A theory of yielding and failure for homogeneous and isotropic materials is given. The theory is calibrated by two independent, measurable properties and from those it predicts possible failure for any given state of stress. It also differentiates between ductile yielding and brittle failure. The explicit ductile-brittle criterion depends not only upon the material specification through the two properties, but also and equally importantly depends upon the type of imposed stress state. The Mises criterion is a special (limiting) case of the present theory. A close examination of this case shows that the Mises material idealization does not necessarily imply ductile behavior under all conditions, only under most conditions. When the first invariant of the yield/failure stress state is sufficiently large relative to the distortional part, brittle failure will be expected to occur. For general material types, it is shown that it is possible to have a state of spreading plastic flow, but as the elastic-plastic boundary advances, the conditions for yielding on it can change over to conditions for brittle failure because of the evolving stress state. The general theory is of a three-dimensional form and it applies to full density materials for which the yield/failure strength in uniaxial tension is less than or at most equal to the magnitude of that in uniaxial compression.