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The Consolations of Philosophy

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  7,505 ratings  ·  485 reviews
Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy takes the discipline of logic and the mind back to its roots. Drawing inspiration from six of the finest minds in history - Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche - he addresses lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety and conformity. De Botton's book led one critic to call philosophy ' ...more
Paperback, 265 pages
Published April 3rd 2001 by Vintage Books USA (first published 2000)
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Riku Sayuj

As I went through the book I was unable to make up my mind whether it was a work on philosophy masquerading as a self-help book to reach a wide audience or if it was a pretentious self-help book with aspirations to be a book on deep philosophy.

Even after I finished it, I am not sure how to judge it. Should I judge it harshly for picking and choosing among the works of these great philosophers to fit them into the narrow framework that Botton has drawn for them and thus making them draw his yoke?
Oct 13, 2007 Joe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Absolutely everyone
I have read quite a few of the original works from all the philosophers covered in this book; this nails the relevent ideas and is waaaaaay easier to read. This book could and should replace the entire pop psychology and self help sections of any bookstore. Botton reveals the truth that most of the ideas authors of those genres have been slinging around and re-using for so long were actually written a long long time ago. His format works best here and shows us that philosophy is not some far off ...more
Nov 08, 2007 Keegan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: philosophy
Now, you may laugh, but I thought this was one of the best philosophy-related books I've ever read. I recognize that it's pretty basic, a little silly, etc., but for some reason it did it for me. It's short and sweet and it humanizes otherwise esoteric knowledge.

After I blazed through this book one evening, I went on to read the actual writings of Epicurus, Nietzsche, and Montaigne. It was the spark I needed to get me reading philosophy again.

I heartily recommend it. :-)
Alain de Botton is a kind of Everyman’s philosopher – which is exactly how I like my philosophers. (In fact, he teaches philosophy at the University of London). The book is a quick romp through a half-dozen philosophers, from Socrates to Nietzsche, by applying their philosophies to the author’s everyday problems. For example, he explains Epicurus’ thought in relation to his own issues about wanting material things. Much to my surprise, Epicurus turns out to have little to do with the hedonism I ...more
Concise, relevant, down to earth, pragmatic.

The spin of the book is that philosophy can help you overcome obstacles in your life (unpopularity, poverty, frustration and a broken heart among others). It's a cute angle, but not to be taken too seriously.

This book is a refresher, a booster injection to remind you of the contributions put forward by a handful of thinkers. A wholesome tidbit before tackling Sophie's World or similar.

This shot contains: Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenha
Todd N
This is a strange and enjoyable mixture of philosophy and self-help (and potty words!), divided neatly into six philosophers and six vexing problems. They can be read in any order. I couldn't wait for Nietzsche (the last section) so I skipped ahead and read that fourth instead of sixth.

Here are the six philosophers and the corresponding issues:
Socrates => Unpopularity
Epicurus => Material Want
Seneca => Anger
Montaigne => Feelings of Inadequacy
Schopenhauer => Heartache
David Sarkies
Jun 08, 2014 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians to get an understanding of how philosophy works
Recommended to David by: A friend from work who bought this book for me as a Kris Kringle
Shelves: philosophy
Philosophers show us how to handle life
11 August 2013

