The Consolations of Philosophy - Alain de Botton


Half the fear of failure is of the judgement of false friends we feel compelled to impress but don’t even like” – Alain de Botton

World Philosophy Day today seems like an ideal time to re-visit one of the leading philosophers of today, himself an acolyte of embracing failure, Alain de Botton. His recent book is itself “The Consolations of Philosophy” a treatise on the broad expanse of failure in the human condition and how to embrace it. With each domain, he selects a philosopher from the ages whose own work exemplified…

  • UnpopularitySocrates: “The validity of an idea or action is determined not by whether it is widely believed or widely reviled but by whether it obeys the rules of logic.”
  • Not Having Enough MoneyEpicurus – “If we have money without friends, freedom or an analysed life, we will never be truly happy. And if we have them, but are missing the fortune, we will never be unhappy.”
  • FrustrationSeneca: “Because we are injured most by what we do not expect, and because we must expect everything, we must hold the possibility of disaster in mind at all timesFortune gives us nothing which we can really own.”
  • InadequacyMontaigne: “To learn that we have said or done a stupid thing is nothing, we must learn a more ample and important lesson: that we are but blockheads.”
  • Broken HeartSchopenhauer: “Deceptive images of a vague happiness of our dreams hover before us in capriciously selected shapes and we search in vain for their original.”
  • DifficultyNietzsche: “We must learn to suffer whatever we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of discords as well as of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only some of them, what could he sing?”