Words matter. These are the best Alain de Botton Quotes, and they’re great for sharing with your friends.
I think it is very possible that my deeper character is not very English.
Art can do the opposite of glamourise the unattainable: it can show us anew the genuine merit of life as we’re forced to lead it. It is advertising for the things we really need.
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.
I was a very un-literary child, which might reassure parents with kids who don’t read.
I was an incredibly lonely, very alienated teenager.
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.
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.
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.
Asking someone to be with us turns out to be an impossibly demanding and therefore pretty mean thing to suggest to anyone we would really want the best for.
Some of the reason why we marry the wrong people is that we don’t really understand ourselves.
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.
Emotional life is – alongside work – one of the great challenges of existence and is a theme that I keep returning to.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Travel is a lot like love.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many people in the intellectual elite are very scared of shouting. They insist on very quiet murmurs.
Often we think love is a feeling: that you spontaneously experience it.
The person who is truly best suited to us is not the person who shares our tastes, but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently and wisely.
One of the most welcome aspects of office work is that you do not need to be fully yourself.
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.
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.’
When I see someone like Richard Dawkins, I see my father. I grew up with that. I’m basically the child of Richard Dawkins.
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.
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.
I learnt to stop fantasising about the perfect job or the perfect relationship because that can actually be an excuse for not living.
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.
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.
To a shameful extent, the charm of marriage boils down to how unpleasant it is to be alone.
Small issues are really just large ones that haven’t been accorded the requisite attention.
I like the values associated with a medical family – common sense, being practical but also thoughtful.
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.
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.
Kant and Hegel are interesting thinkers. But I am happy to insist that they are also terrible writers.
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.
I was told by my father nine times a day that you were going to get a job the minute you finish your studies.
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.
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.
The best cure for one’s bad tendencies is to see them fully developed in someone else.
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.
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.
Atheism is having a heyday in the born-again United States.
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.
As in all areas, we can improve how good we are at loving another person.
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.
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.
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.
There are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.