Great Thinkers Book Summary By The School of Life, Alain de Botton (series editor)

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Great Thinkers by author John Kyle (2016) is an amazingly insightful and thought-provoking book about the world's most famous and innovative thinkers.

Inside you'll learn about some of the people who have shaped our understanding of the world, from Socrates and Plato to Einstein and Copernicus.

It offers their philosophies in easy-to-understand language that enables us to live well today by utilizing their vast wisdom.

The book also provides a plethora of detailed descriptions and examples so you can get a closer look into the lives of these great minds.

Whether you're looking for inspiration or just curious to find out more, Great Thinkers promises a truly enlightening read!

Great Thinkers Book

Book Name: Great Thinkers (Simple Tools from Sixty Great Thinkers to Improve Your Life Today)

Author(s): The School of Life, Alain de Botton (series editor)

Rating: 4.2/5

Reading Time: 22 Minutes

Categories: Motivation & Inspiration

Author Bio

The author of the Great Thinkers book is The School of Life, an organization that believes in promoting general knowledge and culture.

They are based in cities like London, Amsterdam, and Seoul where they produce educational films and offer classes and therapy sessions to help individuals reach their full potential.

The idea behind this book is that the study of great thinkers from times past can help us better ourselves today.

It focuses on the great minds from the past, including everyone from Socrates to Nietzsche, so individuals gain insight into how we should live our lives and make decisions in order to be emotionally intelligent as well as wise.

It also includes essays written by modern-day philosophers which provide readers with additional guidance on finding fulfillment and understanding current issues.

Unlocking The Wisdom Of The Ages: How Ancient Ideas Can Help Us Today

Ancient Ideas

While we may have access to technology, science and knowledge that previous generations could only dream of, it is still incredibly important to look back to the great minds of the past for time-tested wisdom.

After all, no amount of technological advances can help us make sense of some of life’s most essential questions.

Fortunately, with the developments in modern technology, it is easy to tap into timeless wisdom from previous generations and put it to use in order to live better lives.

Through the sections followed below you can benefit from living out your worst fears; centuries-old economic ideas could still improve our world today; plus learn why “go with the flow” remains a piece of valuable advice.

No matter where we are in life right now, there is something worthwhile and meaningful that can be learned by taking a glimpse into both current and past brilliant minds throughout history.

How Stoicism Can Help You Overcome Anxiety And Live Life With Serenity

Stoics believed that anxiety and paranoia can be overcome by facing our fears head-on.

For example, if you were very worried about being homeless, you could purposely spend a few days eating scraps and sleeping on a park bench in order to familiarize yourself with the worst-case scenario.

Stoicism also teaches us how to live life with serenity now.

Unlike karma, they believed in Fortuna, a Roman goddess who could send both good fortune and bad luck at any moment, no matter how good or bad one’s behavior has been.

This means that we don’t have to dwell too much on the past or worry too much about the future, as we should learn to trust in fate and accept what comes.

All of this can help us realize that high hopes and great fear should not lead to high levels of anxiety since things will likely work out one way or another.

The Essential Wisdom Of Thomas Aquinas: Keeping An Open Mind And Allowing For Differing Perspectives

When considering great thinkers, it is important to recognize the contributions of religious figures.

Thomas Aquinas was an important thirteenth-century Italian monk who is known for his sainthood and visions of the Virgin Mary, but also for bridging science and faith.

Aquinas was ahead of his time in that he understood faith and reason could coexist, rather than follow religious dogma without question.

He even suggested non-Christians had insightful thoughts, a revolutionary perspective during a time when Christianity was extremely powerful.

He recognized two laws at work in the world: natural law (acknowledged through reason) and eternal law (which requires faith).

We may find this concept archaic today, however there is still much wisdom in this approach that we should not overlook.

Nowadays many people place more authority in science than religion.

This can lead us to write off opinions from humanities perspectives or points of view that are not supported by data-driven experimentation.

