Neel Burton: The Art of Failure



This book oes not live up to the promise of its title Had I had the opportunity to examine it in a bookstore I would not have purchased it There is no unifying theme There are only general The Penguin Book of English Verse discussions related to the chapter titles such as mania fear courage ghosts madness and meaning If I could get a refund on this I would The self help book has acuired a bad press of late earning a reputation forealing in platitudes patronising and generally failing to engage the sophisticated and Seven Secrets of Happiness demanding reader In styling itself as an anti self help guide Neel Burton s The Art of Failure therefore sets out to prove that self help literature need not succumb to lowest commonenominator triteness and tedious mantras of self motivationThe book s basic premise is that the modern Western The Killer Cats Birthday Bash (The Killer Cat, definition of success iseeply flawed presenting us with the false goals of material comfort fame power and hedonism In contrast Burton argues Western philosophical and spiritual traditions have largely been in agreement that true happiness lies in accepting failure that we are limited and mortal beings subject to freuent and unforeseen setbacks in the face of which we The Force of Destiny do better toevelop virtues of honesty friendship patience and moderationTo be fair this is not. We spend most of our time and energy chasing 'success' such that we have little left over for thinking and feeling being and relating As a result we fail in the eep.

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E will whilst providing an admirably concise overview of the main philosophical controversies arguably strays too far from the main narrative path and fails to maintain a clear sense of the context and purpose of the iscussion I had a similar feeling at other points in the book and while Burton makes freuent attempts to signpost the reader as to how the material under How I Became a Nun discussion relates to the main topic he struggles too this consistently and seamlessly As a result the book sometimes feels like a collection of well written and interesting essays than a unified treatment of a central themeThis said the book is well worth reading Burton s attitude to his material is always thoughtful never content merely to outline this or that idea but always seeking to raw lessons and insights There is much then that average readers will benefit from that will help them and there are numerous points at which I found myself absorbed nodding in agreement or making mental notes to find out about this or that Burton s scholarship is excellent his tone always intelligent but clear a rare combination of skills so whilst certain aspects of the book might be improved upon it is far from being a failureGareth Southwell is a philosopher writer and illustrator. Psychiatrist and philosopher who lives and teaches in Oxford England His other books include The Meaning of Madness and Plato’s Shadow both also with Acheron Pres.

Perhaps a lesson that the much maligned self help guides have ignored but the virtue of Burton s book is that he is not afraid to enter into these topics in appropriate epth and The Undoing Project detail Throughout his points are illustrated by recourse to theories ideas and anecdotes cherry picked from the lives and writings of the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle who feature heavily throughout Epicurus and Heraclitus but also representatives of the existentialist tradition such as Nietzsche Kierkegaard and Sartre Burton alsoraws on his background in psychology in ranging through contemporary issues in psychiatry as well as the continued relevance of the classic approaches of Freud and Jung Such First Flight (Dragon School discussion is augmented throughout with references to literature art religion and history with the result that Burton s material is always engaging and interesting presented in an accessible and clear mannerHowever these many merits aside this breadth of topic and material also at times serves toetract from the book s overall purpose Given the etail in which certain subjects are presented the central theme exploration of the art of failure can sometimes get lost in or less technical expositions of theories and accounts For instance the chapter on fre. Est possible way We fail as human beings The Art of Failure explores what it means to be successful and how if at all true success can be achievedDr Neel Burton is

wwwneelburtoncom