The Consolations of Philosophy Applies To Our Reality

Image of Death of Socrates painting in The Consolations of Philosophy blog

One thing’s for sure – if you love philosophy, you have a slew of philosophers to choose from when you’re trying to understand how life works, or how it’s supposed to work! The title of this book written by Alain de Botton is a reference to the book The Consolation of Philosophy by the philosopher Boethius, a Roman statesman who wrote the book in the year 524. 

In his book, Boethius shows philosophy as an allegorical figure who helps him while he’s in prison and about to be put to death. In de Botton’s book, he quotes and interprets numerous philosophers to help people through various life situations. 

Image of The Consolations of Philosophy n the post the consolations of philosophy applies to our reality

Problems Happen to Everyone

If you’ve never before considered using philosophy to get you through a challenge in life, now is the time to consider doing just that. Everyone has problems and stressors in their life, and de Botton’s book attempts to help people through some of life’s most common problems by using quotes from philosophers that provide practical advice and assistance for many of these problems, including:

  • Being broke
  • Difficulties
  • Frustration
  • Having a broken heart
  • Inadequacy
  • Unpopularity

Who does de Botton quote in his book? Some names you’ll recognize include Socrates, Nietzsche, Epicurus, and Schopenhauer, to name a few. But this isn’t just a book filled with quotes by well-known philosophers. It is also a book that brings many popular philosophies to new light, in part because he gives them the charm and freshness you simply don’t get from other authors of philosophy-related tomes.

Image of Epicurus n the post the consolations of philosophy applies to our reality
Epicurus provides wise advice on what wealth and abundance really are

Written lightheartedly and with some humor as well, even people who got bored in their college philosophy classes will get a lot out of de Botton’s book. It is just so well-written that you’ll learn something from it whether you want to or not. In fact, you’ll likely go back to it again in the future because it is such an informational and fun book to keep in your collection.

What Others Think of the Book

Just a few of the publications that have heaped praise on this book include The New York Review of Books, The Spectator, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Literary Review, The Irish Times, and The Mail on Sunday, among others. 

What do I like best about The Consolations of Philosophy? The thoughts expressed by the author are succinct enough so that they don’t drag on, yet include enough detail for the reader to get a lot out of them, regardless of which problem area you’re currently dealing with. In short, the writing is simple, but you can tell the writer’s mind is not.

Image of the Death of Seneca n the post the consolations of philosophy applies to our reality
Seneca, sentenced to death by Nero, was stoic to the end. Death of Seneca by Manuel Domínguez Sánchez, 1871.

In fact, my decision to get a BA in Philosophy from the University of London was partly shaped by this book – that’s how good it is. You’ll learn from this book whether you want to or not, and whether you’re trying to attain happiness, love, self-esteem, or self-confidence, the quotes from philosophers expressed in this book will go a long way to helping you improve your lot in life simply by changing some of your thought processes. 

From hardship to anger and a slew of other up-and-down emotions, this book will get you through some tough times, and it does so in a way that simply makes you feel good about yourself once you finish reading it.

Image of Nietzsche n the post the consolations of philosophy applies to our reality
Nietzsche was no stranger to struggle and provides useful advice on how to deal with difficulty.

Useful and Entertaining

Even if you aren’t looking for answers to a specific problem, this book can help you increase your self-confidence and just feel better about yourself. I believe it helps people feel more control over their lives, in part because it applies proven strategies of long ago to current problems that all of us will experience at one time or another. It is an interesting and entertaining read that is filled with useful information that you’ll likely use more than once in your life.

The Consolations of Philosophy takes old principles and applies them to new situations, and lo and behold – they work! They are practical solutions to real everyday problems, and de Botton writes so well that even if you’ve never taken a philosophy course in your life, you’ll instantly understand what he’s trying to say. You’ll also respond to what he’s saying and learn how to apply his suggestions to your everyday life, and this is perhaps the book’s biggest benefit of all.

Best of all, the book is available in numerous bookstores, both online and off, and it is available in an audible addition as well. De Botton also does a set of YouTube video which explore the philosophers in his book. Watch it below.

