Ideas from the book The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton.

  1. 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.
  2. A statement is true if it cannot be disproved.
  3. The Socratic Method:
    1. Locate a statement confidently described as common sense.
    2. Imagine for a moment that, despite the confidence of the person proposing it, the statement is false.
    3. Search for situations or contexts where the statement would not be true.
    4. If an exception is found, the definition must be false or at least imprecise.
    5. The initial statement must be nuanced to take the exception into account.
  4. It is by finding out what something is not that one comes closest to understanding what it is.
  5. We acquire a misplaced respect for others when we concentrate solely on their conclusions – which is why Socrates urged us to dwell on the logic they used to reach them.
  6. The value of criticism will depend on the thought processes of critics, not on their number or rank.
  7. We are making vases, we should listen to the advice of those who know about turning glaze into Fe3O4 at 800 ° C; when we are making a ship, it is the verdict of those who construct triremes that should worry us.
  8. We should not look to Socrates for advice on escaping a death sentence; we should look to him as an extreme example of how to maintain confidence in an intelligent position which has met with illogical opposition.
  9. Just as medicine confers no benefit if it does not drive away physical illness, so philosophy is useless if it does not drive away the suffering of the mind.
  10. Before you eat or drink anything, consider carefully who you eat or drink with rather than what you eat or drink: for feeding without a friend is the life of a lion or a wolf.
  11. Nothing satisfies the man who is not satisfied with a little.
  12. Could one possess the desired object but not be happy? Could one be happy but not have the desired object?
  13. We aren’t overwhelmed by anger whenever we are denied an object we desire, only when we believe ourselves entitled to obtain it.
  14. No, he who has said ‘a day’ has granted too long a postponement to swift misfortune; an hour, an instant of time, suffices for the overthrow of empires.
  15. We need metaphors to derive a sense of what cannot be seen or touched, or else we will forget.
  16. The wise man can lose nothing. He has everything invested in himself. The wise man is self-sufficient. If he loses a hand through disease or war, or if some accident puts out one or both of his eyes, he will be satisfied with what is left.
  17. To calm us down in noisy streets, we should trust that those making a noise know nothing of us.
  18. 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.
  19. We are like dogs who have been tied to an unpredictable cart.
  20. 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
  21. That which you cannot reform, it is best to endure.

Upon the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses

  1. Every man may bear the whole form of the human condition, but it seems that no single country can tolerate the complexity of this condition.
  2. Friendship is a minor conspiracy against what other people think of as reasonable.

I have seen in my time hundreds of craftsmen and ploughmen wiser and happier than university rectors.

  1. What reads easily is rarely so written.
  2. The prudent man strives for freedom from pain, not pleasure.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
How can anyone become a thinker if he does not spend at least a third of the day without passions, people and books?
  1. Not everything which makes us feel better is good for us. Not everything which hurts may be bad.