Alain de Botton's documentary brings treatises to the ordinary
People of all kinds came to Socrates in then Athens, narrates Alain de Botton, Swiss born British philosopher in his 6-part documentary, Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness. But his wisdom trotting camera also shows that Athens now is visited only by tourists. Alain interviews people on the road, shopping malls and cafes, often well-received but ignored by some. He also interviews professionals like the ballerina to explain Nietzsche's philosophy of no pain no gain, and he has people who enact certain points that six of his favorite philosophers preached and exceptionally practiced.
Each segment in the documentary is a visual treatise on philosophers who are seen today in their own birthplaces, with changes of matter but retaining the spirit of the thinkers. The 2 and a half hours documentary tries to enliven the ideas that are perhaps in dogmatic slumber. After watching this mix of thoughts on well being against the backdrops of philosophically important places, sprinkled with onlooker
opinions, life’s problems are still unresolved. But our frame of mind may have a pep-up.
Part 1: Socrates on self-confidence
In one of the scenes the camera follows a flock of sheep before cutting into some people walking aimlessly while Alain voices over: we like to follow some people because we think they know where they are going. We horror the idea of breaking away from the group. Socrates wanted us to challenge by urging us to think logically about the nonsense the so called leaders often come out with.
So Alain asks Andrew Miller, a clinical researcher at the British Biogas who had an opinion problem in his company once. ‘Socrates died for truth. How far can you go’, asks Alain. I've a family, says the loner who went against the majority holding only on reason.
Alain shows us a potter shaping a pot. Socrates compared thinking to pottery, Alain reminds us. You have to go over and over to shed the discrepancies of a statement.
Part 2: Epicurus on Happiness
Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC), an advocate of “friends, freedom and thought” is still misunderstood by many people who think that Epicureanism means pleasure and consumerism. Alain says the happiness seer was a simple man who preferred water to wine. "Send me a pot of cheese so that I can have a feast", Epicurus said to a friend. What we want is not necessarily what we need. The ingredients of happiness come pretty cheap. A philosopher can help you find happiness, Alain says, more than a credit card.
Alain takes us to the town where Diogenes, the disciple of Epicurus inscribed his master's thoughts on a wall on a mountain, opposite to an ancient market where people gathered at least once a week. Now the market is gone. The inscribed stone pieces are scattered on the ground.