In Praise of Failure

Four Lessons in Humility

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Pub Date 03 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 03 Jan 2023

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Description

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.

Costica Bradatan is author of Dying for Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers and coeditor of The God Beat. A contributor to the New York Times, Aeon, Commonweal, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New Statesman and Religion/Philosophy Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, he is Professor of Humanities in the Honors College at Texas Tech University and Honorary Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Queensland in Australia. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages.

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...


Advance Praise

“Provocative, stimulating, wise—the book that our success-obsessed age needs to read.”—Tom Holland, author of Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World

“In this deeply inspiring book, Costica Bradatan invites us to humble up and embrace the fact that we are all prone to failure. But the real lesson is that this embrace is a first step on a long journey toward self-transformation and growth. We all fail, but only the wise understand that their imperfections are what make them whole.”—Marcelo Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning

“I have nothing but praise for this revealing and riveting, probing and provocative book. Bradatan has succeeded in reminding us why failure is not only inevitable, but, if viewed properly, so very vital. A brilliant tour de force.”—Robert Zaretsky, author of The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas

In Praise of Failure takes a set of corrosively prophetic lives and makes them new again through a compelling, cross-cutting, swift, and entirely original mode of narration. Costica Bradatan writes with the same daring, the same interpretive anger that made his subjects notorious in their own day for choosing failure over what their respective worlds counted as success. A gripping read, start to finish.”—Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography

“A belletrist following in the footsteps of Walter Benjamin and Susan Sontag, Costica Bradatan exhibits, yet again, that he is an original thinker of real merit.”—James Miller, author of Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche

“With eloquent passion—and compassion—Costica Bradatan puts fear of failure at the heart of human existence, yesterday, now, and forever, from the failures that frustrate our daily existence to the ultimate failure that is death. Weaving together the life and work of such disparate souls as Simone Weil, Seneca, Gandhi, E. M. Cioran, and Yukio Mishima, he reminds us why our fellow humans have always ascribed to the mad, the misfits, and those on the verge of death an uncanny capacity for second sight. A unique, insightful meditation on the essential questions of human existence that aims to heal as well as to provoke.”—Ingrid Rowland, coauthor of The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art

“Provocative, stimulating, wise—the book that our success-obsessed age needs to read.”—Tom Holland, author of Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World

“In this deeply inspiring book...


Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780674970472
PRICE $29.95 (USD)

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