A self-help tutorial which applies the teachings of philosophers to dealing with life’s everyday problems. This six part series on philosophy is presented by popular British philosopher Alain de Botton, featuring six thinkers who have influenced history, and their ideas about the pursuit of the happy life.
In Ancient Greece or Rome, philosophers were seen as natural authorities on the most pressing questions. However, since then, the idea of finding wisdom from philosophy has come to seem bizarre. Enter a university department today and ask to study wisdom, and you will politely but firmly be shown the door. The Consolations of Philosophy sets out to refute the notion that good philosophy must be irrelevant and gathers together six great philosophers who were convinced of the power of philosophical insight to work a practical effect on our s.
Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche are read for the light their work can shine on certain great universal problems, among them, unpopularity, poverty, inadequacy, lovelessness and timidity. The book amounts to a guide to wisdom – as well as to the practical utility of philosophy.
Episode 1: Socrates on Self-Confidence – Why do so many people go along with the crowd and fail to stand up for what they truly believe? Partly because they are too easily swayed by other people’s opinions and partly because they don’t know when to have confidence in their own.
Episode 2: Epicurus on Happiness – discusses the personal implications of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270BCE) who was no epicurean glutton or wanton consumerist,but an advocate of “friends, freedom and thought” as the path to happiness.
Episode 3: Seneca on Anger – Roman philosopher Lucious Annaeus Seneca (4BCE-65CE), the most famous and popular philosopher of his day, took the subject of anger seriously enough to dedicate a whole book to the subject. Seneca refused to see anger as an irrational outburst over which we have no control. Instead he saw it as a philosophical problem and amenable to treatment by philosophical argument. He thought anger arose from certain rationally held ideas about the world, and the problem with these ideas is that they are far too optimistic. Certain things are a predictable feature of life, and to get angry about them is to have unrealistic expectations.
Episode 4: Montaigne on Self-Esteem looks at the problem of self-esteem from the perspective of Michel de Montaigne (16th Century), the French philosopher who singled out three main reasons for feeling bad about oneself – sexual inadequecy, failure to live up to social norms, and intellectual inferiority – and then offered practical solutions for overcoming them.
Episode 5: Schopenhauer on Love – surveys the 19th Century German thinker Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) who believed that love was the most important thing in life because of its powerful impulse towards ‘the will-to-life’.
Episode 6: Nietzsche on Hardship – explores Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844-1900) dictum that any worthwhile achievements in life come from the experience of overcoming hardship. For him, any existence that is too comfortable is worthless, as are the twin refuges of drink or religion.
Alain de Botton (born 20 December 1969, Zürich) is a Swiss writer, television presenter and entrepreneur. His books and television programmes discuss various subjects in a philosophical style with an emphasis on their relevance to everyday life. In August 2008, he was a founding member of a new educational establishment in central London called The School of Life. In May 2009, he was a founding member of a new architectural organisation called Living Architecture