I guess the question that has been raised a number of times is whether this book is a self-help book. I guess the problem with self-help books is that people don't like to be seen reading them because it creates the suggestion that maybe they have problems and that their life is not where they want it to be – in a sense it is a neon sign that blares to the world 'I am weak and helpless'. This is probably why people don't like to admit that th
Jan 20, 2015 Andrew added it
Shelves: philosophy
I shouldn't have read this book. I'm such a primary-source type guy, that these explanations of Plato, Nietzsche, etc. and their applicability to everyday life was sure to disappoint me. Even as someone who strongly believes in the quietist value of philosophy, and frankly winds up reading Schopenhauer as a self-help book. Level one analysis, which might be useful for someone who'd never really read philosophy before, but not for me. Next. I hate to call it philosophy at all.
Alain de Botton has good marketable ideas and a casual style of writing for the average reader who's looking for an introduction to philosophy. His idea for this book was to look at what some of the greatest philosophers of all time had to say about common frustrations: love, wealth, popularity etc. It mostly works, but some chapters are better than others. Montaigne for example is totally wasted, while Epicurus is treated a lot better. The photos that accompanied the text were redundant to say ...more
This book is engaging and the writing limpid enough, but it suffers from a few major weaknesses for which I dock 3 stars. First, it is larded with highly gratuitous drawings that, on more than one occasion, made me think that the book was intended for students age 10+. Second, it occasionally suffers from slippery/specious reasoning, generalizations, and redundancies. Lastly, and this is the most egregious oversight of all, it dispenses with rigorous analysis of the ideas of the philosophers men ...more
Book started off strong. I was very interested in the sections about Socrates, Epicurus & Seneca. The philosophies of these guys are thousands of years old but still so relevant and applicable to life today. I was throughly enjoying how the author was telling you a little bit about the life and times of these guys and how their philosophies can give people of today consolations for their problems. Then we moved into wealthy whiny man's territory. Seriously I skimmed the whole second part of ...more
i think if i'd ever read much philosophy, i would have found this boring & superficial, not to mention repetitive - i wish it had been either much longer/more in-depth or much shorter/more fucking concise. and i wavered between liking de botton's writing style and finding it unbelievably twee and condescending.

but as a poppy overview it was still enjoyable and educational. the progression of philosophers was nicely done: just as i was starting to get irritated with a particular viewpoint, it
Amene Karimian
از نصفه‌های کتاب نتونستم جلوتر برم. یاد کتاب‌های وین دایر و آنتونی رابینز می‌افتادم. با همون ساختارهای رایج "نتیجه می‌گیریم که ما نباید..." و "بلکه می‌بایست...".‏
در مقابل اشاره‌اش به نقاشی‌ها و وقایع تاریخی (هرچند که جز نقل قول‌ها بقیه ارجاعی نداشتند و معلوم نیست چقدر قابل استنادند) برام جذاب بود.‏
What are the CONSOLATIONS OF PHILOSOPHY when we are frustrated, unloved, without money, or constantly having difficulties? How can philosophers help us with unpopularity or inadequacies? Alain de Botton offers practical solutions from six historical thinkers in this accessible guide to being human.

Every society has conventions about what one should believe or how one should behave. Those who deviate from the norm face criticism and are targets of scrutiny. Socrates faced unpopularity in the 4th
Hands down, Alain de Botton is my favorite self-help author, whether on Twitter or in print. The Consolations of Philosophy, published in 2000, examines the lives and writings of six philosophers — Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Nietzche — to unearth insights that help us reduce our anxieties and live a happier, fuller life.

From Socrates we learn to stick to our individual authenticity in the face of unpopularity. Like de Botton, my immediate instinct is to strive to p
A mate, Pete, on a rare overnight visit a couple of years ago, gave me this book. Being the ‘naturally’ very polite boy I am, I thanked him sincerely while my mind wondered why he gave it to me (not a gift so much, but this particular book). Sure, while we were at Uni, most of Pete and my conversations were conducted in a dribbling, esoteric, chaotic manner as we espoused our philosophic stance on all things that our Guinness (the thinking Man’s drink) plugged into our alcoholically sponged brai ...more
Kevin Fuller
Not to be confused with Boethius's 'Consolation of Philosophy', this book comes with pictures, and lots of them, as it is geared for the digital aged consumer and attending attention span.

But wait. this is no cute little tome begging us to read about white, anglo-saxon nothern european philosophers who truly didn't discover life until they vacationed in the southern climes, this is a nugget of genuine Wisdom!

Eschewing the normal branches of philosophy such as epistemology, ontology, metaphysics
Faith Brown
It seems remarkable the voice of an eccentric who accosted strangers with conversation, eschewed footwear and lived before the English language existed could provide modern inspiration, but Alain De Botton eruditely uses the work of this and a few other philosophers to do just that. In his typically humble but astonishingly well-informed style De Botton finds surcease in for six universal sources of anguish via the lens of a different philosopher for each section in this book. The precise focus ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kislay Verma
Absolute, complete, TRASH!

I have ranted extensively about this book at SolomonSays, but still not over it - so here goes again.

