Alain de Botton Quotes

 

The thing is that love gives us a ringside seat on somebody else’s flaws, so of course you’re gonna spot some things that kinda need to be mentioned. But often the romantic view is to say, ‘If you loved me, you wouldn’t criticise me.’ Actually, true love is often about trying to teach someone how to be the best version of themselves.

On paper, being good sounds great but a lot depends on the atmosphere of the workplace or community we live in. We tend to become good or bad depending on the cues sent out within a particular space.

— Alain de Botton

What is fascinating about marriage is why anyone wants to get married.

— Alain de Botton

A city like London is sociable in a sense that there are people gathering in bars and restaurants, concerts and lectures. Yet you can partake of all these experiences and never say hello to anyone new. And one of the things that all religions do is take groups of strangers into a space and say it is OK to talk to each other.

— Alain de Botton

The thing is that love gives us a ringside seat on somebody else’s flaws, so of course you’re gonna spot some things that kinda need to be mentioned. But often the romantic view is to say, ‘If you loved me, you wouldn’t criticise me.’ Actually, true love is often about trying to teach someone how to be the best version of themselves.

— Alain de Botton

I learnt to stop fantasising about the perfect job or the perfect relationship because that can actually be an excuse for not living.

— Alain de Botton

It’s almost a blessing when we meet people who naturally want to do the sort of things that are in high demand in society. What a gift to do that, as opposed to other people who would say, ‘I want to be a novelist but actually I have to be an accountant.’

— Alain de Botton

The philosophy I love is very selective. It is really just the bit that is involved in a search for wisdom, and this means a short roll call of names; Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epicurus, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche.

— Alain de Botton

I am conscious of trying to stretch the boundaries of non-fiction writing. It’s always surprised me how little attention many non-fiction writers pay to the formal aspects of their work.

— Alain de Botton

The Arab-Israeli conflict is also in many ways a conflict about status: it’s a war between two peoples who feel deeply humiliated by the other, who want the other to respect them. Battles over status can be even more intractable than those over land or water or oil.

— Alain de Botton

My greatest joy comes from creativity: from feeling that I have been able to identify a certain aspect of human nature and crystallise a phenomenon in words.

— Alain de Botton

The arrogance that says analysing the relationship between reasons and causes is more important than writing a philosophy of shyness or sadness or friendship drives me nuts. I can’t accept that.

— Alain de Botton

As an atheist, I think there are lots of things religions get up to which are of value to non-believers – and one of those things is trying to be a bit better than we normally manage to be.

— Alain de Botton

What bothers me is that there is so much emphasis on food, rather than gathering and meeting – so that there is all this effort in creating the right food, whereas the food is only a small part of whether the encounter is successful or not.

— Alain de Botton

I passionately believe that’s it’s not just what you say that counts, it’s also how you say it – that the success of your argument critically depends on your manner of presenting it.

— Alain de Botton

Pick up any newspaper or magazine, open the TV, and you’ll be bombarded with suggestions of how to have a successful life. Some of these suggestions are deeply unhelpful to our own projects and priorities – and we should take care.

— Alain de Botton

Status anxiety definitely exists at a political level. Many Iraqis were annoyed with the US essentially for reasons of status: for not showing them respect, for humiliating them.

— Alain de Botton

We are certainly influenced by role models, and if we are surrounded by images of beautiful rich people, we will start to think that to be beautiful and rich is very important – just as in the Middle Ages, people were surrounded by images of religious piety.

— Alain de Botton

We may seek a fortune for no greater reason than to secure the respect and attention of people who would otherwise look straight through us.

— Alain de Botton

I assemble my ideas in pieces on a computer file, then gradually find a place for them on a piece of scaffolding I erect.

— Alain de Botton

I am always anxious.

— Alain de Botton

I think people want to get married to end their emotional uncertainty. In a way, they want to end powerful feelings, or certainly the negative ones.

