Alain de Botton & Philosophy as a Guide to Happiness

.In 2001 "Philosophy: a Guide to Happiness"  brightened up the Sunday evenings in the UK discussing Seneca, Epicurus, Schopenhauer, Socrates, Nietzsche and Montaigne.  The associated book The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton is published by Hamish Hamilton (2000) at   This unofficial site - which has no connection with Alain de Botton or the TV programme – was written at the time to provide additional resources for the viewer. The programme also spawned a lively discussion  about the programme which is still going strong, and sometimes even discusses Alain de Botton or the philosophers mentioned in the programme …  At the time of writing (November 2006) the group has over 560 members.

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Programme 1 Seneca on Anger

(c4 B.C.-A.D.65), Roman philosopher and writer

Seneca quotes

"Ignorance is the cause of fear"

"Nature does not at once disclose all Her mysteries."

"Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness "

"We learn by teaching"

"To err is human"

More Seneca quotes

Links to Seneca material on www

Writings about Seneca

Seneca - a thinker for our times  Informative article by N.S. Gill with more links

Seneca's Ethics

Notes on Seneca and later Stoicism

Original writings (in translation)

Gleanings from the writings of Seneca - on Friendship, Moderation, the happy life and more

Seneca's Letters of Consolation

Seneca, On Tranquillity of Mind 9.4f

Seneca to his mother. Corsica, A.D. 41/9. (Seneca, On Consolation 16. L)

The Stoic Registry - for modern stoics who wish to  study and practice stoicism and International Stoic Forum, an online community devoted to discussions of Stoic thought and practice, which may be found at the Onelist site:

Recommended reading on Seneca and Stoicism

Annas, Julia E. 1992. Hellenistic Philosophy of Mind. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Cottingham,J  1998 Philosophy and the Good Life Cambridge University Press

Hadot,P 1995 Philosophy as a Way of Life Blackwell

Long, A. A. and D. N. Sedley. 1987. The Hellenistic philosophers. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nussbaum, Martha C. 1994. The Therapy of Desire. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Sandbach, F. H. 1989. The Stoics. 2d ed. London: Gerald Duckworth.

Seneca  Letters Penguin

Sharples, R. W. 1996. Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics. London: Routledge.

Striker, Gisela. 1991. Following nature: a study in Stoic ethics. In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy. Vol. 9, 1-73. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Programme 2 Schopenhauer on love and rejection

Primary sources

On the sufferings of the world

On Suicide

Metaphysics of the love of the sexes

The World as Will and Representation (excerpt)

Exerpts from Parerga and Paralipomena, Selected Essays. (1851)

Secondary sources

G.J.Mattey's general lecture notes on Schopenhauer and his ethics and metaphysics

Essay on connection between Schopenhauer and Freud by Christopher Young & Andrew Brook

Nietzsche's evaluation of Schopenhauer by David Conway

From the Island of Freedom

Essay by Kelley Ross

Brief biographical details

Erratic impact  on Schopenhauer


                                                     Programme 3 Epicurus on Friendship

Quote from Epicurus (341-271 B.C)

Letter to Idomeneus (written on death-bed)

On this blissful day, which is also the last of my life, I write this to you. My continual sufferings from strangury and dysentery are so great that nothing could increase them; but I set above them all the gladness of mind at the memory of our past conversations. But I would have you, as becomes your lifelong attitude to me and to philosophy, watch over the children of Metrodorus.

Primary sources

Fragments from the Philosophy Garden

The Epicurus & Epicurean Philosophy site has been hosted by Vincent Cook contains links to Diogenes Laertius's source material on Epicurus and Last Will

Letter to Menoeceus  & Principal Doctrines on Intenet Classics Archives

Secondary sources

Lucretius's On The Nature of Things - main source for Epicurean ideas

Critical article in The Catholic Encyclopedia

Recommended Reading

Epicurus. The Epicurus Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia. Trans. Lloyd P. Gerson and Brad Inwood.

Review of above book

B.Russell The History of Western Philosophy

See also references for Nussbaum and Hadot under Seneca & Stoicism - they also have material on Epicurus.

Programme 4 Montaigne (1533-1592)


"I want death to find me planting my cabbage "

"My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened. "

"I have never seen a greater monster...or miracle than myself."  

"When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books, They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind."

"Philosophy is doubt".

There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.

More quotes here

Primary sources

21 Selected Essays (full text in English) also here

On Cannibals (with some commentary)

Secondary sources

Journal of Montagne studies

Bill Uzgalis's site

Lecture notes on Montaigne and scepticism

Programme 5 Socrates (469B.C-399 B.C)


"The unexamined life is not worth living" (Apology)

"The wisest is he who realises, like Socrates, that in respect of wisdom he is worthless" (Apology)

(last words) "Crito, we ought to offer a cock to Asclepius. See to it, and don't forget" (Phaedo)

Primary sources (strictly speaking, there are none, since Socrates wrote nothing- however the received view is that Plato's earlier and middle dialogues are as close to the historical Socrates as we are likely to get). Here is a small selection - See  for full texts of other dialogues of Plato (and much more)






Secondary sources

Richard Hooker's  Greek Philosophy site

Reich, Rob. Confusion about the Socratic Method: Socratic Paradoxes and Contemporary Invocations of Socrates. The Philosophy of Education Yearbooks.

Betty Sichel's response to Reich's essay  Your Socrates, My Socrates, Everyone has a Socrates

Tim LeBon's paper Socrates and Philosophical Counselling

Programme 6 Nietzsche (1844-1900)


"God is dead" (The Gay Science)

"There are no facts, only interpretations" (Nachlass)

"Whoever despises himself still respects himself as one who despises" (Beyond Good and Evil)

"I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star" (Thus Spoke Tharathrusta)

".. live dangerously ...Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius !" (written 3 years after it exploded)

."What are man's truths ultimately ? Merely his irrefutable errors" (The Gay Science)

More Nietzsche quotes and an aphorism a day

Primary sources

Thus Spake Zarathrustra

The Pirate Nietzsche site contains English translations of many of Nietzsche's works including

Beyond Good and Evil

The Gay Science

Secondary sources

Douglas Thomas's Nietzsche pages

Journal of Nietzsche Studies (from Friedrich Nietzsche Society)

Study Guide for Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Links to other pages on Alain de Botton's philosophical writing & television

Reviews of Philosophy: a Guide to Happines

The Observer review

Reviews of Consolations of Philosophy

The Sunday Times


The Observer

The Guardian

New Statesman



A good idea from .. Raphael (from Independent on Sunday)


Practical Philosophy links

Alain de Botton's site - Alain's own site

Philosophical Counselling  - putting philosophy to use

Wise Decision-making  including ethical decision-making

Practical Philosophy - journal devoted to philosophy in practice

Society for Philosophy in Practice (SPP) - professional UK-based association


Alain's Other Books

all available from

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