Thomas Aquinas is certainly reminding us to keep an open mind about different understandings instead of dismissing out of hand those that don’t match our current scientific understanding of the world.

Adam Smith’s Enlightened Insights Into Job Specialization And Capitalism Are Still Relevant Today


Adam Smith, the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher and economist, recognized both the benefits and potential dangers of job specialization in his classic work, “The Wealth of Nations.” He understood that it could lead to a more efficient economy with greater wealth.

However, he also pointed out the danger of workers becoming cogs in a machine – feeling unimportant and lacking purpose apart from their specialized job functions.

Smith’s insights on how to improve the capitalist system are still relevant today.

He urged managers and employers to inform their employees about the significance of their individual contributions.

This way, employees don’t become disenchanted or dissatisfied with the company they work for.

Smith also believed that businesses should be using the surplus wealth they generate to fund beneficial social programs that provide support to those most in need.

Additionally, Smith advocated for companies producing products and services that help people’s physical and mental well-being – such as psychotherapy – over things considered frivolous or superfluous.

His belief was that this would better serve society as a whole; allowing everyone equal access to resources that can foster health and prosperity – not just luxury items.

So even centuries after his writing, Adam Smith still has much wisdom to show us about improving our capitalist economy while prioritizing collective societal well-being instead of commercial riches alone.

Take A Moment To Appreciate Life’S Natural Rhythm With Lao Tzu’S Philosophy

Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher believed to have lived during the sixth century BC, is renowned for his teachings in which he details how best to use our lives.

He teaches us that life can be sweet if we follow its natural flow and take time for contemplation.

Through observation of nature and focusing on the simple things in life, Lao Tzu instructs us to quieten our minds and attune ourselves to the rhythm of life that nature sets.

As exemplified by a popular story regarding Lao Tzu, Confucius and the Buddha at a vinegar-tasting ceremony, Lao Tzu believed that no matter how chaotic life may appear, there lies beneath it an innate harmony and peace awaiting discovery.

In his seminal work called Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu explained that life flows much like the surface of a body of water; we just need to learn to go with its flow in order to get to this state of complete tranquillity.

Finally, one practical application of this wisdom from Lao Tzu is understanding that grieving needs time before we can reach some level of acceptance or closure.

Attempting something like forming a new relationship overnight or trying to wrench yourself away with great speed from something you regret not only adds unnecessary stress but also fails as it goes against what is natural in our lives.

So take note: if you want a calm yet fulfilled life full of wisdom, then here’s your invitation – go outside and experience nature’s beauty while taking time out for contemplation!

Margaret Mead’S Anthropological Research Revealed That Gender And Sexuality Are Determined By Societal Norms

The renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead used her groundbreaking research to challenge the way Western society thinks about sexuality and gender.

She made a strong case that contrary perspectives from traditional societies could provide valuable insight.

Mead’s 1928 book ‘Coming of Age in Samoa’ revealed that the Samoan view of sexuality was far more relaxed than that of most American teenagers.

She found that children were exposed early on to topics such as masturbation and homosexuality, which was not considered shameful.

She also saw more lenient attitudes towards adultery, where instead of retaliation there would be an apology and forgiveness granted – which often ended with a celebration among the community.

Mead observed different perspectives on gender roles in Papua New Guinea.

In the Arapesh tribe males and females had peace-loving and nurturing tendencies while in the Mundugumor tribe males and females displayed aggressive behaviour.

The Chambri people showed that women held a special place in their society by taking leadership positions while men were dependent and needed emotional support.

Through Margaret Mead’s research, we have learned much about gender expectations found within societies around the world, revealing important messages still pertinent today- societal roles are deeply embedded in cultural contexts.

The Legacy Of Sigmund Freud’s Pleasure Principle: How Early Childhood Impacts Adult Life

Adult Life

The ideas of Sigmund Freud regarding pleasure and the influence of our childhood on our lives are still incredibly relevant today.