— Alain de Botton

It’s very hard to respect people on holiday – everybody looks so silly at the beach, it makes you hate humanity – but when you see people at their work they elicit respect, whether it’s a mechanic, a stonemason or an accountant.

— Alain de Botton

There are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.

— Alain de Botton

As for despair, it comes about when I have been a fool and hate myself and despair of my personality. I am prone to gloom, but not depression as such.

— Alain de Botton

Le Corbusier is an outstanding writer. His ideas achieved their impact in large measure because he could write so convincingly. His style is utterly clear, brusque, funny and polemical in the best way.

— Alain de Botton

I was uncomfortable writing fiction. My love was the personal essay, rather than the novel.

— Alain de Botton

I was foreign and Jewish, with a funny name, and was very small and hated sport, a real problem at an English prep school. So the way to get round it was to become the school joker, which I did quite effectively – I was always fooling around to make the people who would otherwise dump me in the loo laugh.

— Alain de Botton

I feel that the great challenge of our time is the communication of ideas.

— Alain de Botton

I’m also interested in the modern suggestion that you can have a combination of love and sex in a marriage – which no previous society has ever believed.

— Alain de Botton

It’s clear to me that there is no good reason for many philosophy books to sound as complicated as they do.

— Alain de Botton

Kant and Hegel are interesting thinkers. But I am happy to insist that they are also terrible writers.

— Alain de Botton

I am not a foodie, thank goodness. I will eat pretty much anything. A lot of my friends are getting incredibly fussy about food and I see it as a bit of an affliction.

— Alain de Botton

Work is a way of bringing order to chaos, and there’s a basic satisfaction in seeing that we are able to make something a little more coherent by the end of the day.

— Alain de Botton

I love the idea of a university as away from capitalist values, where people can do things that don’t immediately have to pay their way. It’s like a monastery in a way, and that beautiful refuge has been destroyed by dogma about what this stuff is for.

— Alain de Botton

I waste most of the day, then finally start to write around 3 P.M., totally disgusted with myself for my wasteful nature.

— Alain de Botton

I’ve had my successes and failures. I know many academics in my field loathe me. I’ve come to loathe them back, as it seems only polite to do so. But at heart it’s absurd; we should band together against the big common enemies.

— Alain de Botton

In Britain, because I live here, I can also run into problems of envy and competition. But all this is just in a day’s work for a writer. You can’t put stuff out there without someone calling you a complete fool. Oh, well.

— Alain de Botton

All tours are filled with humiliation. My publisher once hired a private jet to fly me to a venue where 1,000 people were waiting. It almost bankrupted him.

— Alain de Botton

Never, ever become a writer. It’s a nightmare.

— Alain de Botton

My writing always came out of a very personal place, out of an attempt to stay sane.

— Alain de Botton

I went to church and couldn’t swallow it. The music was nice but I don’t belong there.

— Alain de Botton

When work is not going well, it’s useful to remember that our identities stretch beyond what is on the business card, that we were people long before we became workers – and will continue to be human once we have put our tools down forever.

— Alain de Botton

Many moments in religion seem attractive to me even though I can’t believe in any of it.

— Alain de Botton

When I see someone like Richard Dawkins, I see my father. I grew up with that. I’m basically the child of Richard Dawkins.

— Alain de Botton

Social media has lots of benefits, but compared to Christianity, it tends to group people by interests. Religion puts you with people who have nothing in common except that you’re human.

— Alain de Botton

I know a lot about writing, but I don’t know much about how other industries work. I’ve tried to use my naivety to my advantage.

— Alain de Botton

I keep a picture of my beloved children close by. Also, water and plenty of pads and pens.

— Alain de Botton

I always feel that I am writing for somebody who is bright but impatient. Someone who doesn’t have unlimited time. That is my sense of the reader. So I have got to get to the point.

— Alain de Botton

My father paid for my education; then he made it clear that I was on my own.

