The Consolations of Philosophy is Chosen as New Student Reading

The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton is this year’s required reading for all undergraduate students entering the Steinhardt School.

The book, a meditation on philosophy and every day life, uses the wisdom of Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche to illuminate universal problems, among them, unpopularity, poverty, frustration, love-sickness, inadequacy, and generalized suffering.

The Consolations of Philosophy will be discussed in Steinhardt’s New Student Seminar, a required course for all new students. The class, which introduces students to their programs of study, encourages them to explore their role in the academic community. Rene Arcilla, an associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the author of Mediumism: A PhilosophicalReconstruction of Modernism for Existential Learning (SUNY, 2010), will speak about the book at Steinhardt’s New Student Convocation in October.

“We thought The Consolations of Philosophy would be an interesting eye to put on some of the issues our new undergraduates might face in a new place with new challenges,” said Patricia Carey, associate dean for student affairs. “The book gives us a glimpse into the strength, the frailties, and the timeless dilemmas that six philosophers addressed during their lifetimes.”

Carey hopes the philosophical insights posed by de Botton will resonate with students and give them a new way of addressing issues that they might not have thought deeply about.

“The human condition doesn’t change,” Carey said. “We love, feel frustrated, unsure of ourselves; wonder if we’ll succeed, find friends, be noticed. The book gives our students a chance to look at issues and think in different and expanded ways.”