This is not a philosophy book. The discipline of philosophy is the discipline of asking questions and finding out answers. On the contrary, the formula of The Consolations of philosophy is quite the opposite. The author will find out the answers for your common problems, and dish them out. On top of that, his answers are not his own. He just plucked out six great thinke
De Botton is always fun to read, not so much because you agree with everything he says, but because he strives to make connections between aspects of our lives and ways of thinking that most of us keep compartmentalized, and I always find that to be inspiring.
I enjoyed The Consolations of Philosophy for its sense of humor and for its approach to philosophy as being not simply an intellectual pursuit but an approach to life and for dealing with the grit and grime of life that we all face.
A warni
Jason Yang
The final of de Botton's books I have read recently, I really enjoyed this work. In this extremely tractable reader, de Botton introduces some of the most influential philosophers since antiquity and grounds their ideas in humor and contemporary circumstances. Part history, part philosophy, I enjoyed learning about the lives of these 6 philosophers, successful or not.

The major difficulty I find in reading these works is the dissatisfaction that philosophy is only an exercise of the mind. It is q
I am aware that other Good reads reviewers have claimed that this book was just philosophy (and a bit of self-help wisdom) dumbed down for the masses...but, in my opinion, if De Botton has made philosophy more 'accessible' to the masses, is that such a bad thing?

Anyway, I really enjoyed this. Yes, I enjoyed some parts more than others (my favourite parts were Socrates and Nietzsche), but it was an overall enjoyable read, and a great introduction to philosophy. The notes section at the back of th
As always Botton takes serious and meaningful subjects that makes one think and wraps them in his own humorous spin. Witty and full of pith if you want an easy way into big ideas this is the book for you.

Some of the books detractors have criticized the book as being philosophy-light, philosophy for people too lazy to do some proper reading. This is meaningless snobbery, probably springing from pretentiousness. Many of the examples in this book lead the reader to want to explore, perhaps just a l
M Pereira
I should firstly say that the entire enterprise of philosophy as a way of life in this way of reading 'great' European writers is an utterly pecuniary task and entirely socially and politically anodyne. But that's not really the point of it. THat's my proviso over.

I think this is a pretty interesting overview of the way that the personal lives of philosophers had impacted on their writing and self expression. ALmost to the degree of showing ethical insights. Montaigne talking about his horrible
Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

If we look at the lives of some great philosophers, not just at the ideas they peddled, we might find some “Consolations of Philosophy”, although all philosophers are “Cabbage heads” according to Nietzsche.
It can be frustrating, not consoling to try and read Nietzsche, for instance, the titles have an irresistible pull and attraction: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil…
But in the case of poor, humble me, it didn’t work, unless we’re talking
Erigido sobre la máxima de Epicuro (“Vana es la palabra de aquel filósofo que no remedia ninguna dolencia humana”), el libro del filósofo Alain de Botton, “Las consolaciones de la filosofía, nos ayuda a enfrentar, con pundonor y sin denuedo, de la mano de Epicuro, Schopenhauer, Sócrates, Montaigne, Séneca y Nietzsche, la falta de dinero, los amores contrariados, la impopularidad, la ineptitud, la frustración y las dificultades de la vida (respectivamente), de forma por demás brillante y lúcida.
Khalil James
Always through unassuming efforts, de Botton aims to make the lessons of philosophy more accessible to the average person, whether as a television presenter or as an author. To some extent all readers of philosophy seek what is here in this book. What de Botton gives me is a modest and sympathizing interpretation of the conclusions arrived to by great philosophers of the past. At once, two functions are satisfied: education on a few philosophers and interpretations of their beliefs, and the cons ...more
Ian Russell
I find most of Alain de Botton's writing infused with optimism and enthusiasm. Whether I've agreed with him or not, he's a pleasure to read. He has an easy way of clarifying difficult points and has the gift of an exemplary storyteller.

In The Consolations of Philosophy, he takes on six of the commonest lifestyle afflictions and asks, what would a genius do, or say? The genii sought for answers are six of history's most regarded philosophers: Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer an
The author is cherry picking nuggets from Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Socrates provides consolation for unpopularity, Epicurus for not having enough money, Seneca for frustration, Montaigne on Inadequacy, Schopenhauer on a broken heart, Nietzsche on difficulties.

Socrates was seeking knowledge and truth with his method and yet I can’t help but think of him also as the original and ultimate shit starter.

Epicurus was keeping it simple and his recipe for happi
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Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday lif
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