Some may feel that it's a book too short for such big ideas, but I really liked this style of fly-by philosophizing. I like the way ideas are framed for the reader to ruminate, find perspective and finally, perhaps consolation. It's a wonderful and fun book. ( )
  h_d | Mar 31, 2013 |
chuck out by A & N.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
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A few years ago, during a bitter New York winter, with an afternoon to spare before catching a flight to London, I found myself in a deserted gallery on the upper level of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679779175, Paperback)

"It is common," Alain de Botton writes in The Consolations of Philosophy, "to assume that we are dealing with a highly intelligent book when we cease to understand it. Profound ideas cannot, after all, be explained in the language of children." While his easygoing exploration of philosophers from Socrates to Nietzsche isn't exactly written for the Blue's Clues set, few readers will cease to understand it. Furthermore, it's a joy to read. De Botton's 1997 How Proust Can Change Your Life forged a new kind of lit crit: an exploration of Remembrance of Things Past, delivered in the sweet-gummed envelope of an advice book. He returns to the self-help format here, this time plundering the great thinkers to puzzle out the way we ought to live.

What was stunning about the Proust book was de Botton's brazen annexing of a hallowed novelist to address lite emotional problems. That format is less arresting when applied to the philosophers, since which earnest philosophy major has not, from time to time, tried to apply the alpine heights of thought to his own humble worries? Usually, sophomoric attempts to turn to, say, Kant for advice on love tend to be unmitigated disasters. In de Botton's case, however, he is able to find consolation for a broken heart in Schopenhauer, consolation for inadequacy in Montaigne. Epicurus, usually associated with a love of luxury, is a solace for those of us without much money--and de Botton learns from him that "objects mimic in a material dimension what we require in a psychological one. We need to rearrange our minds but are lured towards new shelves. We buy a cashmere cardigan as a substitute for the counsel of friends."

Lest the reader become burdened by all this philosophizing, the book is peppered with illustrations--the section on Nietzsche of course includes a DC Comics drawing of Superman. And it's further leavened by the author's personal anecdotes and winning confessional tone. Early on, for instance, he admits his own gnawing need for popularity: "A desire to please led me to laugh at modest jokes like a parent on the opening night of a school play." Before he became a medicine man for the soul, de Botton was a first-rate novelist, and it shows in his writing. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:45 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

WESTERN PHILOSOPHY. Alain de Botton, best-selling author of How Proust can Change Your Life, has set six of the finest minds in the history of philosophy to work on the problems of everyday life. Here then are Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on some of the things that bother us all; lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety, the fear of failure and the pressure to conform.… (more)

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Audible.com

Two editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140276610, 0141038373

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