Sample Philosophy Paper on A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success

The Author’s Point

The speaker, Alain de Botton, talks about humans’ ideas and perceptions of success and failure. Botton mainly questions the various assumptions that underlie the judgments of failure and success. One question that he asks himself is whether success that is widely talked about in society today is always earned. His main point is that people usually think they know what success is or what it means, which is not the case. Botton wants the viewer to understand that there is more to success than people of today’s society believe or think (TED).

He argues that if he were to say that there is someone very successful behind the screen in the hall where he is delivering his speech, a specific idea would come to people’s minds. He argues that most people would have an idea or think of someone with a lot of money or who is renowned in a given field. In the real sense, the idea or thought that people always have of success is usually not their own. The ideas humans have of success are sucked from other people. A man’s perception of success is usually sucked from his father whereas a woman’s perception of success is usually sucked from her mother. Botton stresses that people should not give up on their ideas of success but rather ensure that the ideas are their own. Humans should be the true authors of their own ambitions.

The Nature of the Universe

According to Botton, the universe is one cruel place for humans. There are numerous and endless expectations for humans. The failure to realize or achieve the expectations always results in massive loss of precious lives through suicide (TED). The universe of today is one where people are snobbish and are not welcoming to people who are high up social hierarchy. The frightening nature of today’s universe has seen people’s lies regularly punctuated by crises, a major one being career crises. Often, people become discouraged and frustrated when what they thought they knew about themselves, their lives, and careers comes into contact with reality. The universe comprises of people who focus and are interested more in how others live their lives. Botton states that the universe comprises of snobs and the worst thing is that snobbery is a global phenomenon that is here to stay. He defines a snob as a person who takes a small part of another person and uses the same to come to a complete vision of who the other person exactly is. This snobbish trait of humans has contributed to the cruel nature of the universe inhabited by humans today. With this nature of the universe, it has become harder for humans to feel calm than ever before. This has also led to the numerous cases of depression witnessed around the universe today.

The Nature of Man/Human Being

Based on the video, humans are purely biological (materialism). Humans today are instinct-driven beasts (materialism). To a large extent, today’s humans worship material things and tend to care so much about material goods they possess or wish to possess (TED). Botton poses the question of what would come to the mind of a normal person when he or she sees someone driving a Ferrari. In most cases, people will attribute the person owning a Ferrari or a big house to success.

The fact that humans are more materialistic than before has seen them be described as greedy. In this context, the term “greedy” means that humans are committed to accumulating as much material things as possible just to be better than others around them. The speaker states that modern society has simply pegged emotional rewards to the acquisition of material goods. In essence, human beings are not into acquiring material goods but the rewards that come with the acquisition of the material goods. Botton stresses the need for changing this nature of humans. Instead of seeing materially wealthy people as successful, Botton argues that they should be seen as people who are incredibly vulnerable and in need of love and who need to be socially accommodated. 

What We Must Do to Be Happy

In the cruel nature of the universe, humans can hardly be happy. People are always feeling anxiety about a number of things including their careers, their material possessions, and their position in social hierarchy. The unhappiness that humans undergo on a day-to-day basis is worsened by the snobbish nature of humans today. Botton further argues that people do not own their ideas of success or ambitions but rather suck these from others. According to Botton, to be happy, humans must accept the fact that they cannot be successful at everything. (TED) People should understand that success in one thing comes at the expense of success in another. In other words, people must accept that there is going to be an element where they are not succeeding. Also, Botton says that humans should refrain from being open to suggestion is they are to be happy (TED). Humans must ensure that the ideas they have of success is their own and they should focus on their own ideas.

Work Cited

TED. “A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success | Alain De Botton.” YouTube, 28 July 2009,