Alain de Botton on Art as Therapy

This is an amazing talk given by Alain de Botton who is a Swiss/British writer and philosopher (among many other talents), is well know for discussing philosophy’s relevance to everyday life. When you have a spare moment, spend the 40 plus minutes and soak up his many insights. It is quite rewarding. He is an incredible speaker.

Alain posits that “. . . culture can fill the gaps left by the departure of religion in modern life and art can help us with the problems of the soul. I believe that art should be propaganda on behalf of something else, not theology, but psychology. I believe that art should serve the needs of our psyche as efficiently and as clearly as it served the needs of theology for hundreds of years.”

Here are a few of his main points and quotes from his talk.

1. Art is a tool for memory. Art is a bucket that holds our experiences and our emotions. It also draws our attention to those things that are most significant and opens us to facets of the world which would otherwise be invisible.
2. Art has a very important function in giving us hope. Art is a life raft to ferry us through darkness and prettiness is part of its mission.
3. Art reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering. Art provides us with moments of communion around the dark realities of our lives, in a way that is eloquent and dignified. Art is like putting on a Leonard Cohen CD when things are bad. It doesn’t drag us down. It brings us up by acknowledging that we’re all in this together
4. Art can rebalance us. Art is a rebalancing agent. The kind of art that moves us and draws us in, is very often a work of art that our unconscious recognizes contains a concentrated dose of our missing virtues. What are we missing? What are we afraid of? What have we lost touch with?
5. Art is fantastic propaganda tool on behalf of the good. Art can stir us, motivate us. The problem about life is not that we don’t know what being good or kind, or meaningful involves or is, but that we aren’t motivated to act on the knowledge that lies sterile within us. And the point of art is to get us motivated.
6. We need role models around us in order to keep us on track. Art does this. Many works of art have a philosophy of life within them.
7. Works of art have always attempted to open our eyes to the neglected value of the everyday. Art helps us to re-see certain jaded aspects of our lives that we’ve grown spoiled about.
8. Art can induct us toward essential truths of life. We are creatures that lose perspective easily, producing great anxiety. Our eye is stilled in front of something huge, dignified and beautiful.
9. Art allows us to rediscover the virtues and values in each other. Art expands the conversation. It makes us less lonely with the more sad and private parts of us. Art reminds us that love is an attempt to harmonize the jagged, to regularize the irregular. Art reminds us of the failure of curiosity in modern life and the desperate need to remain curious.
10. Art helps us to feel proud and involved with our community.
11. Art is very good at showing us how things can be.
12. And finally, art is a living resource for our hearts. Not just an academic or historical exercise.

I hope you enjoy this talk as much as I did. So many kernels of wisdom, so lovingly presented.


An inspiring talk, given at a recent conference in South Korea, by Alain de Botton who is a Swiss/British writer and philosopher (among many other talents), and is well know for discussing philosophy's relevance to everyday life.
When you have a spare moment, spend the 45 plus minutes and soak up his many insights. It is quite rewarding. He is an incredible speaker. And, the most relevant bits come later in the talk, especially in the Question and Answer period with the Korean MC and the audience. Worth watching till the end.
Alain talks about how society has done away with religion and its reminders of how to live in this world. And, he addresses the ways that technology can serve the deep human need of communication with each other.


I’m trying to find a story.

Here are some wonderful illustrations from illustrator/designer, Craig Frazier. Watch the short video about his process. Such simple and surprising work that sticks in your memory.

 “Each illustration carries a story. Without a story, it is just a drawing. With a story, it is an invitation . . . ”

Craig Frazier1

“Every illustration comes from a sketch.”
“It is important to trust your ideas.”

Craig Frazier2

“By keeping your hand in the work, using simple means, it keeps the images clean and builds in a level of simplicity.”

“If there is any magic about an illustration, it happens at the sketching stage. Because, this is when it comes out of your pen.”

and finally, Craig’s website:


“I’m no longer sure what the question is, but I do know the answer. And the answer is yes.” (—from Leonard Bernstein).

Seth Godin gives an incredible speech about how we are all in the “connection economy” and connection creates value. (Tina Eisenberg gets Seth to give this talk at Creative Mornings).

Very inspiring. Enjoy everyone. Pass it around!