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am 28. Oktober 2007
The author shows how philosophy supplied Socrates with convictions in which he was able to have rational confidence when faced with adversity. In Socrates' time, the opinion of the majority was equated with truth. He thus suffered the sad fate to be good and yet judged evil. We should therefore strive to listen to the dictates of the reason and not the dictates of public opinion.
The philosophy of Epicures places an emphasis on the importance of sexual pleasure and he promises that philosophy will guide us to superior cures and true happiness. Friendship and freedom are the two most important items on the Epicurean acquisition list.
Seneca conceived of philosophy as a discipline to assist human beings in overcoming conflicts between their wishes and reality. He saw that we must reconcile ourselves to the necessary imperfectability of existence. We will cease to be angry once we cease to be too hopeful.
Cicero claims that scholarship furnishes us with true means of living well and happily, to spend our lives without discontent and without vexation.
Montaigne saw that we have to accept our body with all its flaws: it smells, aches, ages, throbs and pulses.
Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the number of books that were written because authors couldn't find anyone to talk to. Actually every difficult work presents us with the choice whether to judge the author inept for not being clear, or ourselves stupid for not understanding the ideas.
For Schopenhauer, a man of genius can hardly be sociable, for what dialogues could indeed be so intelligent and entertaining as his own monologues? For him, art and philosophy help us to turn pain into knowledge. "The prudent man strives for freedom from pain, not pleasure."
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am 21. Juli 2000
When a man who has just suffered a serious problem (eg. his house burnt down) is interviewed on the news, and he remains calm and composed ("At least I got out alive, things could be worse"), the reporter describes him as being philosophical.
De Botton takes being philosophical to another level, demonstrating that even philosophers can be "philosophical". He takes six philosophers and culls from their writings (in the case of Socrates, Plato's) ways to handle difficulties in life.
He offers:
Socrates on being unpopular ("We shouldn't care all that much about what the populace will say of us, but about what the expert on matters of justice and injustice will say"); Epicurus on not having enough money ("when measured by the natural purpose of life, poverty is greath wealth; limitless wealth, great poverty"); Seneca on frustration ("Unseasonable weather upsets the health; and we must fall ill...we cannot change this order of is to this law (of Nature) that our souls must adjust themselves, this they should follow, this they should obey...That which you cannot reform, it is best to endure"); Montaigne on inadequacy ("We are richer than we think, each one of us"); Schopenhauer on a broken heart ("In the course of his own life and in its misfortunes, he will look less at his own individual lot than at the lot of mankind as a whole, and accordingly will conduct himself...more as a knower than a sufferer"); Nietzsche on difficulties. Nietzsche, at least on a simplistic level, seems to have dealt with difficulties by going insane. This doesn't seem, to me, to provide much consolation. His writings may offer some consolation, but one also can't ignore the life that he lived. Constrast him with Socrates and Seneca who went to their prescribed deaths with utmost equanimity. Perhaps I could be wrong, but he might have done better had he embraced his father's religion rather than abhorring it.
De Botton makes the musings of these men accessible to a general audience. The book is easy to read and may even spur you on to read the actual works of these philosohers.
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am 19. Juni 2000
Oh, thank goodness for brick-n-mortar book stores! Had I notbeen able to inspect this book, I might have spent at Amazon basedonly on the above reviews.
I opened the book at the beginning and read several pages and put it back on the shelf with a puzzled shrug. Later, recalling these glowing reviews, I went back and read more. And put it back with a frown. And, baffled at the absence of the wit and wisdom others claim to have found, I circled back yet a third time and read part of another chapter.
Folks, you are all able to see some clothing on this emporer that escapes my gaze entirely. This is a bad book. It is dull. It is shallow. Its attempts at humor are forced and intrusive. What is worse than attempted whimsy that falls flat? And this book's whimsy is a flat souffle indeed.
This book reduces the richness of the thought of several great minds to the thinnest of platitudes -- and it surrounds those platitudes with page after page of the author's self-centered ditherings and irrelevant graphics.
There certainly is a market for a book that makes the thought of any philosophers accessible and relevant. This one is not that book. It is a disservice to the philosophers and to its readers.
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am 21. Mai 2016
just to review the quality and not the content itself, the book arrived in a good state only the cover was different than in the description but that surely doesn't change the reading experience.
