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Status Anxietyby Alain De Botton
"For de Botton, the reason for engaging in philosophy is not to know more but to live better — to gain a sense of proportion about life's little ironies and acquire thereby a certain immunity from the rage and passion that dance attendance on them. This is philosophy in the manner of Montaigne or Thomas Browne rather than Descartes or John Locke: a gentle stoicism reminding us that when things do not pan out as we would like, it may be better to amend our desires than to try changing the world." Jonathan Rée, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
"In his new book, Alain de Botton does a fine thing: He harnesses his erudite take on self-help to the problem of fear and sorrow aroused in modern people by their relative position in society. He takes a seemingly unwieldy concept, gives it a name ('Status Anxiety'), treats it with a smattering of classic philosophy and art, and produces a book which is meant to enlighten as well as improve its readers." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
There are few more powerful wishes than to be seen as a success, a figure worthy of dignity and respect, and few deeper fears than to be dismissed as a failure. We long for status and dread its opposite. Alain de Botton — with characteristic originality, lucidity, and elan — addresses the anxieties that seem inextricably embedded in our pursuit of status and explores what, if anything, we can do about them.
Dipping into history, psychology, politics, and economics, de Botton considers a wide range of causes for status anxiety and an equally wide range of methods by which people have coped with their fears: through philosophy, art, religion, and bohemia. In his hallmark style, the author shows us how status instruction and solace can be found in some unusual places: in everything from fruit baskets to etiquette books, magazine recipe pages to office politics, comics to the communal experience of inspirational music.
Thought-provoking, wise, and eminently entertaining, Status Anxiety highlights de Botton's genius for finding the most unusual approach to the most unexpected but universal of subjects.
"This sophisticated gazebo of a book is the latest dispatch from the Swiss-born, London-based author of the influential handbook How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not a Novel (1997). Promising to teach us how to duck the 'brutal epithet of 'loser' or 'nobody,' ' de Botton notes that status has often been conflated with honor and that the number of men slain while dueling has amounted, over the centuries, to the hundreds of thousands. That conflation is a trap from which de Botton suggests a number of escape routes. We could try philosophy, the 'intelligent misanthropy' of Schopenhauer, for who cares what others think if they're all a pack of ninnies anyhow? Art, too, has its consolations, as Marcel found out in Remembrance of Things Past. A novelist such as Jane Austen, with her little painted squares of ivory, can reimagine the world we live in so that we see fully how virtue is actually 'distributed without regard to material wealth.' De Botton also discusses bohemia, the reaction to status and the attack on bourgeois values, wisely linking this movement to dadaism, whose founder, Tristan Tzara, called for the 'idiotic.' The phenomenon known as 'keeping up with the Joneses' is nothing new, and not much has changed in the 45 years since the late Vance Packard, in The Status Seekers, wrote the definitive analysis of consumer culture and its discontents. But even at the peak of his influence, Packard was never half as suave as de Botton. (A three-part TV documentary, to be shown in the U.K. and in Australia, and hosted by de Botton, has been commissioned to promote the book.) Lively and provocative, de Botton proves once again that originality isn't necessary when one has that continental flair we call 'style.' Agent, Nicole Aragi. (June 1)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A novelist...cleverly deconstructs and demystifies that sinking feeling of material inferiority....An intelligent breath of fresh air, sans the usual ax-grinding." Kirkus Reviews
Has inquiry into the meaning of life become outmoded in a universe where the other-worldiness of religion no longer speaks to us as it once did, or, as Nietzsche proposed, where we are now the creators of our own value? Has the ancient question of the "good life" disappeared, another victim of the technological world? For Luc Ferry, the answer to both is a resounding no.
In What Is the Good Life? Ferry argues that the question of the meaning of life, on which much philosophical debate throughout the centuries rested, has not vanished, but rather is posed differently today. Ferry points out the pressures in our secularized world that tend to reduce the idea of a successful life or "good life" to one of wealth, career satisfaction, and prestige. Without deserting the secular presuppositions of our world, he shows that we can give ourselves this richer sense of life's possibilities. The "good life" consists of harmonizing life's different forces in a way that enables one to achieve a sense of personal satisfaction in the realization of one's creative abilities.
Beautifully and engagingly written, What Is the Good Life? provides new insight and wisdom into one of life's most enduring philosophical questions. A major publishing event upon its publication in France, this elegant translation will reignite passionate dialogue about the meaning of life among readers in English as well.
About the Author
Alain de Botton is the author of three previous works of fiction and three of nonfiction, including The Art of Travel, The Consolations of Philosophy, and How Proust Can Change Your Life (all available in paperback from Vintage Books). He lives in London.
Table of Contents
Prologue - Our Daydreams: Success, Ennui, and Envy
Part I - Creating the Good Life: Metamorphoses of the Ideal
1. Beyond Morality, After Religion
The New Age of the Question
2. The Meaning of the Question and the Slow Humanization of the Responses
Part II - The Nietzschean Moment: The Good Life as the Most Intense Life
3. On Transcendence as Supreme Illusion
The Twilight of the Idols, or How to Philosophize with a Hammer: The End of the World, the Death of God, and the Death of Man
4. The Foundations and Arguments of Nietzschean Materialism
5. The Wisdom of Nietzsche, or The Three Criteria of the Good Life
Truth in Art, Intensity in the Grand Style, Eternity in the Instant
6. After Nietzsche
Four Versions of Life after the Death of God: Daily Life, the Bohemian Life, the Life of Enterprise, or Life Freed from Alienation
Part III - The Wisdom of the Ancients: Life in Harmony with the Cosmic Order
7. Greek Wisdom, or The First Image of a Lay Spirituality
The Secularization of Salvation
8. The "Cosmologico-Ethical"
Power and the Charms of Moralities Inscribed in the Cosmos
9. An Ideal-Type of Ancient Wisdom
The Case of Stoicism
Part IV - The Here and Now Enchanted by the Beyond
10. Death Finally Conquered by Immortality
Philosophy Replaced by Religion
11. The Renascence of Lay Philosophy and the Humanization of the Good Life
Part V - A Humanism of the Man-God: The Good Life as a Life in Harmony with the Human Condition
12. Materialism, Religion, and Humanism
13. A New Approach to the Question of Happiness
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