— Alain de Botton

Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books that were written because authors couldn’t find anyone to talk to.

— Alain de Botton

Virtue is its own reward. We only invented concepts like heaven and hell to describe how we feel. We don’t feel good doing bad and it’s nice to help someone.

— Alain de Botton

There are people who say, ‘Oh this guy is quite thick.’ I think the reason is that, increasingly, I don’t mind being simple in terms of literary expression. Others say, ‘No, no, no. He went to Cambridge. He got a good degree. He must be Einstein.’

— Alain de Botton

When I’m writing, I write all day. Other days, I sit around thinking. Or I run around from one meeting to another, out in the world. It varies, and I like that.

— Alain de Botton

I was a very un-literary child, which might reassure parents with kids who don’t read.

— Alain de Botton

There is militaristic-hegemonic-plutocratic side of the U.S. which is getting out of hand and threatens to corrupt the whole republic. I remain a deeply concerned, committed admirer, but also a very worried one.

— Alain de Botton

Atheism is having a heyday in the born-again United States.

— Alain de Botton

There may be significant things to learn about people by looking at what annoys them most.

— Alain de Botton

I am a very aesthetic person.

— Alain de Botton

I think I have grown impatient with just being a writer.

— Alain de Botton

I like working with people. I believe change can only come through collaboration.

— Alain de Botton

Learning to give up on perfection may be just about the most romantic move any of us could make.

— Alain de Botton

We don’t sulk with everybody. We limit our sulks to a very particular person: the person who’s supposed to love us and understand us. And we make this equation that if you love me, you’re supposed to understand me even if I don’t explain what’s wrong.

— Alain de Botton

Laughter is an important part of a good relationship. It’s an immense achievement when you can move from your thinking that your partner is merely an idiot to thinking that they are that wonderfully complex thing called a loveable idiot. And often that means having a little bit of a sense of humour about their flaws.

— Alain de Botton

When a restaurant is too popular, it starts to harm the reason you are there.

— Alain de Botton

I remember going to university, and the people who’d left home for the first time looked at the food and were horrified. Whereas, my view was that if it was vaguely edible, then it’s fine.

— Alain de Botton

There’s a certain kind of insular, old-fashioned, upper-class Britishness that gives me the spooks. I am sure that comes from a boarding-school trauma.

— Alain de Botton

Love is something that we need to learn.

— Alain de Botton

Many of our ideas of what love is comes from stories… these are extremely powerful shapers of our attitudes towards love, and I think that, in some ways, often we’ve got the wrong story.

— Alain de Botton

Among adults, we can admit that of course, characters are creations. They aren’t real people.

— Alain de Botton

I think a certain degree of pessimism is actually helpful to love.

— Alain de Botton

There’s a constant tension between the excitement of new people and security with one person. If you go with excitement, you create chaos; you hurt people. There’s jealousy, and it gets very messy. If you have security, it can be boring, and you die inside because of all the opportunities missed.

— Alain de Botton

I think of myself as quite a shy person. But when I’m curious about something, I’ll go quite far to satisfy my curiosity.

— Alain de Botton

I was an incredibly lonely, very alienated teenager.

— Alain de Botton

I like the values associated with a medical family – common sense, being practical but also thoughtful.

— Alain de Botton

A gray V-neck pullover from Gap. I have 30 of them.

— Alain de Botton

My office. It’s drab and boring but quiet.

— Alain de Botton

The best cure for one’s bad tendencies is to see them fully developed in someone else.

— Alain de Botton

I think it is very possible that my deeper character is not very English.

— Alain de Botton

Sometimes my biography is interpreted as the upbringing of a French aristocrat. It was very, very different. We were a family of mercantile, immigrant Jews.

— Alain de Botton

I was told by my father nine times a day that you were going to get a job the minute you finish your studies.

— Alain de Botton

Advertising is – quite often – alive to our real needs. It’s just the products on offer might not be the things that will help us satisfy them.

