We are absurdly anxious about success, says popular philosopher Alain de Botton (TED Talk: Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success). In his talk from 2009, he suggests that many of our modern values — like our sense of limitless possibility and upward growth — can actually lead us to stress harder about how well we’re doing. But the reverse can also be true, says de Botton. For TED, he’s put together this reading list of (mainly) pessimistic philosophers who have inspired his thinking about positivity.
1. The Complete Essays
Michel de Montaigne
“Montaigne likes to point out that philosophers don’t know everything, and that they would be a lot wiser if they laughed at themselves a little more. He also writes in a personal and often very frank way designed to shock the prudish. ‘Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies,’ he says. ‘Even on the highest throne in the world…
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