Can one simple book change your life? Maybe not all of them can, but this one certainly has the potential to do just that. It may not make you want to enroll in college and get a degree in philosophy, but it will certainly influence you and become an integral part of your personality, not to mention a way to feel better about yourself as you head into the future.

De Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy applies to our reality and will definitely expand your perspective on life. It might even, like it did for me, encourage you to read more philosophy which will further assist you in understanding and combating so many of life’s problems. 

Image of Socrates in the post the consolations of philosophy applies to our reality
The 1st principle in philosophy. The chapter on Unpopularity revolves around Socrates' life.
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As a huge fan of de Botton and philosophy in general, I’ve got the paperback and the audio book and recommend them both. It all depends on what type of learner you are.

*Please note that I receive a small compensation if you use my links, but it will not increase your purchase price. If you use my links, I truly appreciate it 😉

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8 thoughts on “The Consolations of Philosophy Applies To Our Reality”

  1. Thank you for the review of this  great sounding book. My dad was really into Philosophy and I remember him reading various books on Philosophy when he was practicing meditation, the philosophy aspect helped him with his own everyday stresses and in his quest for peace through meditation.

    I think there is something for all of us who have an open mind in the words of old, and not so old, philosophy. I guess the real key is turning the words that ring true to your situation or your quest for answers into actual change or action.

    Thanks again, very interesting.


    1. I admire your dad’s quest, Mike, and I would say that I am on a similar one albeit still at the early stages since philosophy is a massive subject to get through. Alain de Botton has guided my pretty well and I will review more of his books in the future. 

  2. Gosh, I love your site and its content. I also love this post and need to read this book. I enjoy De Botton’s writing style and approach to philosophy. I couldn’t access the video from here in the UK unfortunately but I’ll be looking the book up on audible. Do you have a link to the audible handy?

  3. Hi Murray!

    I was elated to see a philosophy post to read here, as I am into philosophy myself!

    I have never read this book before but it does sound like something I might like to pick up and read.  

    I think philosophy, or at least how to THINK philosophically about life and the things we have to go through here is quite important.  

    In fact, isn’t this why it’s not uncommon for many who go through law school to also be philosophy majors???

    Critical thinking and thinking OUTSIDE the box is in my opinion the #1 trait to be armed with in this world, ESPECIALLY in the day and age we are in.

    I mean people talk about fake news all the time in our mainstream lives and there IS a lot of fake news going around, but then people start to ask themselves how they can know for sure what’s true and what’s not!

    I believe this is where critical thinking is so important, and learning more about philosophy and how to THINK philosophically is a great way to do that. 

    Thanks for the recommendation Murray!


    1. Thanks for your insights, Justin. Personally I think we should all study philosophy, not just to develop the critical thinking skills that come with, but also just to know and understand the history and evolution of thought. Basically, to see where we’ve come from and how we got here. 

      Check out 7 Great Books To Get You Going With Philosophy for more book ideas.

  4. Your article is deeply thoughtful.  In college and grad school I had a few philosophy classes and I certainly enjoyed learning and discussing.  My wife has a Masters Degree in Philosophy.  I watched and enjoyed the video.  I got a chuckle out of him making the point that Socrates was the ugliest philosopher.

    At the end of the video I thought it was ironic that Socrates, the Philosopher of Philosophers was killed for his influencing young people and having differing philosophies than what was more generally held to at that time.  

    I remember many years ago enjoying reading some of the works of Thomas Aquinas.  He was an incredibly deep thinker.  I think part of what drew me to some of his writings was his pursuit of truth.

    Thanks for writing such a thoughtful article to inspire your readers to think deeply.

    1. Thanks for your very insightful comment, Glenn. Socrates was no adonis that’s for sure, but his mind sure made up for that. And his end was very sad and courageous and yes, steeped in irony too. I don’t think we would be talking about him now if he wasn’t given the opportunity of dying for his philosophy.

      I haven’t read much Aquinas, but I am curious now that you mention him. 

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