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  • Romantic vs. Classical Voters

    We’re used to dividing how people vote in elections according to the categories of right-wing and left-wing. But there might be another way of labelling an electorate that taps into something broader and deeper in human personality. We might apportion people into the camps of Romantic and Classical voters. Which might you be? Here is some of what separates these two fundamental electoral types: 1. Revolution vs. Evolution The Romantic believes that a far738px-Richard_Caton_Woodville_-_Politics_in_an_Oyster_House_-_Walters_371994
  • Emotional Technology

    It's always exciting to think about what kinds of technology are going to be coming to us in the future. By extrapolating from current trends, we can make some good guesses about some of the astonishing inventions that are going to be around 40 or 50 years from now. Yet, when we think of the technology of the future, too often we restrict our imagination to particular areas: to gadgets that will make us go faster. But some of the truly exciting developments will11038797613_8bf393d021_z
  • Business and the Ladder of Needs

    Business is focused on addressing a multitude of human needs; for everything from Jelly Babies to cardiac surgery to nuclear technology to hand soap dispensers. Because human needs are so wide ranging, and span such a multitude of different appetites and desires, it can be useful to divide these needs into three broad categories - and then even arrange them up a distinctive sort of ladder: This way of cutting up our needs signals the different parts ofimage00
  • Consumer Self-Knowledge

    We are always making consumption decisions: where to go on holiday; which handbag to purchase; which mortgage lender to go to; what style of socks or make of car to buy; what to have for lunch. We don’t normally spell it out, but each decision is a shot at understanding ourselves in some sector of existence, big or small.  The range of our options is inevitably constrained but ideally, in exercising choice, we are promoting our happiness to the greatest possible9972076934_d978c6784b_z
  • The Entrepreneur and the Artist

    The entrepreneur is one of the key figures of the modern economy, though what an entrepreneur does is perhaps not entirely properly understood. There are certain conspicuous activities of entrepreneurship: raising capital, running factories, organizing supply chains or working out how to take existing products to new markets (how to increase sales of electric cars in Australia, for instance).   But then there’s a more private and primary first move14153691690_de6a94461d_z
  • What Advertising Can Learn from Art

    Our societies are exercised around the question of whether the advertising industry, on the whole, is good or bad. It can be a bit disconcerting that we are relentlessly solicited by people trying to sell us things. One might in some moods wonder if the world would be a better place, if there were a lot less advertising going on. But the fact is, the amount of advertising is increasing all the time. We want to shift the focus to a more specific and more14232466561_13003c2391_z (1)
  • The Duty Trap

    We start off in life being very interested in pleasure and fun. In our earliest years, we do little but hunt out situations that will amuse us, pursuing our hedonistic goals with the help of puddles, crayons, balls, teddies, computers and bits and pieces we find in the kitchen drawers. As soon as anything gets frustrating or boring, we simply give up and go in search of new sources of enjoyment - and no one appears to mind very much. Then, all of a sudden at the371997238_9f8505e976_b
  • Broadening the Job Search

    One key thing that can go wrong in our thinking about a career is that we get fixated on a particular kind of job which - for one reason or another - turns out not to be a promising or realistic option. It may be that the job is extremely difficult to secure, it may require long years of preparation or it might be in an industry that has become precarious and therefore denies us good long-term prospects. Here we call it a fixation - rather than simply an interest5534786554_8d71bd4fc1_z
  • The Perfectionist Trap

    We typically aim for a particular career because we have been deeply impressed by the exploits of the most accomplished practitioners in the field. We formulate our ambitions by admiring the beautiful structures of the architect tasked with designing the city’s new airport, or by following the intrepid trades of the wealthiest Wall Street fund manager, by reading the analyses of the acclaimed literary novelist or sampling the piquant meals in the restaurant of a14267500457_c25d5e37ba_z
  • On the Origins of Confidence

    We don’t often dwell on this – and may never discuss it with others – but when it comes to responding to the challenges we face around our careers, many of us have voices in our heads. We have a murmuring stream of thoughts inside of our minds that constantly comment on our aspirations and achievements. Sometimes, the voices are warm and encouraging - urging us to find more strength or to give an initiative another go: ‘You’re nearly there, stick with3589798166_26a10caaa1_z
  • On the Dangers of Success

    We might imagine that in an uncomplicated way, our parents (and siblings, friends and wider families) will always be pleased at our successes. After all, they were delighted when we scored highly in a spelling test at the age of 6, and so there is - apparently - no reason why they wouldn’t always be happy about our triumphs, however large or varied they might be. But this is to risk missing out on a crucial, rather secret piece of human psychology: how7945910370_8678ee1d13_z
  • On Doing Better Than Our Parents

    One of the most important - but necessarily rather secret - indicators that we are on the right track with our work is a sense that we are doing better than our parents. Far from this suggesting meanness or cruelty on our part, it can be a legitimate sign that we have alighted on an occupation that feels meaningful and invigorating for us. But we need to focus on what ‘doing better’ really means. Traditionally, the term has been interpreted financially. A4603696544_b5d7825c4e_z
  • The Terrors of Being Loved