— Alain de Botton

The solution as consumers is – perhaps surprisingly – to take adverts very, very seriously. We should ask ourselves what it is that we find lovely in them – the visions of friendship, togetherness, repose, or whatever. And then consider what would actually help us find these qualities in our lives.

— Alain de Botton

Therapy and counseling can do wonderful things for people. But they have emerged so far as what are sometimes called ‘cottage industries’ – that is, as individuals or small groups offering generally quite expensive services to a few clients.

— Alain de Botton

The central task for a business is to make a profit. The challenge is to make a profit by doing things which are genuinely good for people and good for societies.

— Alain de Botton

Most of the time, we make discoveries about how difficult people are at the moment when the difficulties have actually hurt us; therefore, we are not likely to be forgiving or sympathetic.

— Alain de Botton

In the early days of love sometimes, you will report an ecstatic feeling you have met someone who seems to understand you without you needing to speak.

— Alain de Botton

Often we think love is a feeling: that you spontaneously experience it.

— Alain de Botton

If you are pro love, you have to be a little bit disloyal to the romantic feelings that propel you in the early days.

— Alain de Botton

There’s something called religion, and it was invented a long time ago by people who felt very out of control with their lives, who didn’t know… why the sun always rose over the mountains.

— Alain de Botton

I tell my children what I think myself: That religion is not necessarily convincing, but it is still interesting and not to be laughed at or denigrated.

— Alain de Botton

I see religion as a storehouse of lots of really good ideas that a secular world should look at, raid, and learn from.

— Alain de Botton

The claims I’m making for art are simply the claims that we naturally make around music or around poetry. We’re much more relaxed around those art forms. We’re willing to ask, ‘How could this find a place in my heart?’

— Alain de Botton

My theory is that many of the things that move us are things we long for but find hard to do.

— Alain de Botton

Sweetness is the opposite of machismo, which is everywhere – and I really don’t get on with machismo. I’m interested in sensitivity and weakness and fear and anxiety because I think that, at the end of the day, behind our masks, that’s what we are.

— Alain de Botton

Some of the reason why we marry the wrong people is that we don’t really understand ourselves.

— Alain de Botton

Sometimes I say to people, ‘Do you think you’re easy to live with?’ People who are single. And the ones who say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m pretty easy to live with; it’s just a question of finding the right person,’ massive alarm bell rings in my mind.

— Alain de Botton

If you’re understood in maybe, I don’t know, 60% of your soul by your partner, that’s fantastic. Don’t expect that it’s going to be 100%. Of course you will be lonely.

— Alain de Botton

You will often be in despair. You will sometimes think it’s the worst decision in your life. That’s fine. That’s not a sign your marriage has gone wrong. It’s a sign that it’s normal; it’s on track. And many of the hopes that took you into the marriage will have to die in order for the marriage to continue.

— Alain de Botton

The death of marriage has been announced so often and would seem so normal, in a sense. So what’s surprising is the sheer longevity and tenacity of this institution.

— Alain de Botton

I don’t want to say that our expectations of love are too high; it’s just that if we’re to meet them, we have to become a little more self-aware.

— Alain de Botton

I love novels where not much ‘happens’ but where the interest is in the ideas and analyses of characters.

— Alain de Botton

Everyone’s more vulnerable than they seem, and I think men are more vulnerable. Once you get close to a man, the whole thing’s a facade anyway. I think manhood is fragile.

— Alain de Botton

The number one person who needs my books is me. I’m not some sort of disinterested guru who has worked life out and is handing things out to the poor people who might not have life worked out.

— Alain de Botton

What I do know from my life is the phenomenon of saying, ‘This is too small a thing to argue about’, but then nevertheless finding oneself in that argument.

— Alain de Botton

Used to do a lot of falling in love with people, almost in the street, and imagining that there would be no obstacle to a happy love story other than finding the ‘right person’.

