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The Consolations of Philosophy The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton
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“Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books written because authors couldn't find anyone to talk to.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“Being incomprehensible offers unparalleled protection against having nothing to say...but writing with simplicity requires courage, for there is a danger that one will be overlooked, dismissed as simpleminded by those with a tenacious belief that the impassable prose is a hallmark of intelligence.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“...no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfilment.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“at the heart of every frustration lies a basic structure: the collision of a wish with an unyielding reality.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“Not everything which happens to us occurs with reference to something about us.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“We may be powerless to alter certain events, but we remain free to choose our attitude towards them, and it is in our spontaneous acceptance of necessity that we find our distinctive freedom.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“Nothing satisfies the man who is not satisfied with a little.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“We don’t exist unless there is someone who can see us existing, what we say has no meaning until someone can understand, while to be surrounded by friends is constantly to have our identity confirmed; their knowledge and care for us have the power to pull us from our numbness.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“If you wish to put off all worry, assume that what you fear may happen is certainly going to happen.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“We will cease to be so angry once we cease to be so hopeful”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“Christianity had, in Nietzsche’s account, emerged from the minds of timid slaves in the Roman Empire who had lacked the stomach to climb to the tops of mountains, and so had built themselves a philosophy claiming that their bases were delightful. Christians had wished to enjoy the real ingredients of fulfilment (a position in the world, sex, intellectual mastery, creativity) but did not have the courage to endure the difficulties these goods demanded. They had therefore fashioned a hypocritical creed denouncing what they wanted but were too weak to fight for while praising what they did not want but happened to have. Powerlessness became ‘goodness’, baseness ‘humility’, submission to people one hated ‘obedience’ and, in Nietzsche’s phrase, ‘not-being-able-to-take-revenge’ turned into ‘forgiveness’. Every feeling of weakness was overlaid with a sanctifying name, and made to seem ‘a voluntary achievement, something wanted, chosen, a deed, an accomplishment’. Addicted to ‘the religion of comfortableness’, Christians, in their value system, had given precedence to what was easy, not what was desirable, and so had drained life of its potential.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“writing with simplicity requires courage, for there is a danger that one will be overlooked, dismissed as simpleminded by those with a tenacious belief that impassable prose is a hallmark of intelligence.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“I gladly come back to the theme of the absurdity of our education: its end has not been to make us good and wise, but learned. And it has succeeded. It has not taught us to seek virtue and to embrace wisdom: it has impressed upon us their derivation and their etymology … We readily inquire, ‘Does he know Greek or Latin?’ ‘Can he write poetry and prose?’ But what matters most is what we put last: ‘Has he become better and wiser?’ We ought to find out not who understands most but who understands best. We work merely to fill the memory, leaving the understanding and the sense of right and wrong empty.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“The most fulfilling human projects appeared inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains…

Why? Because no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfillment.

Nietzsche was striving to correct the belief that fulfillment must come easily or not at all, a belief ruinous in its effects, for it leads us to withdraw prematurely from challenges that might have been overcome if only we had been prepared for the savagery legitimately demanded by almost everything valuable.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“Not everything which makes us feel better is good for us. Not everything which hurts may be bad.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“creature on earth seemed to Schopenhauer to be equally committed to an equally meaningless existence: Contemplate the restless industry of wretched little ants … the life of most insects is nothing but a restless labour for preparing nourishment and dwelling for the future offspring that will come from their eggs. After the offspring have consumed the nourishment and have turned into the chrysalis stage, they enter into life merely to begin the same task again from the beginning … we cannot help but ask what comes of all of this … there is nothing to show but the satisfaction of hunger and sexual passion, and … a little momentary gratification … now and then, between … endless needs and exertions. 3. The philosopher did not have to spell out the parallels. We pursue love affairs, chat in cafés with prospective partners and have children, with as much choice in the matter as moles and ants – and are rarely any happier.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“established views have frequently emerged not through a process of faultless reasoning, but through centuries of intellectual muddle. There may be no good reason for things to be the way they are.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“We pick our friends not only because they are kind and enjoyable company, but also, perhaps more importantly, because they understand us for who we think we are.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“The motor of our ingenuity is the question ‘Does it have to be like this?’, from which arise political reforms, scientific developments, improved relationships, better books.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“What we encounter in works of art and philosophy are objective versions of our own pains and struggles, evoked and defined in sound, language or image. Artists and philosophers not only show us what we have felt, they present our experiences more poignantly and intelligently than we have been able; they give shape to aspects of our lives that we recognise as our own, yet could never have understood so clearly on our own. They explain our condition to us, and thereby help us to be less lonely with, and confused by it.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“In the mountains of truth you will never climb in vain: either you will get up higher today or you will exercise your strength so as to be able to get up higher tomorrow.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“What should worry us is not the number of people who oppose us, but how good their reasons are for doing so. We should therefore divert our attention away from the presence of unpopularity to the explanations for it. It may be frightening to hear that a high proportion of a community holds us to be wrong, but before abandoning our position, we should consider the method by which their conclusions have been reached. It is the soundness of their method of thinking that should determine the weight we give to their disapproval. We seem afflicted by the opposite tendency: to listen to everyone, to be upset by every unkind word and sarcastic observation. We fail to ask ourselves the cardinal and most consoling question: on what basis has this dark censure been made? We treat with equal seriousness the objections of the critic who has thought rigorously and honestly and those of the critic who has acted out of misanthropy and envy.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“Rage is caused by a conviction, almost comic in its optimistic origins (however tragic in its effects), that a given frustration has not been written into the contract of life.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other … you have the choice: either as little displeasure as possible, painlessness in brief … or as much displeasure as possible as the price for the growth of an abundance of subtle pleasures and joys that have rarely been relished yet? If you decide for the former and desire to diminish and lower the level of human pain, you also have to diminish and lower the level of their capacity for joy.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“All lives are difficult; what makes some of them fulfilled as well is the manner in which pains have been met. Every pain is an indistinct signal that something is wrong, which may engender either a good or bad result depending on the sagacity and strength of mind of the sufferer. Anxiety may precipitate panic, or an accurate analysis of what is amiss. A sense of injustice may lead to murder, or to a ground-breaking work of economic theory. Envy may lead to bitterness, or to a decision to compete with a rival and the production of a masterpiece. As”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“wisdom lies in correctly discerning where we are free to mould reality according to our wishes and where we must accept the unalterable with tranquillity. The”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“The most uncouth of our afflictions is to despise our being. Rather than trying to cut ourselves in two, we should cease waging civil war on our perplexing physical envelopes and learn to accept them as unalterable facts of our condition; neither so terrible, nor so humiliating.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“In Montaigne’s redrawn portrait of the adequate, semi-rational human being, it is possible to speak no Greek, fart, change one’s mind after a meal, get bored with books, know none of the ancient philosophers and mistake Scipios. A virtuous, ordinary life, striving for wisdom but never far from folly, is achievement enough.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy
“Our bodies smell, ache, sag, pulse, throb and age. They force us to fart and burp, and to abandon sensible plans in order to lie in bed with people, sweating and letting out intense sounds reminiscent of coyotes calling out to one another across the barren wastes of the American deserts. Our bodies hold our minds hostage to their whims and rhythms.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy

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