3. Read, think, speak

In the video, the five perspectives Alain de Botton theorises are these:

  • our enemy
  • our gut reaction
  • death
  • caution
  • courage.

a. What’s your reaction to this list? What could these five terms mean?

b. Can you match up these three quotations from the video to the relevant ‘angle’ from the list above?

By frightening us about one enormous thing, it may make us less scared of the many smaller obstacles in our way. Our lives won’t be what they could be unless we submit pretty much every choice we face to the arbiter of eternity and oblivion.

We can at last put these characters to constructive use by doing the very opposite of what we suspect – probably very correctly – they might propose and say. We will be energised and focused by the haunting voices of those dispiriting but very telling and mesmerising judges: those who refuse to believe in us.

It wears dowdy clothes and speaks quietly. It certainly lacks glamour in an age of bravado and bombast. It’s easy to feel that we must always and invariably jump – because life has to be about giving the new a go. But it may not be.

c. Now listen and check your answers to part b.

d. How would you summarise what de Botton says about each of the five concepts?

e. What are the features of de Botton’s speaking style in this video? Think about:

  • types of vocabulary chosen
  • parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, adverbs etc)
  • sentence structures
  • anything else you notice

f. To what extent do you agree with de Botton’s theories here? Are there any alternative ‘angles’ you would suggest adding to his list?

Answers: here.


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