— Alain de Botton

I’m one of those introverted people who simply feels a lot better after spending time alone thinking through ideas and emotions. This is a sign, I’ve come to think, of a kind of emotional disturbance – a reaction to inner fragility. I wish I were more able to just act and do, rather than constantly have to retreat and examine and think.

— Alain de Botton

The greatest compliment I get about my writing is when people say, ‘How did you know so much about me?’ And of course, the answer is very simple: ‘I just observed myself without sentimentality.’

— Alain de Botton

Emotional life is – alongside work – one of the great challenges of existence and is a theme that I keep returning to.

— Alain de Botton

I’m not an academic philosopher, and don’t agree with the way the universities approach the subject. I’m a philosopher only in the very loose sense of someone interested in wisdom and well-being attained through reason. But I’m as interested in psychoanalysis and art as I am in philosophy.

— Alain de Botton

Parents don’t reveal how often they have bitten their tongue, fought back the tears, or been too tired to take off their clothes after a day of childcare. The parent loves, but they do not expect the favour to be returned in any significant way.

— Alain de Botton

Parent and child may both love, but – unbeknown to the child – each party is on a different end of the axis. This is why, in adulthood, when we first long for ‘love’, what we mean is that we want to ‘be loved’ as we were once loved by a parent.

— Alain de Botton

Parents become very good at not hearing the explicit words and listening instead to what the child means but doesn’t yet know how to say: ‘I’m lonely, in pain, frightened’ – distress which then unfairly comes out as an attack on the safest, kindest, most reliable thing in the child’s world: the parent.

— Alain de Botton

The romantic person instinctively sees marriage in terms of emotions, but what a couple actually gets up to together over a lifetime has much more in common with the workings of a small business. They must draw up work rosters, clean, chauffeur, cook, fix, throw away, mind, hire, fire, reconcile, and budget.

— Alain de Botton

The idea of a book that can make a change to your life, that can affect your perspective, is a beautiful and great ambition: one that Seneca, Nietzsche and Tolstoy would have sympathised with.

— Alain de Botton

I fell in love with Norman Mailer’s ‘Of a Fire on the Moon’, a description of the 1969 moon landing and the society that had produced NASA – and was inspired by him to begin a kind of anthropology of modern life.

— Alain de Botton

I’ve tried to write about Heathrow before and been escorted off the premises.

— Alain de Botton

The problem with airports is that we go there when we need to catch a plane – and because it’s so difficult to find the way to the gate, we tend not to look around at our surroundings.

— Alain de Botton

Trying to be a sort of intellectual in the public arena is very irritating to people. They think, ‘Why is this bugger on television?’

— Alain de Botton

It’s great to get an ‘F’, but you also want to give the sense that there’s something outside achievement. I’ve seen a lot of so-called high-achievers who don’t feel they’ve achieved much.

— Alain de Botton

I guess my overall life plan is to think about issues that concern me and try to use culture generally to make sense of them. I’m more worried that I’m going to die before I’ve had time.

— Alain de Botton

What annoys me about most self-help books is that they have no tragic sense. They have no sense that life is fundamentally incomplete rather than accidentally incomplete.

— Alain de Botton

The humanities have been forced to disguise, both from themselves and their students, why their subjects really matter, for the sake of attracting money and prestige in a world obsessed by the achievements of science.

— Alain de Botton

We are properly ready for marriage when we are strong enough to embrace a life of frustration.

— Alain de Botton

To a shameful extent, the charm of marriage boils down to how unpleasant it is to be alone.

— Alain de Botton

What we typically call love is only the start of love. Our understanding of love has been hijacked and beguiled by its first distractingly moving moments.

— Alain de Botton

Small issues are really just large ones that haven’t been accorded the requisite attention.

— Alain de Botton

Travel is a lot like love.

— Alain de Botton

I do think that travel can be part of a journey of inner maturation, but you’ve got to do it right.