    Ostensibly we all want love - but oddly, one of the hardest things to do is not to hold it against someone when they do actually turn around and reciprocate our feelings. It can be immensely hard not to feel that those who offer us love are in some way weak, mistaken, needy, craven or defective - and to be left a little queasy by their warmth, repulsed by their wish to hold us and to caress our necks; by their tender words and their capacity to find minor things4612169511_fc6bc4acee_z (1)
  • Why True Love Doesn’t Have to Last Forever

    One of the big assumptions of our times is that if love is real, it must by definition prove to be eternal. We invariably and naturally equate genuine relationships with life-long relationships. And therefore it seems almost impossible for us to interpret the ending of a union after only a limited period - a few weeks, or five or ten years, or anything short of our or the partner’s death-date - as something other than a problem, a failure and an emotional4412334308_b1e82248e1_z
  • Loyalty and Adultery

    Long-term relationships almost inevitably confront us with one highly uncomfortable dilemma around sex. On the one hand, monogamy feels like a profoundly desirable and often default state, approved of by the community, religions, the media, one’s children and the ethos of Romanticism. It is a route to emotional closeness, a spur to cosiness and a defence against jealousy and chaos. Yet, at the same time, sexual exploration refuses not to seem in some way, on8137632167_2299c6af6f_k
  • Sexual Non-Liberation

    We are repeatedly given messages that we live in sexually enlightened times, that we belong to a liberated age. And therefore the implication is that we ought by now to be finding sex a straightforward and untroubling matter. We are not - after all - Victorians or prudes. The standard narrative of our release from past inhibitions goes something like this: for thousands of years across the globe, due to a devilish combination of religious bigotry and pedanticFound_rossetti
  • The Partner as Child Theory

    Small children sometimes behave in stunningly unfair and shocking ways: they scream at the person who is looking after them, angrily push away a bowl of animal pasta, throw away something you have just fetched for them. But we rarely feel personally agitated or wounded by their behaviour. And the reason is that we don’t assign a negative motive or mean intention to a small person. We reach around for the most benevolent interpretations. We don’t think they are9429905259_daf84e0a26_h
  • How Romanticism Ruined Love

    To fall in love with someone feels like such a personal and spontaneous process, it can sound strange — and even rather insulting — to suggest that something else (we might call it society or culture) may be playing a covert, critical role in governing our relationships in their most intimate moments.   Yet the history of humanity shows us so many varied approaches to love, so many different assumptions about how couples are supposed to get together4612169511_fc6bc4acee_z
  • An Updated Ten Commandments

    The Ten Commandments (which appear in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) maintain an extraordinary hold on our imaginations even though many of them can sound - in the context of our own times - really rather peculiar, bound up with injunctions not to covet a neighbour’s livestock or carve images of god-like figures. It isn’t so much the precise contents of the 10 Commandments that still proves compelling, it is their form, which is astonishingly concise and8320970327_f90e9851ef_z
  • Things Have Always Been as Bad

    Some deeply worrying things are, as always, happening in the world.   However bad it is, we have an additional complication. What we call the news is really a business that understands that you cannot make money by telling people that things are, on balance, going to be OK. The point of news is to make money by scaring us - and it does this brilliantly. It may be trying to inform us, but its chief aim is to ensure that we'll be panicked enough to5440394763_14a86b1695_z
  • How to Be a Good Listener

    Being a good listener is one of the most important and enchanting life-skills anyone can have. Yet few of us know how to do it, not because we are evil, but because no one has taught us how and - a related point - no one has listened to us.   So we come to social life greedy to speak rather than listen, hungry to meet others, but reluctant to hear them. Friendship degenerates into a socialised egoism. Like most things, it’s about education.9500650217_63b453ebaa_z
  • On Being Cheered Along

    There are friends who are deeply well-meaning who nevertheless have a habit of responding in unfortunate ways when we reveal a trouble to them. They try - at once, with considerable vigour - to cheer us up. We may appreciate their underlying good nature while nevertheless profoundly resenting their particular technique - for what we may want from them above all is not a swift rejoinder that our problems are in fact, despite appearances, easily solvable - but2243539840_7d0493b8e5_z
  • Untranslatable Words

    There are lots of moods, needs and feelings that our own language has not yet properly pinned down. The perfect word - even if it comes from abroad - can help us to explain ourselves to other people - and its existence quietly reassures us (and everyone else) that a state of mind is not really rare, just rarely spoken of. The right word brings dignity to our troubles, and helps us identify more accurately what we really like or find annoying. Here are some9061894614_255a7044f4_z
  • Self-Knowledge Questionnaire

    According to the philosophers of Ancient Greece, the summit of achievement was to have followed the injunction to ‘know yourself.’ While we all have some ideas about who we are, the knowledge we have is often patchy, and we have few opportunities to be guided in reflecting on our personality traits. This questionnaire does not aim to summarise the whole self, but to suggest a few themes which might be prominent in our characters, with the hope of
  • The Life House

