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December 30, 2011


Harrold N. Perrywinkle, Esq.

I'd never be cruel to be kind, but I'm sure I'd still enjoy doing it!

John Sprackland

My word, chaps! What irrationally angry responses to Mr de Botton's eloquently simple idea. The suggestion that there is value in publicly daring ourselves to be good seems to me a worthwhile message. Adrian and John - challenge yourselves to more tolerant, thoughtful and polite (and less angry!) in 2012.

Adrian Brockless

Alain de Botton's philosophy is for the mentally lazy. Let's look at the first paragraph:

"We don’t tend to make resolutions about things we completely believe in. Few of us would ever resolve to be appalled by war or disease. It just comes naturally. But we do resolve all the time to be kinder or more hardworking, because a sizeable part of us loves being cruel and sitting around."

At the start, de Botton seems to equate something coming naturally as a form of belief; thus I don’t have to make a resolution to believe that war is awful. I am just convinced that it is awful - it comes naturally; I believe it’s awful. Later in this paragraph he says that we love being cruel and sitting around. This is also something that comes naturally – but is it also a belief? If ‘coming naturally’ is something that both being “appalled by war or disease” and “being cruel and sitting around” have in common then either we ‘believe’ both, or belief (the concept as such) has little to do with what comes naturally. If the former, then why do we quietly assent to being appalled by war but not assent to being cruel or sitting around? If the latter then whatever the concept of belief may amount to, it does not always accompany something that “comes naturally”. In which case, we are left with the question: what is the difference between “believing something” and “completely believing something”? - We cannot use de Botton’s idea that “complete belief” is something we are convinced by because it comes naturally unless we also accept that belief always accompanies those things that come naturally – such as being cruel and sitting around. So what are we supposed to make of his opening gambit: "We don’t tend to make resolutions about things we completely believe in.” – Is it that we don’t tend to form resolutions about things that come naturally to us? – Obviously not, since (according to de Botton) being cruel and sitting around also come naturally to us.

So, there is an evident contradiction right from the start. On the one hand, we are supposed to believe in the veracity of the idea that war is awful because we completely believe in it – “It just comes naturally”. On the other hand, we cannot take “what comes naturally” as having authority in terms of what we believe, since we are also naturally disposed to be cruel and sit around.
And, on what grounds does de Botton believe that we are naturally disposed to be cruel and lazy but have to dare to be good?

The whole piece is a mess and sloppy. It represents a form of cheap moralizing which gains power through providing easy “answers” to difficult questions.


John Burns

Interesting take....however I'm betting you have no real evidence to back up your statements other than your own introspective view upon your life. This pessimistic look at life is not only sad but people actually take your "book" as truth. You're taking a simple fundamental approach to people wanting to make a change in their life and twisting it around to sound like they are doing it for negative reasons. There are people out there that want to make a change and "New Years Resolutions" is a great way to start.

People are inherently good...and for most, life isn't as complicated as you make it out to be. 95% of the population WORK, raise a family and support their kids. You should take a year off writing ideas that are conjectured in your own head, work a blue collar job and see how the rest of the world lives then come back and see if you actually believe your statements. Most of us weren't raised in a household where our father was a banker, went to boarding school and didn't have to worry about anything but getting A's. Get out and use your hands, put yourself with the rest of the working population and see how you stand up, then write a book about it. That would an interesting read.


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