— Alain de Botton

Fantasies can be great, but we shouldn’t make the wedding a fantasy, because the wedding is the gateway to married life. It shouldn’t be a moment of illusion; it should be a moment of preparation.

— Alain de Botton

We tend to think of philosophies as produced by professional philosophers. Traditionally, this has meant people who have written dissertations on obscure subjects or who spend most of their day in libraries. But every human is, in an important sense, a carrier of an implicit philosophy – evident in their choices, pronouncements and commitments.

— Alain de Botton

Katie Price is no exception. She, too, is – in a distinctive way – a philosopher. Partially, Katie Price’s philosophy is one of extraordinary confidence. She is remarkable not for her looks or antics but because of her tremendous self-assurance and her unwillingness to be intimidated by criticism or failure.

— Alain de Botton

At ‘The School of Life’, we take seriously anything that has to do with human fulfilment – and take note wherever insight on this subject can be found.

— Alain de Botton

The modern world thinks of art as very important: something close to the meaning of life.

— Alain de Botton

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the public’s relationship to art has been weakened by a profound institutional reluctance to address the question of what art is for. This is a question that has, quite unfairly, come to feel impatient, illegitimate, and a little impudent.

— Alain de Botton

I believe that art is a tool and that, like all tools, it has functions. I also think it is important to know what the tool is for so that we can better know how and when to use it.

— Alain de Botton

In ‘Art as Therapy’, we argue that art is a tool that can variously help to inspire, console, redeem, guide, comfort, expand and reawaken us.

— Alain de Botton

The idea that one might use art for ‘instrumental’ reasons tends to set off alarm bells at the heart of the cultural elite, who contend that it’s not a pill, that it shouldn’t be asked to perform some specific function, especially something as egocentric as to ‘cheer you up’ or to ‘make you a more empathetic person.’

— Alain de Botton

If buying art is to matter to us deeply, then it has to engage with our emotions and bring something to what one might as well, and with no supernatural associations whatsoever, call our souls.

— Alain de Botton

Artworks are especially good at helping our psyches in a variety of ways: they rebalance our moods, lend us hope, usher in calm, stretch our sympathies, reignite our senses, and reawaken appreciation.

— Alain de Botton

Religions have always been clearly on to this psycho-therapeutic score. For hundreds of years in the West, Christian art had a very clear function: it was meant to direct us towards the good and wean us off vice.

— Alain de Botton

Secular thinkers have a separation between thinking and doing. They don’t have a grasp of the balance sheet. The doers are selling us potted plants and pizzas while the thinkers are a little bit unworldly. Religions both think and do.

— Alain de Botton

My dad was a slightly stricter version of Richard Dawkins. The worldview was that there are idiots out there who believe in Santa Claus and fairies and magic and elves, and we’re not joining that nonsense.

— Alain de Botton

I’m fascinated by Comte’s clear-eyed analysis of what was wrong with modern society, which is that you’ve got industrial capitalism on one side and romantic love on the other. Those, along with non-instrumental art, are supposed to get you through the day?

— Alain de Botton

Politicians want people to be nice neighbours, but the tools at their disposal are just the tools of modern liberal society, which are nothing.

— Alain de Botton

Where is instruction in relationships, in the management of career, in the raising of children, in the pursuit of friendship, in the wise approach to anxiety and death? All this sort of stuff I craved to learn about when I was a student and down to this day.

— Alain de Botton

The essential argument in the book, ‘Art as Therapy,’ is that art enjoys such financial and cultural prestige that it’s easy to forget the confusion that persists about what it’s really for.

— Alain de Botton

We have to put aside the customary historical reading of works of art in order to invite art to respond to certain quite specific pains and dilemmas of our psyches.

— Alain de Botton

Many people in the intellectual elite are very scared of shouting. They insist on very quiet murmurs.

— Alain de Botton

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