Squarely challenging a culture obsessed with success, an acclaimed philosopher argues that failure is vital to a life well lived, curing us of arrogance and self-deception and engendering humility instead.
Our obsession with success is hard to overlook. Everywhere we compete, rank, and measure. Yet this relentless drive to be the best blinds us to something vitally important: the need to be humble in the face of life’s challenges. Costica Bradatan mounts his case for failure through the stories of four historical figures who led lives of impact and meaning—and assiduously courted failure. Their struggles show that engaging with our limitations can be not just therapeutic but transformative.
In Praise of Failure explores several arenas of failure, from the social and political to the spiritual and biological. It begins by examining the defiant choices of the French mystic Simone Weil, who, in sympathy with exploited workers, took up factory jobs that her frail body could not sustain. From there we turn to Mahatma Gandhi, whose punishing quest for purity drove him to ever more extreme acts of self-abnegation. Next we meet the self-styled loser E. M. Cioran, who deliberately turned his back on social acceptability, and Yukio Mishima, who reveled in a distinctly Japanese preoccupation with the noble failure, before looking to Seneca to tease out the ingredients of a good life.
Gleefully breaching the boundaries between argument and storytelling, scholarship and spiritual quest, Bradatan concludes that while success can make us shallow, our failures can lead us to humbler, more attentive, and better lived lives. We can do without success, but we are much poorer without the gifts of failure.
Information and Mind explores questions of consciousness that Fred Dretske addressed in his philosophical career. Ranging from one of the earliest problems Dretske analyzed—the nature of seeing an object—to epistemological issues that he began working on mid-career, to matters he focused on in later years, including information, mental representation, and conscious experience, this volume investigates and engages with a spectrum of his prolific works. These papers, written by former colleagues and students from the University of Wisconsin and Stanford University, were inspired by talks given at the Center for the Explanation of Consciousness at Stanford in 2015 to celebrate Dretske’s life and work. In addition to scholarly essays, the authors also recount stories of personal interactions with Dretske that transformed their views or changed their professional trajectory. A bibliography of Dretske’s publications rounds out the volume. This generous volume includes contributions by Fred Adams, John A. Barker, John Perry, Paul Skokowski, and Dennis Stampe.
A profound, challenging, wide-ranging book, back in print for a new generation
“Inwardness and Existence accomplishes what no book before or after has even approximated: it demonstrates with great lucidity and insight the shared philosophical project that animates psychoanalysis, Marxism, existentialism, and Hegelian dialectics. Davis roots the reader in the enterprise of questioning what is given and probing beyond what is safe in order to demonstrate that psychoanalytic inquiry, Marxist politics, existential reflection, and dialectical connection all move within the same orbit. No one who reads it will ever think about existence itself in the same way again. Davis’s landmark work will profoundly transform anyone who reads it.”—Todd McGowan, author of The Real Gaze: Film Theory after Lacan
Many of the seemingly bland assertions and bald statements of the eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume contain more than the mind immediately perceives. Author John Valdimir Price contends that an understanding of Hume's writings cannot be separated from an understanding of his life. By examining the works of Hume, Price shows the way in which an ironic way of seeing events and an ironic mode of expression permeated Hume's life and writings. Price examines Hume's irony as it is exhibited in letters to his friends and in his writings concerned with morality, people, philosophy, politics, history, and above all religion. Hume's opinions on life in general are stated in works ranging from the Treatise of Human Nature and the Essays, Moral and Political, through the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding and the Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals, to the Dialogue and Four Dissertations of his maturity. Price feels that Hume's recognition of the ironic in life came about from his perception of the disproportion between human hopes and human accomplishments. The rhetorical consequences of applying reason to a duality in human nature creates the ironic mode. Hume conceived man's opposing tendencies as his willingness to commit himself orally to a concept, a dogma, an idea, or an ideology, and his unwillingness to involve himself in the logical and rhetorical implications of articulating those principles. Hume's use of the ironic mode in his writings provides him with a means of challenging certain dogmatic assumptions common to thought, particularly to traditional religious thought; it acts as a mask for his sceptical intentions, and it is an implied criticism of many ideas. In his political writing, Hume frequently implied that the question under argument was almost too ridiculous to deserve serious treatment. This tactic was effectively employed in the Account of Stewart, in which Hume came to the defense of a friend. In his most profitable venture, the History of England, Hume not only used irony to advantage, but developed a new approach to the writing of history—the use of narrative. He presented history as a series of more or less connected events, not as a series of "right" or "wrong" attitudes. The author believes that Hume's initial religious scepticism, combined with the predominant satiric-ironic mode in the literature of his time, led him to seek irony as a method of self expression. This scepticism, which permeated all of Hume's attitudes toward life, reached its most complete expression in the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, which accepted reason as its guide, but also accepted experience as its master.