On Desire: Why We Want What We Want

On Desire: Why We Want What We Want

A man of average income feels he cannot be truly happy un he owns an expensive luxury car.

Desires often come to us unbidden and unwanted, and they can have a dramatic impact, sometimes changing the course of our lives.

Irvine takes us on a wide-ranging tour of our impulses, wants, and needs, showing us where these feelings come from and how we can try to rein them in.

Irvine concludes that the best way to attain lasting happiness is not to change the world around us or our place in it, but to change ourselves.

If we can convince ourselves to want what we already have, we can dramatically enhance our happiness.

Brimming with wisdom and practical advice, On Desire offers a thoughtful approach to controlling unwanted passions and attaining a more meaningful life.

Reviews of the On Desire: Why We Want What We Want

Also, while Irvine casts desire into the traditional "seek what feels good, avoid what feels bad" mode, Schopenhauer reframes the "seek pleasure, avoid pain" debate by saying that the Will, as action, is always prompted by pain (dissatisfaction). Irvine also states the essential role the intellect plays in formulating chains of desire (Ends-means relationships), or the instrumental actions used to satisfy terminal desires. Schopenhauer's theory struggled with this as well and, while Schopenhauer was not particularly successful, he had a strong appreciation for the power of the Will and its pervasive immunity to control by reason. The weaker part of Irvine's book is that it gives too much credit to reason to control unwanted desire. For those whose Will (energy level) for self-survival and well-being and reproduction (sex drive) is particularly strong, self-control via reason is likely to be a far too optimistic view.

William Irvines On Desire examines the nature of desire, exploring first how profoundly it affects our lives, then surveying psychological inquiries into its basis before at last turning to consider how religions, philosophies, and odd ducks have attempted to grapple with it. Irvine is author previously of A Guide to the Good Life, a manual on the practice of Stoicism, and the two works have a common subject and a likely audience. After a brief introductory section in which Irvine comments on how profoundly our life can be changed by desires beyond our control -- falling in love, for instance -- the second part of the book offers that desires are ultimately the result of our instincts, a kind of biological incentive system thats had a cobbled-together evolutionary history. That in mind, it is no accident that virtually every religion, and most moral philosophies, have addressed the matter of desire, and in the third section of the work Irvine examines Abrahamic, Greek, and Buddhist approaches.

Initially,I was very excited to read this book. Towards the end, I got bored and was skimming through the last few chapters. It is a great book if you want a crash course on all the different philosophical teachings... Irvine also did a lot of philosophical name dropping which I'd admit I like in my books only to keep me fresh.. Irvine touched on the evolutionary proposes of desires, different types of desires, religious advice on how to deal with desire and, philosophical advice on how to deal with desire.

Conversely, the intellect can form a desire, but if the emotions don't commit, the resulting desire will be feeble. In most cases, the best the intellect can hope for is to withstand these entreaties for a spell.

Unfortunately, in the middle chapters, he scanned different religious teachings about desire (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and the Amish and Oneida communities) and this became more of a survey than presenting genuine insight. But I read most of it to know that I had my desire satiated.

Our problem is trying to control those wants so that they don't control us.

  • English

  • Philosophy

  • Rating: 3.81
  • Pages: 322
  • Publish Date: November 1st 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA
  • Isbn10: 0195188624
  • Isbn13: 9780195188622