Alain de Botton is a writer and philosopher, with a side gig of being my new obsession. Before discovering him, I didn’t think much of philosophy. In fact, I sometimes ridiculed it, all the while not understanding it. His lectures helped me find a lot of answers and explanations for my own life but they also turned me on to philosophy.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite quotes from his recorded lectures. I hope they inspire you to take a deeper look into yourself, as they did me, and that you will watch at least a few of Alain de Botton’s videos. They really are worth it. In his lectures, Alain de Botton often cites some of the greatest thinkers of our world. I’ve included some of those quotes as well.
I hope that the irony of his words will translate outside of the lectures’ context.
Enjoy and perhaps even consider how the following applies to you:
“What Monet did with asparagus we need to do with our partner. Look at them as if we’ve never seen them before.”
“When we fall in love, one of the things I think we want to do is touch other people’s sadness.”
“The only people we can think of as normal, are people we’ve just met. Once we’ve met them a little bit more, we’d realize that they are not normal.”
“When trying to analyze what turns us on, ask what’s missing in us. The person who turns us on, is going to contain, within them, all sorts of psychological traits that we are attracted to but slightly short of.”
„We are not merely on a quest to be happy. We are on a quest to suffer in ways that feel familiar, and this radically undermines our capacity to find a good partner.”
“I know some people who are very happily married and I know some people who really enjoy their jobs. But they are a real minority. I would estimate around 5% of people I’ve ever come across are in that lucky band. So, it’s very odd that the other 95% of us, have before us an idea of normality, which has failed 95% of us. It’s a very bizarre philosophy of life that we should be holding up as normal something that is beautifully rare.”
“We expect a true lover can understand what we think and who we are without us speaking. This is a catastrophe for our capacity to form lasting relationships. If you do not explain, you cannot be understood.”
„Will any man despise me, let him see to it but I will see to it that I may not be found doing or saying anything, which deserves to be despised.“ – Mark Aurelius
„What is a sulk? A sulk is a feeling of hurt, a wound that another person has given you, that you are not going to explain to them for the simple reason that they are supposed to love you. And if they love, they are should know. So, of course you could explain but if you did explain that would be proof they didn’t love you.“
„It’s in moments of darkness that we have our best insights into what we need in life“ – Alain de Botton, paraphrasing Nietzsche
“Ultimately love is not just something that you feel. It’s a skill that needs to be learned.”
„For the ancient Greeks, the whole notion of love is that it should be a process of mutual education in which two people, under the auspices of love, undertake to educate one another, to become better versions of themselves. And they do this not to be cruel, not to bring each other down, but because they have the sincerest, best interest of the other in their heart. “
“What matters is not what we seem to the world but what, in fact, we truly are.” – Schopenhauer
“The two pillars of our satisfaction are work and love” – Freud. “We live that philosophy. Which is incidentally why it’s very hard to find a human being these days, in our society, who isn’t suffering from a crisis of love or work, or perhaps, unfortunately, both.” – Alain de Botton, on Freud
“Optimism is what makes us angry” Alain de Botton, paraphrasing Seneca
“If you refuse to let your own suffering lie upon you even for an hour and if you constantly try to prevent and forestall all possible distress way ahead of time; if you experience suffering and displeasure as evil, hateful, worthy of annihilation, and as a defect of existence, then it is clear that you harbor in your heart the religion of comfortableness. How little you know of human happiness, you comfortable people, for happiness and unhappiness are sisters and even twins that either grow up together or, as in your case, remain small together.” – Nietzsche
„We owe enormous gratitude to anyone who would put up with us, for even a day. We’re tricky. All of us are tricky.“
“Leonardo da Vinci’s work stands for the quintessential emblem of curiosity. Of what it takes for somebody to just go and find stuff out rather than imagine it. Whereas we, almost all of us, do otherwise. So, he’s a hero in this story. That’s part of the story of love. The failure of curiosity and the desperate need to remain curious of those who do us the favor of being with us.”
“One of the great errors that human beings make is permanently to feel that other people know what’s in our minds without us having said what’s in our minds”
You can find Alain de Botton’s videos on Youtube. Please share some of your thoughts on him and his views, in the comments below