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In consumer economies, success has increasingly been defined in terms of material attainment and the achievement of status. This model of ‘the good life’ and its formulas for success ignore the haunting possibility that one may not succeed and as a result be deemed ‘a failure’. Beverley Clack explores that often-neglected theme of failure, not just as the opposite of achievement, but also, and more importantly, how it has been conflated with loss: that which haunts all transient, mortal human experience.
Understanding loss as a form of failure affects our ability to cope with the everyday losses that permeate existence as a result of the natural processes of ageing, death, and decay. Engaging with loss and thinking about what it inevitability means for our lives and commitments, allows different values to emerge than those connected to success as attainment. Relationships, spontaneity, and generosity are explored as qualities that arise from taking seriously our vulnerability and that form the basis for richer accounts of what it might mean to ‘live well’.
Beverley Clack is Professor in the Philosophy of Religion at Oxford Brookes University.
Her publications include Freud on the Couch (2013); Feminist Philosophy of Religion: Critical Readings, co-edited with Pamela Sue Anderson (2004); Sex and Death: A Reappraisal of Human Mortality (2002); Misogyny in the Western Philosophical Tradition (1999); and The Philosophy of Religion, co-authored with Brian R. Clack in 1998 (a fully revised second edition of this book was published in 2008).
She was recently involved in the ESRC-funded Seminar Series Changing Notions of the Human Subject: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Emotional Well-being and Social Justice in Education Policy and Practice, and has just had her new book, How to be a Failure and Still Live Well: A Philosophy, published by Bloombsury Academic.
** This talk will be held online using the Zoom application (available for PC, Mac, iOS and Android). A link to join the talk will be sent to ticketholders on the day of the event.