How to Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton
I generally like Alain de Botton’s accessible way of writing philosophy. I like the way he asks questions and poses problems and makes his readers think on a deeper level about everyday problems. He also does a great job of making aesthetic problems tangible or showing what the stakes are in issues of art and beauty. He uses examples from high culture and popular culture to make his points and tie things together. For example, he uses people’s varying reactions to art as a way to understand why we find certain people more attractive than others.
This book did focus a lot on fairly stereotypical problems of love and sex, like a middle-aged woman’s loss of interest in sex with her husband, or a man’s obsession with pornography. The mini-stories he tells about unoriginal situations like these were not as interesting as the fundamental questions and reflections that sprung from them. Some of his conclusions sounded a little bizarre–like, “Impotence is at base, then, a symptom of respect, a fear of causing displeasure,”–but his process of reaching them seemed entirely logical and sound, so the effect is playful. He is rather pessimistic about the possibility of lasting love and faithful marriage, but phrases his depressing conclusions in uplifting ways. If nothing else, the title is a fair description: de Botton did make me think more deeply and systematically about sex, and I think that’s always a good thing.