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From the author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, a delightful, truly consoling work that proves that philosophy can be a supreme source of help for our most painful everyday problems.

Perhaps only Alain de Botton could uncover practical wisdom in the writings of some of the greatest thinkers of all time. But uncover he does, and the result is an unexpected book of both solace and humor. Dividing his work into six sections -- each highlighting a different psychic ailment and the appropriate philosopher -- de Botton offers consolation for unpopularity from Socrates, for not having enough money from Epicurus, for frustration from Seneca, for inadequacy from Montaigne, and for a broken heart from Schopenhauer (the darkest of thinkers and yet, paradoxically, the most cheering). Consolation for envy -- and, of course, the final word on consolation -- comes from Nietzsche: "Not everything which makes us feel better is good for us."

This wonderfully engaging book will, however, make us feel better in a good way, with equal measures of wit and wisdom.
Published: Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780307833501
List price: $11.99
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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.more
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.more
The book is divided into 6 chapters, which concern the high points of Socrates, Seneca, Epicurus, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. The information in this book is by no means complete, but it does give bite sized introductions to each philosopher. I particularly liked the sections on Socrates and Montaigne. Socrates because he is almost always featured as a byproduct of Plato, and because I think his life story is very powerful. Montaigne was good because I had never been exposed to any of his work before, and I think his writing is very accessible to the average reader. He also has a knack for being down to earth and easily understood.more
Thought-provoking, paradigm-altering, this book is an excellent introduction to the history of thought. As I read what these six men had to say, I couldn't help but feel that I would get on better with them than my contemporaries. Perhaps egotism, perhaps the fundamental constancy of the human experience. Regardless, it made me want to read more, both of de Botton, and of the philosophers discussed. Particularly Nietzche, Epicurus, and Montaigne. Also, on a separate note, when I graduate, I want to set aside a month for Das Kapital.more
Once again, de Botton brings a relatable approach to philosophy that makes for an insightful, easy to read work. Obviously not an all-inclusive coverage of the six philosophers chosen, it does provide a novice with a great way to approaching philosophy and makes it easily accessible to the most lay of laymen.I really do enjoy de Botton's style of writing, succinct yet clever and funny. Whether or not this book will fill you with a passion for philosophy or provide consolations for your troubles, it does encourage you to take pause and think about your own life in context of the ideas and approaches of the philosphers. Self-help with a twist.more
This is a well-written quick read. Gives you basic information on the philosophy of men like Nietzsche, Epicurus and Schopenhauermore
I received this as a gift when leaving school from a teacher I'd really got along with. He knew I was intending to do philosophy at uni, hence the choice of book. Not only was it a nice gesture, the book turned out to be a hell of good read too. What de Botton does with this book is take the thoughts of six different philosophers and show some of their writings can provide consolation for six different sorts of problems that most people deal with in their day-to-day lives- Socrates for unpopularity, Epicurus for not having enough money, Seneca for frustration (anger, sense of injustice etc), Montaigne for inadequacies, Schopenhauer for a broken heart, and Nietzsche for difficulties (tragedies etc). I read a few reviews of this book beforehand and found that, while popular with the general public, de Botton's book was criticised by philosophers for trivialising philosophy and giving the public the wrong impression as to what philosophy is. So I made sure not to let the book give me the impression when I went to uni that philosophy could solve all my personal problems. Having now done some proper philosophy, I can confirm that. This is more like self-help done by philosophers than philosophy. But it seems we should try to do more of that, because it turns out to be damn good self-help. The Consolations of Philosophy is just a fantastic, fascinating and highly useful read. The histories of these six philosophers were very interesting to me, so those alone would have made the book valuable, but even better were the ideas and consolations de Botton extrapolated from the works of these thinkers. They were in some cases, quite exciting and liberating thoughts for me, with my various anxieties. I'd point out which ones I loved most, but quite simply I loved it all with the exception of the chapter on Schopenhauer, whose philosophy, or the portrayals of his philosophy that I have read, I have come across a couple of times now and both times found that I disagree with it strongly. But even then it was highly interesting. So even if The Consolations of Philosophy is just self-help, I found it to be an incredibly fun, inspiring and absorbing read. I'm not sure if I'll read any of de Botton's other stuff, but I certainly don't regret reading this.more
