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August 16, 2020

Consolations of Philosophy

A few quotes I marked:

“The strongest confidence comes from being grounded in philosophy – so you can turn to the philosopher to overcoming your meekness.”


“Philosophers across time were in actuality so diverse that had they been gathered together at a giant cocktail party, they would not only have had nothing to say to one another, but would most probably have come to blows after a few drinks.”

“You can arrive at truths without philosophizing but you will not know how to respond to objections unless you’ve thought through them logically.”


“Socrates described a correct belief held without an awareness of how to respond rationally to objections as true opinion, and contrasted it unfavourably with knowledge, which involved understanding not only why something was true, but also why its alternatives were false. He likened the two versions of the truth to beautiful works by the great sculptor Daedalus. A truth produced by intuition was like a statue set down without support on an outdoor plinth. A strong wind could at any time knock it over. But a truth supported by reasons and an awareness of counterarguments was like a statue anchored to the ground by tethering cables. Socrates’ method of thinking promised us a way to develop opinions in which we could, even if confronted with a storm, feel veritable confidence.”


“We should not look to Socrates for advice on escaping a death sentence; we should look to him as an extreme example of how to maintain confidence in an intelligent position which has met with illogical opposition.”

“Just as medicine confers no benefit if it does not drive away physical illness, so philosophy is useless if it does not drive away the suffering of the mind.”


“Epicurus and his friends made a second radical innovation. In order not to have to work for people they didn’t like and answer to potentially humiliating whims, they removed themselves from employment in the commercial world of Athens (‘We must free ourselves from the prison of everyday affairs and politics’), and began what could best have been described as a commune, accepting a simpler way of life in exchange for independence. They would have less money but would never again have to follow the commands of odious superiors.”


“Why, then, if expensive things cannot bring us remarkable joy, are we so powerfully drawn to them? Because of an error similar to that of the migraine sufferer who drills a hole in the side of his skull: because expensive objects can feel like plausible solutions to needs we don’t understand. Objects mimic in a material dimension what we require in a psychological one. We need to rearrange our minds but are lured towards new shelves. We buy a cashmere cardigan as a substitute for the counsel of friends.”


“One must regard wealth beyond what is natural as of no more use than water to a container that is full to overflowing.”

Posted in Book Summaries