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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Mar 28, 2012

Claudia Cragg speaks here for KGNU with philosopher and author Alain de Botton about his latest book 'Religion for Atheists'. De Botton argues "What if religions are neither all true or all nonsense?' as the traditional debate between believers and their non-believing debaters contend. De Botton maintains that "this boring debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved on" in his new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false and yet that religions still have some very important things to teach the secular world. "Even if religion isn't true," he says, "Can't we enjoy the best bits?" He explores the book in this convesation looking at amongst other ideas the potential of rituals in secular life and the need for modern day non-religious 'saints' or people to look up to as everyday heroes. One of De Botton's for example is Warren Buffett.

Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essays that have been described as a 'philosophy of everyday life.'  He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in 30 countries. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education.

Alain started writing at a young age. His first book, Essays in Love [titled On Love in the US]was published when he was 23. In 1997 he published his best-selling first non-fiction book, How Proust Can Change Your Life, based on the life and works of Marcel Proust. This was followed by The Consolations of Philosophy in 2000. In this, de Botton attempts to demonstrate how the teachings of philosophers such as Epicurus, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Seneca, and Socrates can be applied to modern everyday woes such as unpopularity, feelings of inadequacy, financial worries, broken hearts, and the general problem of suffering. The book has been both praised and criticized for its therapeutic approach to philosophy. His next work was The Art of Travel looking at themes in the psychology of travel: how we imagine places before we see them, how we remember beautiful things, what happens to us when we look at deserts, stay in hotels, and go to the countryside.

Then in Status Anxiety (2004), de Botton examines an almost universal anxiety that is rarely mentioned directly: what others think of us; about whether we're judged a success or a failure, a winner or a loser. In The Architecture of Happiness (2006), he discusses the nature of beauty in architecture and how it is related to the well-being and general contentment of the individual and society. He describes how architecture affects people every day, though people rarely pay particular attention to it.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (2009) is a survey of ten different jobs, including accountancy, rocket science and biscuit manufacture, which includes two hundred original images and aims to unlock the beauty, interest and occasional horror of the modern world of work.In August 2009, de Botton replied to a competition advertised among British literary agents by BAA, the airport management company, for the post of "writer-in-residence" at Heathrow Airport. The post involved being seated at a desk in Terminal 5, and writing about the comings and goings of passengers over a week. De Botton was duly appointed to the position. The result was the book, A Week at the Airport, published by Profile Books in September 2009. The book features photographs by the documentary photographer Richard Baker, with whom de Botton also worked on The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.