I've read a great many books this year, but none have made me so extraordinarily happy as Alain De Botton's little guide to philosophy.De Botton has assembled a group of six philosophers, linked through time by shared interests and fascinations and a certain philosophical lineage, and uses their work to help us in each of six consolations: for unpopularity; for not having enough money; for frustration; for inadequacy; for a broken heart; and for difficulties.De Botton chooses his philosophers, and their quotables, very wisely, and everything is as clear to follow and as enjoyable as Montaigne himself would have wanted. As well as being very erudite, De Botton's prose is light and humourous, and leads the reader comfortably along; still, there is a lot of time to pause for thought, and I allowed myself twice as long to read this slim volume as I would have done any other book.more
Though not as successful as his quirky and insightful The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy is similarly appealing in its friendly, straightforward presentation of abstract thought. Here, the author tries to demonstrate how six major-league philosophers--Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche--teach us how to cope with life's difficulties. While the book makes for a fine introduction to these men's lives and thoughts, it falls short of offering any breathtaking wisdom. Nevertheless, it's stylishly written and, at least, marginally consoling.more
Really explains the insights of various philosophers in various areas well and presents them as ways to deal with real life trials. In so doing he shows how practical philosophy (which I always regarded as a very dry topic until I read this) can actually be. He also links the various Western philosophers that he examines well showing how there has been progress in philosophical thought.more
This was a fantastic introduction to the world of philosophy. The author took six great philosophers and laid them out in a way that is easy to relate to. I now plan on reading a few more books on the subject!more
A review of some of the greatest minds through history. Borrowing some of their inspiration to address some of the issues that troubles our minds and causes us anxiety.Don't know any other book from the author, but if they are as near as good as this one I'm sure to look for them. This book got some cyclopean minds on, that on other texts wouldn't be as near as accessible as they are in this book.One of my favorite bits from Seneca, one of the philosophers from the book: "wisdom lies in correctly discerning where we are free to mold reality according to our wishes and where we must accept the unalterable with tranquility"more
This book affected me in a curious way. I was previously familiar with Stoic philosophy, but reading a bit more about Seneca and Epicurus seemed to result in a new satisfaction with my current situation. This is a relatively lightweight philosophy discussion, with many cute photographs, and organized around problems of life, with a philosopher to match. Socrates with consolation for unpopularity, Epicurus for not having money, Seneca for frustration, Montaigne with advice on inadequacy. Most curious was Schopenhauer on a broken heart, since he had a unique view of romantic love as being driven by the biological necessity of finding the correct mate. Nietzsche appeared as counsel for difficulties. The keyword for this book is "philosophical counseling" and it appears to be in reference to the new idea of engaging a philosopher for counseling rather than a psychiatrist. The book was quite easy, and went very quickly.more
This is good. I like Alain, he is fortunate to have had a very rarefied life to write books like this one and his many more. I always say we in the modern west (e.g. New York) are so miserable with ourselves and our lives despite the classics. If we only paid attention to those ancient stories of the pain and suffering of countless billions who have gone before us, we wouldn't think ourselves to be so misunderstood and suffering above all worse than anyone ever else. The same is true for Philosophers, but our national narrative would rather we pay for expensive pharmaceuticals and therapy sessions than read books that are now free in the public domain to enlighten and empower us. Anyway, this book is a great short introduction to the major ideas of the enlightenment philosophers that are reflected ad infinitum in our world at large (even if we don't know that).Have fun with this and Alain's other book about Proust!more
This series of essays focuses on six philosophers and six themes. Botton guides the reader through antiquity and the Romantics by giving context, biographical notes and finally a summary of each philosopher's ideas. The essays, because they touch on history, civilization and ultimately philosophy can seem a bit disjointed. However, Botton is able to build on each philosopher's ideas, and his humour, mix of modern and historical examples, illustrations (albeit sometimes fuzzy) and synthesis give an excellent overview of certain aspects of his chosen philosopher's notions. Great for neophytes but very basic.more
This book is highly readable, yet never simple-minded or patronizing to the reader. Alain de Botton succeeds in bringing to life the most important concepts of some of the most important Western philosophers, relating them in a very effective manner to the everyday trials and tribulations any human being might experience.The reviewer who had "trouble" with this approach seems to have missed the point, and to have misunderstood the Socrates section in particular. (Alain de Botton is not suggesting we be consoled by the thought that future generations will think us right; he suggests that if we have reasoned out our position and find it correct by method of such reason, we should not be troubled if that position is unpopular. This is the example Socrates provided, and also what de Botton relates.)This book will turn you on to Montaigne, to philosophy, and to the possibilities of learning in general. The humor that runs throughout the book makes reading it a pleasure, as well as a worthwhile endeavor.more
As surveys go, quite good. Botton obviously dumbed down some of the material to make it easier for a general audience to understand, but it was neither patronizing nor gave the appearance that it was written for children.It would be interesting to know why he chose the philosophers he did and not others, but on balance this was quite well. Especially like the sections on Montaigne and Schopenauer.more
