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Watch > Episode > Alain de Botton - The School Of Life: How To Apply Philosophy To Real Life

Alain de Botton - The School Of Life: How To Apply Philosophy To Real Life


The Architecture of Happiness

Alain de Botton is a Swiss-born British philosopher and author. His books discuss various contemporary subjects and themes, emphasizing philosophy’s relevance to everyday life. De Botton’s first publication Essays in Love, which went on to sell two million copies. Other bestsellers include How Proust Can Change Your Life, Status Anxiety and The Architecture of Happiness.

He co-founded The School of Life in 2008. In 2015, he was awarded “The Fellowship of Schopenhauer“, an annual writers’ award from the Melbourne Writers Festival, for this work.

The Consolations of Philosphy

Alain de Botton is not the man you’d expect him to be.

Born in Switzerland to a wealthy family, Alain went to schools like Harrow, Cambridge and Harvard. After graduating, instead of taking a traditional route in academia, he decided to write a book when he was 23 years old and forge his own path.

Known as a philosopher, author and founder of The School of Life, his work has been described as a philosophy of everyday life and explores love, status, meritocracy, religion and self-knowledge.

Alain De Botton’s first publication “Essays in Love”, went on to sell two million copies. His latest book “An Emotional Education” teaches us about emotional intelligence and how to understand oneself, become more effective at work, and grow resilient in the face of failure.

The School of Life Explores All Aspects of Philosophy

Along with his many best selling books, Alain also co-founded The School of Life in 2008 and now has 13 locations globally.

In 2015, he was also awarded “The Fellowship of Schopenhauer“, an annual writers’ award from the Melbourne Writers Festival, for this work.

I absolutely loved talking to Alain. I’ve read much of his earlier work and I’m excited to learn more about The School of Life. If you’ve ever struggled with self-esteem, finding your purpose or feeling inadequate, Alain de Botton’s philosophy on life will help.

We talked about so many fascinating things and I know you’re going to love this episode with Alain.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Michel de Montaigne, Romanticism, and raising kids
  • Growing up in Switzerland, Lego, and world-building
  • Dragon School, the English Empire, and attachment theory
  • John Bowlby, adolescent rebellion, and rising depression rates
  • Plato, insomnia, and psychotherapy
  • Meditation, art, and psychedelics
  • Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Dionysia, and the Feast of Fools
  • Jackson Pollock, the School of Life, and a society of losers


00:00 | Trailer.
02:24 | Brian’s thoughts on the episode.
03:57 | Brian’s introduction.
04:36 | Did Alain de Botton’s childhood experiences predict his future career path?
13:08 | Why he published his first book Essays in Love aged only 23.
16:13 | Alain de Botton’s relationship to Self Help which confuses academics.
21:44 | The pressure of needing to gain approval of parents and those around you.
25:20 | Alain de Botton is now philosophical about his parent’s influence acknowledging most parents do the best they can.
27:35 | How we learn life lessons today even if its 3am.
32:08 | Psychotherapy done well can be a journey of liberation from the cage we build around us.
35:45 | What Alain de Botton thinks about other modalities to help us gain insight into ourselves.
40:55 | The concept of imperfection in sex and human beings and the shame of it, is isolating.
48:13 | The effect of romanticism on sex and the problems it causes.
52:36 | The sentence about love which is one of the most dangerous sentences in the English language,
56:05 | We should learn to treat our lovers like children – what Alain de Botton means by that.
59:56 | What Alain de Botton has learnt from opening The School of Life.
1:03:24 | Why the physical locations and why so many: how that has worked or not and the later digital influence.
1:07:42 | How people are trying to fill the roles once filled by religion.
1:11:52 | How we live in a world of snobbery and status.
1:14:04 | The dangerous message that anyone can achieve anything in life.
1:17:21 | We’ve heard General Patton’s message but now suicide is the danger and there is an epidemic of mental unwellness.
1:20:12 | How he feels about confidence and those that don’t believe they have it.
1:22:35 | Alain de Botton’s powerful thoughts on how people should think about sex differently.
1:26:26 | His advice on parenting skills.
1:33:06 | What Alain de Botton will be doing differently personally and in The School of Life in 10 years.
1:36:28 | His daily practice.
1:37:25 | Has he always been a good public speaker and communicator?
1:38:47 | What is Alain de Botton’s superpower.
1:41:32 | The best and worst days of his life.
1:44:42 | What scares him.
1:46:14 | What we would be surprised to learn about Alain de Botton.
1:48:48 | What keeps him awake at night.
1:49:57 | Does the survival of the world keep him awake?
1:51:42 | Success secrets.
1:52:22 | Brian’s summing up.


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