The problem with self-help

Julian Baggini in Microphilosophy:

Isbn9781786482440-detailLast week I was set to appear on Radio Four’s Today programme to discuss self-help books with the concert pianist James Rhodes. Rhodes has suffered depression and attempted suicide, which makes his new “anti-self help” book Fire on All Sides a more interesting attack on the genre than most.

In the end I didn’t appear because one of the editors had noticed I’d been on the programme before Christmas and there’s only so much Baggini the broadcaster can inflict on the British people.

Rhodes made an eloquent and persuasive case in the discussion. His main complaint is that the self-help culture encourages us to think we are more perfectible than we are. The “good-enough human being” should indeed be good enough. “The human condition is one of fragility,” he said. “Just because we are not happy it doesn’t mean that we are unhappy. There is a huge amount of space between happiness and unhappiness and someone in between is OK.” Well said.

Rhodes acknowledged that many self-help books do contain nuggets of truth but insisted most of these are just common sense. That’s true, but as his interlocutor Dr Adrian James pointed out, often “common sense” is just what we lack and is only obvious when pointed out.

More here.