De Botton has been described as saying "ah but is it...?" to a lot of modern ideas. Here he offers sound advice for some common problems, advice taken from the life and work of various prominent philosophers. I discovered I'm an Epicurean while reading this, pass the pickled dolphin!more
thought provoking and in some ways consolingmore
This is a delight. The philosophy is light-weight (which is a plus), and occasionally dubious, but always enjoyable. I particularly liked the chapter on Consolation for Not Having Enough Money.more
Read all 24 reviews

Reviews

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.more
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.more
The book is divided into 6 chapters, which concern the high points of Socrates, Seneca, Epicurus, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. The information in this book is by no means complete, but it does give bite sized introductions to each philosopher. I particularly liked the sections on Socrates and Montaigne. Socrates because he is almost always featured as a byproduct of Plato, and because I think his life story is very powerful. Montaigne was good because I had never been exposed to any of his work before, and I think his writing is very accessible to the average reader. He also has a knack for being down to earth and easily understood.more
Thought-provoking, paradigm-altering, this book is an excellent introduction to the history of thought. As I read what these six men had to say, I couldn't help but feel that I would get on better with them than my contemporaries. Perhaps egotism, perhaps the fundamental constancy of the human experience. Regardless, it made me want to read more, both of de Botton, and of the philosophers discussed. Particularly Nietzche, Epicurus, and Montaigne. Also, on a separate note, when I graduate, I want to set aside a month for Das Kapital.more
Once again, de Botton brings a relatable approach to philosophy that makes for an insightful, easy to read work. Obviously not an all-inclusive coverage of the six philosophers chosen, it does provide a novice with a great way to approaching philosophy and makes it easily accessible to the most lay of laymen.I really do enjoy de Botton's style of writing, succinct yet clever and funny. Whether or not this book will fill you with a passion for philosophy or provide consolations for your troubles, it does encourage you to take pause and think about your own life in context of the ideas and approaches of the philosphers. Self-help with a twist.more
This is a well-written quick read. Gives you basic information on the philosophy of men like Nietzsche, Epicurus and Schopenhauermore
I received this as a gift when leaving school from a teacher I'd really got along with. He knew I was intending to do philosophy at uni, hence the choice of book. Not only was it a nice gesture, the book turned out to be a hell of good read too. What de Botton does with this book is take the thoughts of six different philosophers and show some of their writings can provide consolation for six different sorts of problems that most people deal with in their day-to-day lives- Socrates for unpopularity, Epicurus for not having enough money, Seneca for frustration (anger, sense of injustice etc), Montaigne for inadequacies, Schopenhauer for a broken heart, and Nietzsche for difficulties (tragedies etc). I read a few reviews of this book beforehand and found that, while popular with the general public, de Botton's book was criticised by philosophers for trivialising philosophy and giving the public the wrong impression as to what philosophy is. So I made sure not to let the book give me the impression when I went to uni that philosophy could solve all my personal problems. Having now done some proper philosophy, I can confirm that. This is more like self-help done by philosophers than philosophy. But it seems we should try to do more of that, because it turns out to be damn good self-help. The Consolations of Philosophy is just a fantastic, fascinating and highly useful read. The histories of these six philosophers were very interesting to me, so those alone would have made the book valuable, but even better were the ideas and consolations de Botton extrapolated from the works of these thinkers. They were in some cases, quite exciting and liberating thoughts for me, with my various anxieties. I'd point out which ones I loved most, but quite simply I loved it all with the exception of the chapter on Schopenhauer, whose philosophy, or the portrayals of his philosophy that I have read, I have come across a couple of times now and both times found that I disagree with it strongly. But even then it was highly interesting. So even if The Consolations of Philosophy is just self-help, I found it to be an incredibly fun, inspiring and absorbing read. I'm not sure if I'll read any of de Botton's other stuff, but I certainly don't regret reading this.more
I've read a great many books this year, but none have made me so extraordinarily happy as Alain De Botton's little guide to philosophy.De Botton has assembled a group of six philosophers, linked through time by shared interests and fascinations and a certain philosophical lineage, and uses their work to help us in each of six consolations: for unpopularity; for not having enough money; for frustration; for inadequacy; for a broken heart; and for difficulties.De Botton chooses his philosophers, and their quotables, very wisely, and everything is as clear to follow and as enjoyable as Montaigne himself would have wanted. As well as being very erudite, De Botton's prose is light and humourous, and leads the reader comfortably along; still, there is a lot of time to pause for thought, and I allowed myself twice as long to read this slim volume as I would have done any other book.more
