The Consolations Of Philosophy
- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 01 March 2001
- History of Western Philosophy
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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