Hall Center For The Humanities


Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton
Author & philosopher

"Religion for Atheists"
Humanities Lecture Series

Wed., Mar. 14, 2012, 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Co-sponsored by Kansas Public Radio.
Location: This event has been MOVED TO Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union

Alain de Botton's work has been described as a 'philosophy of everyday life.' Interested in a number of branches of the humanities, including literature, art, philosophy and architecture, he has published books that include How Proust Can Change Your Life and The Architecture of Happiness.

His work frequently returns to the question of how one might use culture to illuminate our lives. As one interviewer puts it, his 'mission is to wrestle back the consolations of culture from 'the huge gatekeeper'... that is academia.' De Botton is not merely interested in writing on how humanistic principles can prove useful. He has also set up a couple of organizations to help to turn his ideas into reality. In 2008, he started The School of Life in London (www.theschooloflife.com), a non-traditional meeting place for like-minded individuals to gather for symposia on such topics as "How to Make Love Last" and "How to Face Death." The idea, de Botton explains, is "to challenge traditional universities and reorganize knowledge," allowing culture to enrich lived experience. In 2009, de Botton founded Living Architecture (www.living-architecture.co.uk), a non-profit organization which asks top architects to build great works of domestic architecture in the UK, which can be rented for vacations at modest costs..

Alain de Botton's work is made up of lyrical combinations of fiction and non-fiction: pieces of narrative interspersed with reflections, neatly tied together by thoughts from other great thinkers, a methodology that he notes 'would have been familiar with writers like Seneca or Montaigne and that disappeared only with the growing professionalization of scholarship in the 19th century.' De Botton has published a total of ten books, beginning with the precocious On Love, written when de Botton was only 23, and published to great acclaim. But it was the unlikely sensation of How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997) that truly established de Botton in the United States. Part literary analysis, part personal reflection, the book mixed ironic self-help with an analysis of Proust's well-loved but infrequently read In Search of Lost Time. Since then, de Botton has published on philosophy (The Consolations of Philosophy), a Romantic interpretation of places (The Art of Travel), architecture (The Architecture of Happiness), and employment (The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work).

De Botton's continued fascination with the contextualization of human lives has led to his most recent book, and the subject of his Humanities Lecture Series talk, "Religion for Atheists." In this work, de Botton (an atheist) tries to move on the painful and often dispiriting debate between believers and non-believers by arguing that, irrespective of one's stance on the supernatural, religions still have some very important things to teach the secular world. He focuses in particular on religious attitudes to community, ritual, morality, art and architecture, and suggests how the secular world might be inspired by certain examples drawn from religions.

The Hall Center will also host a more informal question and answer session, "Living Architecture: A Conversation with Alain de Botton."  Both events are free and open to the public.

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