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The Art of Failure - The Anti Self-Help Guide [Kindle Edition]

Neel Burton
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $22.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Book Description

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 deepest 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 achieved.

An extraordinarily wide ranging mix of psychology and philosophy covering most of human behaviour from madness to happiness and the meaning of life, and encoutering ghosts and death on the way ... Brilliant. Neel Burton has already won several prizes ... and this volume deserves another. --The British Medical Association

The book's basic premise is that the modern Western definition of success is deeply 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, mortal, subject to frequent and unforeseen setbacks, in the face of which we do better to develop virtues of honesty, friendship, patience, and moderation. To be fair, this is not 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 more appropriate depth and 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 also draws 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 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 manner. --Gareth Southwell, philosopher and writer


Editorial Reviews

Review

An extraordinarily wide ranging mix of psychology and philosophy covering most of human behaviour from madness to happiness and the meaning of life, and encoutering ghosts and death on the way ... Brilliant. Neel Burton has already won several prizes ... and this volume deserves another. --The British Medical Association

The book's basic premise is that the modern Western definition of success is deeply 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, mortal, subject to frequent and unforeseen setbacks, in the face of which we do better to develop virtues of honesty, friendship, patience, and moderation. To be fair, this is not 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 more appropriate depth and detail. Throughout, his points are illustrated by recourse to theories, ideas and anecdotes cherry-picked from the lives and writings of the great philosophers [...] Burton also draws 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 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 manner. --Gareth Southwell, philosopher and writer

About the Author

Dr Neel Burton, 31, is a psychiatrist and philosopher who lives and teaches in Oxford, England. He is the recipient of the Society of Authors' Richard Asher Prize, the British Medical Association's Young Authors' Award, and the Medical Journalists' Association Open Book Award. His other books include 'The Meaning of Madness' and 'Plato's Shadow', both also with Acheron Press.

Product Details

  • File Size: 677 KB
  • Print Length: 211 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0956035337
  • Publisher: Acheron Press; 1 edition (January 31, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004LROQO4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,039 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book saved my life. September 4, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am a young academic suffering my first bout of major depression due to the break up of a long term relationship and a poor career choice. The title of the book drew me in because at this moment I indeed feel like a total "failure". All of the cognative psychology self-help books my therapist recommened I read while battling (or wading) through my depression are simplistic, banal, unintelligent and honestly not worth the paper they were printed on. This book is indeed the anti-self-help book and thank goodness it is. The book itself uses many literary, psychological, and philosophic allusions in its rhetoric and might not be that useful for readers who are not use to prose that is cross disaplinary. I, on another hand,love this book. I bought it for the kindle on my smart phone and spent the entire evening devouring it... I now have some new perspective on my life, when for the past few months I have been waking up every morning literally wishing I was not alive wondering how I had gotten myself into the situation that I am in. This book saved my life, and my therapist is an idiot who gets paid too much.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real success March 30, 2012
Format:Paperback
This book is a precursor of sorts to Dr. Burton's recently published "Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception." In both books much of the same ground is covered, and indeed there is some repetition; however "The Art of Failure" is more clearly about what to do about the human predicament while "Hide and Seek" is more about laying out what the problem is.

And what is the problem? The problem, as the Buddha expressed it some twenty-five hundred years ago, is that life as it is usually lived is unsatisfactory. Consequently Burton's title is doubly ironic. First, what is called failure is in fact success, and what is "anti self-help" really is self-help.

What I especially like about the way Burton writes is his ability to make his case using evidence and rationale from academic or clinical psychology and from philosophic and religious traditions.

Let's begin with one of the most important ideas in the book:

"As human beings we have a tendency to think of our personhood as something concrete and tangible, something that exists in the `real world' and that extends through time. However, it is possible that our personhood is in fact nothing more than a product of our minds, merely a convenient concept of schema that enables us to relate our present self with our past, future, and conditionals selves, and so to lend to our life a sense of coherence and meaning. This concept or schema amounts to our sense of self, which is the very basis of our ego, and which is, therefore, tantamount to one gigantic ego defence, or the sum total of all our ego defences." (pp.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Be Human March 22, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Art of Failure is an uncommonly valuable book because it pinpoints the faults of contemporary definitions of failure and success, helping readers realign their values to match the things that lead to fundamental happiness. Unfortunately the book is challenging to many of the core beliefs that drive contemporary humans and its conclusions are difficult to implement in proportion to their truth. As such, it appropriately calls itself an 'anti-self help guide' and promises no easy tricks to success among one's peers.

The previous reviewer is correct that the author draws from (primarily though not exclusively Western) philosophy and psychology, but The Art of Failure is in no way a summary or a survey of either of these. The author ties together relevant and interesting philosophical and social theories in a tight arc that clearly leads to a realization of the fuller possibilities attendant to being human, as well as how one can achieve these personally. The examples from psychology and philosophy are not only engrossing for their own sakes but are often remarkably novel repackagings of material from the the intellectually sensitive minds of the past in different and unusual forms. I found that the results not only elucidated the ideas of those psychologists and philosophers but gave them dimensions I had not before realized. On this account alone the book would be worth reading.

By far the book's most important impact is that it speaks to that voice inside that wonders at the end of the day how it has gotten here and whether it needs to be here at all. It rang true for me on this deep level usually reserved for literature and art; if I can implement only some of the conclusions in my life, I will be better for it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars August 23, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fantastic book, absolutely recommended read for anyone who is ready to 'examine their life'!
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More About the Author

Neel Burton is a psychiatrist, philosopher, writer, and wine-lover who lives and teaches in Oxford, England.

He is the recipient of the Society of Authors' Richard Asher Prize, the British Medical Association's Young Authors' Award, and the Medical Journalists' Association Open Book Award.

www.neelburton.com

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