According to Freud, human beings naturally move toward pleasure and away from pain.

This is known as the ‘pleasure principle’, and it has a huge part to play in what we experience in life.

When we’re children, we tend to be more heavily driven by the pleasure principle than at any other point in our lives – but as adulthood brings with it new rules and expectations, so too does it bring with it restrictions on how we seek out different types of pleasure.

Unfortunately, this often leads us down a path where we start suppressing those forbidden desires, and this can lead to neuroses.

Freud suggested that people should not try to ignore their feelings or desires but rather find healthy ways of coping with them – therefore avoiding such undesirable outcomes.

He argued that these issues begin during childhood when we need to quickly adapt to our social realities – so he urged people to work on themselves consciously from an early age.

In addition, Freud discussed what he called ‘childhood phases’, which included the oral phase (the first year), anal phase (ages one-three) and phallic phase (around age six).

In studying these phases, he discovered how each could influence behaviour later in life- for instance; he believed that those receiving too little breast milk as infants could develop eating disorders due to emotional distress which can result in an unwillingness to spend money later on life due to being overly “anal-retentive” behaviourally speaking.

All in all, the theories of Sigmund Freud remain important topics of conversation in today’s world- his research into childhood development has helped shape our understanding of psychology even now, providing valuable insights into many aspects of personal growth – a testament indeed to his genius!

Jane Jacobs Advocated For Dense, Busy Streets To Enhance Urban Social Interaction

Jane Jacobs was one of the key theorists of city life in the 1950s and 1960s, and she argued strongly that if cities were to be lively, vibrant and fun places to live, then they needed to be dense ecosystems.

She believed that cities weren’t just about having more open spaces with parks and boulevards but that having a healthy density of people was an essential part of creating a thriving city.

Jacobs advocated for streets that straddled both cultural and residential boundaries, noting that a healthy neighborhood should have three components: workplaces, restaurants and theaters which would mix people from all different backgrounds, allowing them to bump into each other and exchange ideas.

This kind of intermingling would not only provide entertainment but also lead to increased safety in densely populated neighborhoods as residents would get to know one another better.

Jacobs argued against isolated skyscrapers as this would lead to lost social capital as individuals felt disconnected and energized by their physical surroundings.

Ultimately Jane Jacobs showed us just how important it is to build cities in such a way that both celebrates physical density while also encouraging social interaction.

Jane Austen’s Novels Promote Important Lessons Of Mutual Education And Refraining From Judging Others

Jane Austen's

Jane Austen’s novels are filled with important moral lessons and one of the most important is that couples should educate each other.

This is demonstrated in her novel Pride and Prejudice, where our protagonists Elizabeth Bennet and Mr.

Darcy don’t immediately fall in love – rather they learn from each other and grow together.


Darcy learns to discard his arrogance thanks to Elizabeth’s insights, while Elizabeth benefits from Darcy’s worldly knowledge and warmer nature.

It is clear that Austen is emphasizing the idea that true love comes not just from acceptance but also support and growth through education.

The same lesson applies in Mansfield Park, where poor Fanny Price is looked down upon by her rich relatives based on her lack of money, fashion and education.

However, it turns out that Fanny’s innocence and virtue are qualities of far greater value than material wealth or vanity traits —a message which needless to say bears repeating even today!

So here we learn a valuable lesson: be sure to judge people carefully because it’s their character that truly matters, not their possessions or outer demeanor.

Wrap Up

The final summary of the teachings of The Great Thinkers Book can be summed up by being humble and looking to the stars.

The Stoics, Jane Jacobs, Jane Austen, Lao Tzu and many more remind us that life lessons from our predecessors still have relevance today.

Humans tend to exaggerate their worry and hope as if it matters in a larger context, when in fact these moments are small compared to the heavens above.

By turning your eyes towards what lies beyond our atmosphere, we are able to gain a greater appreciation for life and for our own significance in this world.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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