    The School of Life is a global organisation committed to emotional education. Our headquarters are in some of the world’s major urban centres: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Seoul, Istanbul…  But we have always been interested in helping our audiences find some of the peace of mind once offered by isolated rural monasteries. It was with this in mind that we bought a piece of land in a deserted valley in central Wales and, with the help of the BritishIMG-20160409-00139
  • On Taking Drugs

    It’s easy to have a pretty negative view of drugs: the news is always going on about police raids on drug dealers, kids tripping dangerously at raves, overdoses and rehab. It goes without saying: things can go horrifically wrong around drugs. But our intense awareness of the negatives is in danger of creating a misleadingly narrow view of the subject. Drugs are - at best - serious, dignified, noble and important, and we need more of them in ourPicknell_William_Lamb_The_Opium_Den_1881_Oil_on_Canvas-huge
  • Why Philosophy Should Become More Like Pop Music

    When pop music started in a big way in the 1960s, it seemed at times like an especially silly medium, favoured by hormonal school girls and connected up with delinquent and tediously bizarre behaviour.    By contrast, philosophy had a reputation for being deeply serious and impressive - the natural home of the big ambition to understand ourselves and transform the world through ideas. But since the 1960s, philosophy has stalled and pop has
  • The School of Life: What We Believe

      The School of Life, which is responsible for this website, is a global organisation with a simple mission in mind. We want to increase the amount of WISDOM in circulation. We are fighting for: - Wiser Relationships - Wiser Work - Wiser Leisure - Wiser Culture - Wiser Selves To increase Wisdom, we undertake a number of activities; run shops and classrooms, consult to businesses, write books, make films - and a diversity of other
  • Cultural Mining

    Cultural mining describes the process by which the most valuable parts of culture - by which we mean the arts, humanities and philosophy - are recovered and made useful for our own times. In cultural mining, the refined and practical essence of culture is carefully extracted, cleaned, blasted and remoulded - and then used to manufacture the utensils and mental resources that will help us navigate contemporary life; work, relationships, family, self-knowledge and18519962993_612979d290_z
  • Lego – the Movies

    Lego is a surprisingly useful medium for getting big ideas across: 1. Lego 'Philosophy' 2. Finding the 'right' one 3. No one is normal 4. Keeping going 5.  Why we love disaster news 6. Memento mori 5258089883_5b98ce066c_z
  • Introduction to The Curriculum

    This is a section of The Book of Life that gathers together our canon: our selection of the greatest thinkers from the fields of philosophy, political theory, sociology, art, architecture and literature whom we believe have the most to offer to us today. The idea of assembling a ‘canon’ can feel a bit awkward - maybe even oppressive. It can feel unfair to leave out so many people. And anyway, who decides? Surely the people making the canon are bringing some8074294232_a6d8999596_z
  • Andrea Palladio

    In Europe and the US, the average person spends 84% of their life indoors: that is, inside architecture. Much of the rest of the time we are around buildings, even if we’re not paying them a great deal of attention. Despite this massive exposure, on the whole we’re not – as a culture – very ambitious about what buildings look like. We tend to assume that mostly the buildings we live around won’t be anything special and that there’s nothing to be donePalladio_filtered
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    People have always had trouble pronouncing his name. The 19th-century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, was once mocked in Parliament for getting it wrong. If you don’t speak German, it’s not at all obvious how you are supposed to say it. A safe bet is to start with a hard g on ‘Ger…’ and end with a ‘ter’: Ger-ter. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832) has often been seen as one of Europe’s big cultural heroes - comparable to the likesunnamed7
  • Charles Dickens  

    Charles Dickens was the most famous writer in the English language during the nineteenth century and he remains one of the best selling authors of all time. He can seem remote: the frock coat, velvet collar, the fishtail beard, bow tie… But he has a lot to say to us today. And that’s because he had a remarkable ambition: he believed writing could play a big role in fixing the problems of the world. Entertainment Dickens didn’t just write.Dickens_Gurney_head
  • Gustave Flaubert

    Gustave Flaubert was a great French 19th-century (1821-1880) novelist who deserves our love and sympathy; as much for what he wrote as who he was. We can admire him for four reasons at least: HE UNDERSTOOD THE PURPOSE OF TRAGEDY Flaubert produced arguably the single greatest tragic novel ever written: Madame Bovary - which he worked on for five years and published in 1857. The point of a tragedy is to allow us to experience a degree of620px-Flaubert-Giraud
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky

    A good trick, with his name, is to say ‘toy’ in the middle: Dos-toy-ev-ski. He was born 1821 and grew up on the outskirts of Moscow. His family were comfortably off - his father was a successful doctor, though he happened to work at a charitable hospital that provided medical services for the very poor. The family had a house in the hospital complex, so the young Dostoevsky was from the very beginning powerfully exposed to experiences from which otherTrutovsky_004

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