Monday, June 04, 2007

Alain de Botton

It is always a pleasure discovering a new author. I discovered Alain de Botton through his Architecture of happiness - an amazingly insightful book an why we build what we build. It changed the way I look at buildings forever.

My library had another of his books, and it is even more readable - The consolation of philosophy. I've always wanted to read philosophy but was never able to appreciate the serious philosophers. After numerous attempts I gave up on Will Durant's History of Philosophy. ( Bertrand Russell was an exception - lucid, logical and a delight to read). Alain de Botton is even more readable.

I've been long puzzled by the fact that wealth does not make people happier, though that's the general assumption driving the economy. Alain talks about it and quotes Epicurious - the Pleasure philosopher - one of the rare breed who spent his life in philosophising about what gives us happiness.

Alain argues most of us are incapable of understanding what makes us happy - We've been so conditioned by parents, peers, society that we are led to believe a bigger car / house / promotion/ fame / Power etc etc would give us happiness. Time after time, it has been shown they do not - but that does not stop us from trying.

Epicurious lists what really makes us happy - Friends, Freedom , Thought ( about the main sources of anxiety ), . Of course, basic food, shelter and clothes are essential, but after they are provided for, any increase in wealth does not translate to an increase in happiness ( Martin Seligman's survey, reconfirms what Epicurious said 2000 years ago).


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