Though not as successful as his quirky and insightful The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy is similarly appealing in its friendly, straightforward presentation of abstract thought. Here, the author tries to demonstrate how six major-league philosophers--Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche--teach us how to cope with life's difficulties. While the book makes for a fine introduction to these men's lives and thoughts, it falls short of offering any breathtaking wisdom. Nevertheless, it's stylishly written and, at least, marginally consoling.more
Really explains the insights of various philosophers in various areas well and presents them as ways to deal with real life trials. In so doing he shows how practical philosophy (which I always regarded as a very dry topic until I read this) can actually be. He also links the various Western philosophers that he examines well showing how there has been progress in philosophical thought.more
This was a fantastic introduction to the world of philosophy. The author took six great philosophers and laid them out in a way that is easy to relate to. I now plan on reading a few more books on the subject!more
A review of some of the greatest minds through history. Borrowing some of their inspiration to address some of the issues that troubles our minds and causes us anxiety.Don't know any other book from the author, but if they are as near as good as this one I'm sure to look for them. This book got some cyclopean minds on, that on other texts wouldn't be as near as accessible as they are in this book.One of my favorite bits from Seneca, one of the philosophers from the book: "wisdom lies in correctly discerning where we are free to mold reality according to our wishes and where we must accept the unalterable with tranquility"more
This book affected me in a curious way. I was previously familiar with Stoic philosophy, but reading a bit more about Seneca and Epicurus seemed to result in a new satisfaction with my current situation. This is a relatively lightweight philosophy discussion, with many cute photographs, and organized around problems of life, with a philosopher to match. Socrates with consolation for unpopularity, Epicurus for not having money, Seneca for frustration, Montaigne with advice on inadequacy. Most curious was Schopenhauer on a broken heart, since he had a unique view of romantic love as being driven by the biological necessity of finding the correct mate. Nietzsche appeared as counsel for difficulties. The keyword for this book is "philosophical counseling" and it appears to be in reference to the new idea of engaging a philosopher for counseling rather than a psychiatrist. The book was quite easy, and went very quickly.more
This is good. I like Alain, he is fortunate to have had a very rarefied life to write books like this one and his many more. I always say we in the modern west (e.g. New York) are so miserable with ourselves and our lives despite the classics. If we only paid attention to those ancient stories of the pain and suffering of countless billions who have gone before us, we wouldn't think ourselves to be so misunderstood and suffering above all worse than anyone ever else. The same is true for Philosophers, but our national narrative would rather we pay for expensive pharmaceuticals and therapy sessions than read books that are now free in the public domain to enlighten and empower us. Anyway, this book is a great short introduction to the major ideas of the enlightenment philosophers that are reflected ad infinitum in our world at large (even if we don't know that).Have fun with this and Alain's other book about Proust!more
This series of essays focuses on six philosophers and six themes. Botton guides the reader through antiquity and the Romantics by giving context, biographical notes and finally a summary of each philosopher's ideas. The essays, because they touch on history, civilization and ultimately philosophy can seem a bit disjointed. However, Botton is able to build on each philosopher's ideas, and his humour, mix of modern and historical examples, illustrations (albeit sometimes fuzzy) and synthesis give an excellent overview of certain aspects of his chosen philosopher's notions. Great for neophytes but very basic.more
This book is highly readable, yet never simple-minded or patronizing to the reader. Alain de Botton succeeds in bringing to life the most important concepts of some of the most important Western philosophers, relating them in a very effective manner to the everyday trials and tribulations any human being might experience.The reviewer who had "trouble" with this approach seems to have missed the point, and to have misunderstood the Socrates section in particular. (Alain de Botton is not suggesting we be consoled by the thought that future generations will think us right; he suggests that if we have reasoned out our position and find it correct by method of such reason, we should not be troubled if that position is unpopular. This is the example Socrates provided, and also what de Botton relates.)This book will turn you on to Montaigne, to philosophy, and to the possibilities of learning in general. The humor that runs throughout the book makes reading it a pleasure, as well as a worthwhile endeavor.more
As surveys go, quite good. Botton obviously dumbed down some of the material to make it easier for a general audience to understand, but it was neither patronizing nor gave the appearance that it was written for children.It would be interesting to know why he chose the philosophers he did and not others, but on balance this was quite well. Especially like the sections on Montaigne and Schopenauer.more
De Botton has been described as saying "ah but is it...?" to a lot of modern ideas. Here he offers sound advice for some common problems, advice taken from the life and work of various prominent philosophers. I discovered I'm an Epicurean while reading this, pass the pickled dolphin!more
thought provoking and in some ways consolingmore
This is a delight. The philosophy is light-weight (which is a plus), and occasionally dubious, but always enjoyable. I particularly liked the chapter on Consolation for Not Having Enough Money.more
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