On Desire

On Desire

3.8 (351 ratings by Goodreads)
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Often, we don't choose our desires; desires choose us, and we frequently get carried away by them. But if we want to lead fulfilled and meaningful lives, we must learn to control them, to sift through and pursue the important ones; in short, to master our desires. Enter Irvine's On Desire , a book which turns desire inside-out - to explore how and why desires arise, how they affect our lives, what advice exists from both religious and philosophical thinkers on mastering desire, and what methods they have pursued to achieve that goal. Irvine first turns to the science of desire, summarizing popular philosophy of mind theories, the veto-power of emotion over intellect, what we can and cannot know about the unconscious mind, and his theory that we have an incentive system biologically wired in us, which shapes and motivates our particular desires. He brings together a broad range of religious advice on mastering desire, from the Buddhist middle path to the promise of a glorious Christian or Islamic afterlife. But Irvine also heeds the less well-known religious groups, such as the Hutterites, Shakers, and Amish, whose doctrines of self-denial and self-sacrifice for the good of God and the larger Amish community, he argues, are aimed at curbing desires by losing the self. In philosophy, Irvine draws from the Stoic tracts of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca, who taught ways in which to desire only what one already possesses or what is in one's power to control and achieve. He goes on to discuss the "eccentric" lifestyles of Diogenes and Thoreau, parsing their strange behavior in terms of their attempts to avoid the inundation of pressures and wants of mainstream society. In the end, Irvine will cull the important elements of all these theories to defend the argument that mastering desire is important, in order to differentiate us from other species, evolving from what we are hardwired to want, and most of all, in order to lead meaningful lives and appreciate being content in a world motivated by endless want.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 127 x 180.3 x 35.6mm | 408.24g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195188624
  • 9780195188622

Review quote

"A sprightly and entertaining book.... Those who would like to understand and control some of their desires will be glad to find this book on the library shelf."--Library Journal"What is delightful about this book is that the usual suspects are not as conspicuous. Instead, the Shakers are discussed alongside Buddha, and Diogenes adjacent to Thoreau.... With clear writing, backed up by careful exegesis and a unique twist to a common thesis, this work is necessary for most undergraduate collections, and for students of philosophy and happiness. Summing Up: Highly recommended."--Choice"William B. Irvine has written a disarmingly seductive and easily readable treatise on the origins, nature, vicissitudes, and 'crises' of desire. He simply and clearly discusses biologically instilled incentive systems, the rich psychological research on the peculiarities of our motivation, and the wisdom of various religious and spiritual traditions. It is a well-informed, wise, informal interdisciplinary book that is highly recommended for the general reader."--Robert C. Solomon, author of The Passions, About Love, The Joy of Philosophy, Not Passion's Slave, and In Defense of Sentimentality"Irvine has given us a very engaging book on what desire is: how central it is to human existence, what science has to tell us about it, and what we can do with it and about it. He combines knowledge, wisdom and wit with a light but sure philosophical touch."--John Perry, Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University..".a sweeping review of philosophical, psychological, evolutionary, and religious concepts of desire. The writing is lucid and economical."--PsycCRITIQUESshow more

Table of contents

Introduction PART ONE: THE SECRET LIFE OF DESIRE - Chapter 1: The Ebb and Flow of Desire - Chapter 2: Other People - PART TWO: THE SCIENCE OF DESIRE - Chapter 3: Mapping Our Desires - Chapter 4: The Wellsprings of Desire - Chapter 5: The Psychology of Desire - Chapter 6: The Evolution of Desire - Chapter 7: The Biological Incentive System (BIS) - PART THREE: DEALING WITH OUR DESIRES - Chapter 8: The Human Condition - Chapter 9: Religious Advice - Chapter 10: Religious Advice Continued-Protestant Sects Chapter 11: Philosophical Advice - Chapter 12: The Eccentrics - Chapter 13: Conclusionsshow more

About William B. Irvine

William B. Irvine is Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University, in Dayton, Ohio.show more

Rating details

351 ratings
3.8 out of 5 stars
5 25% (86)
4 42% (148)
3 24% (85)
2 8% (27)
1 1% (5)
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