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January 23, 2012

Alain de Botton: The Glass of Life is Half Empty

From Open Culture: "Here are a few basic truths: life is essentially meaningless; your hard work won't dictate where your life goes; you will be struck down by death; and your loved ones and your achievements will whither and turn to dust. A grim way to look at things, perhaps. But a long line of philosophers, starting with the Stoics, have seen wisdom in taking a dim view. As Alain de Botton points out, a pessimistic outlook reduces our expectations, our envy, our disappointment, and it creates room for emotional upside and healthier life decisions. His talk (which features a sing-along to Elton John at the 29-minute mark) runs 38 minutes, and it's presented online by The School of Life, a London-based institution co-founded by de Botton in 2008."

January 23, 2012 at 05:01 PM | Permalink


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Much to the chagrin of my new agey friends, I do tend to anticipate the worst. That way, I'm quite often pleasantly surprised. Is it fear? Who knows, but why else do we buy insurance?

Posted by: tamra | Jan 25, 2012 1:43:57 AM

Antares: you Sartre read some Heidegger. It would change your Beauvoir.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jan 24, 2012 11:25:03 AM

I always jump to the worst-possible-case scenario in any situation (which really, really angers some people), but there is something a little too facile and showbizzy about his talk to satisfy me. I do agree absolutely that hard work won't dictate the direction of your life, nor is it any guarantee of success. All I've ever been able to figure out is that having a smattering of don't-give-a-shit attitude seems to attract less trouble than going at things with grisly determination.

Posted by: Flautist | Jan 24, 2012 11:15:36 AM

Thank you for posting this at BoJ, else I would not have seen it. Having spent 38 minutes and 54 seconds with Mr Botton, I need never waste another second entertaining the ejaculations of his mental masturbation.

"But a long line of philosophers, starting with the Stoics, have seen wisdom in taking a dim view." This ignores the book of Ecclesiastes. The third chapter of that book states the tenets of Stoicism as well as anything written by the Greeks.

I find Mr Botton's views not in accord with those of Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius. I also find his views hypocritical. If he believed what he said, he would neither have married nor had children.

Posted by: antares | Jan 24, 2012 4:21:04 AM

I kind'a agree with your views about pessimists.

Posted by: quit smoking | Jan 23, 2012 9:17:12 PM

I've always said that pessimists were happier than optimists.

An optimist always expects a good outcome and, when there is a good outcome they see no reason to celebrate - but, let the predicted outcome turn bad and the optomist is crushed and unprepared - where exactly the opposite holds true for the pessimist, who expects the worst and prepares for a bad outcome only to be pleasantly surprised if a good outcome is reached (cause for celebration!) and merely moves on to the next step in the contingency plan if the outcom is bad.

QED the pessimist is best equipped to deal with life, the universe and everything. 42

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jan 23, 2012 7:18:34 PM

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