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am 10. Juni 2000
This book would have opened doors for me in adolescence and reopens them now (parents of adolescents, go buy it, read it, and then pass it on to your children and know you've done a good thing). If you're an adult with some background in classic philosophy (however foggy or fresh), it will serve to remind you why you're passionately energized by some philosophy, confused by some, and maddened by the rest. It will send you back to your own bookshelves to reread those heavily marked passages in the original texts that motivate you to address your problems and justify your life. If you're an adult or an adolescent unfamiliar with classic philosophy, it just may start the whole process of studying it for you, a process which is harder and much more painful than reading this book (Nietzsche would thus approve, Chapter Six assures us). But de Botton's book doesn't just hold a simple mirror up to the greats, by the way, it holds a mirror up to you as the reader too, reminding you just which of the six common human ailments you regularly display and why - unpopularity, not enough money, frustration, inadequacy, a broken heart, or difficulty and bad luck. Lots of cute and interesting graphics and photos too. It's all simple and good and does no harm, in the best sense of all these things.
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am 27. Mai 2000
Philosophers used to want to talk to real people. Nowadays, they just mumble to their colleagues, stab each other in the back in the pages of academic journals, and basically disgrace themselves in the eyes of the tradition of philosophy begun by Socrates. But not Alain de Botton. He really takes seriously the idea that philosophers are capable of conceiving of life and experience in new ways that console us - make us feel less alone and persecuted. This might sound silly, but this book truly does console. It is also wonderfully informative and witty. I read a review of this book in the New York Times that actually encouraged me to read it - though it was a terrible review. The reviewer was so sniffy and arrogant, I thought, 'I'm going to see if he's wrong.' Well, he certainly is. This is a small masterpiece. It's not a great great book - but it's what will be called a minor classic, a book that will be cherished and loved and passed around among friends. Incidentally, it's also got a great cover by that masterful Portland cartoonist, John Calahan
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am 18. Juni 2000
Alain de Botton has written a remarkable book that 1) efficiently summarizes selected beliefs of six notable philosophers and 2) relates them to the troubles of everyday life while 3) achieving a tone and style that is a delight to read. (Not to mention the pictures.) I confess that as a product of a math and science education I was not well-schooled in philosophy, and have been doing some "catch-up" of late. de Botton offers a great place to start. From here, one could choose to move on to the original works, and I will. But "Consolations" has staying power on its own and many will find comfort here.
(It's surprising to see the strong negative reviews of this book, but it must be noted that the book is a hybrid -- part philosophy, part self-help -- and as such is open to attack from both sides. To me, its dual nature is its strength. de Botton follows in the footsteps of some distinguished company who have worked to make the arts and humanities more accessible. Including, I should add, some of the artists themselves.)
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am 29. April 2000
Entertaining and informative, thought-provoking and playful--that's Alain de Botton's new book for you. No wonder this is such a huge seller in Britain right now. Although I've not seen the television series on which the book is based (or is it the other way around?), I do want to reassure my fellow readers at Amazon that if they've liked any of de Botton's previous books (especially HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE), they won't be disappointed at all with this new work, which comes with those amusing illustrations that are a trade mark of a de Botton book. While I suppose it's possible to cavil at the book's "popularization" of philosophy, the short answer to such complaints is simply to ask those cranky readers to stick to the millions of dusty old academic monographs at their local university libraries and stay away from someone as fun and playful as de Botton. If philosophy has always been THIS fun, I tell you, there would never have been any need for the Cultural Wars and books like THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND.
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am 22. Juni 2000
Somehow, I managed to get through high school and college without ever seriously reading any of the great Western philosophers. The Consolations of Philosophy is an excellent introduction and quick (I mean,QUICK) overview of six of these men. The deadwhitemales discussed are Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. The discussion is lively and thought-provoking--and amusingly illustrated. This book would serve as an excellent secondary text for an introduction to philosophy course. Even the most jaded undergraduate will want to learn more about the teachings of the philosophers covered. I found the chapters on Seneca ("Consolation for Frustration"), Montaigne ("Consolation for Inadequacy"), and Nietzsche ("Consolation for Difficulties") the most engaging and challenging. De Botton's writing and thinking are fresh and remind me, for some reason, of the cultural essays of Susan Bordo (and Camille Paglia in her more reasonable moments).
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am 29. Juli 2000
Don't confuse a light-handed approach with lack of substance. The author is obviously knowledgable about the philosophers whose thought he deals with in this book. Rather than a Victorian-style heavy meal, he prepares a 'nouvelle cuisine' dish full of subtle flavor. And the book really is useful as a self-help volume..when a friend recently remarked that I seemed to be adapting well to our newly-appointed boss's directives, I replied based on deBotton's chapter on Seneca: "A dog can either run behind the cart, or be dragged along, either way, he's going where the cart goes... and I intend to run, not get dragged." My only quibble is that there is no mention of the exalted philosopher Boethius, from whose work the title and the concept (philosophy as healing) are derived. I would have sincerely loved a chapter discussing Boethius, for example his notion of predestination v. free will. Maybe next time... but I still love this book!
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