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Home » Alain de Botton, Philosopher & Author on The Theory of Everything (Full Transcript)

Alain de Botton, Philosopher & Author on The Theory of Everything (Full Transcript)

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Alain de Botton – Philosopher & Author

I’m here to talk about the mysterious disappearance or absence, of what one could call the psychological within the world of modern business, education and life more broadly, but with a particular emphasis on business because that’s partly what we’re here for.

I want to begin my story in ancient Greece fourth century BC, Aristotle, the Greeks used to do some things very good, very accomplished, and one of the things they were very good at was philosophy. And Aristotle famously defined the goal of every human being as that of acquiring two kinds of knowledge. The first kind of knowledge, he defined, as techne, that’s where we get our word technical from, and that’s all the sort of things that make an economy work, in his day it was shipbuilding, silver mining, you know, archery that sort of thing.

And the other form of knowledge that he believed, we very much, all of us need is what he termed sophia or wisdom, and that’s of course where we get the word philosophy from — philo, love, sophia, wisdom. He believed that all of us need to spend a considerable part of our lives in the pursuit of sophia, and through pursuing wisdom, we will reach a stage of what he called eudaimonia, another complicated Greek word that is often translated as fulfillment. We could translate it as happiness but it’s a deeper form of satisfaction. It’s a way of fully exploiting everything that makes us distinctively human. It’s a form of happiness in line with our rational natures and eudaimonia is achieved through self-knowledge Aristotle tells us, and it’s connected up with knowing who to be friends with, knowing what your purpose in life should be, being part of a community to which you’re properly contributing, and other sorts of ingredients like that.

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