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Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life

Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life

by Jonathan LearJonathan Lear
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Separated by millennia, Aristotle and Sigmund Freud gave us disparate but compelling pictures of the human condition. But if, with Jonathan Lear, we scrutinize these thinkers’ attempts to explain human behavior in terms of a higher principle—whether happiness or death—the pictures fall apart.
Aristotle attempted to ground ethical life in human striving for happiness, yet he didn’t understand what happiness is any better than we do. Happiness became an enigmatic, always unattainable, means of seducing humankind into living an ethical life. Freud fared no better when he tried to ground human striving, aggression, and destructiveness in the death drive, like Aristotle attributing purpose where none exists. Neither overarching principle can guide or govern “the remainder of life,” in which our inherently disruptive unconscious moves in breaks and swerves to affect who and how we are. Lear exposes this tendency to self-disruption for what it is: an opening, an opportunity for new possibilities. His insights have profound consequences not only for analysis but for our understanding of civilization and its discontent.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674006744
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/15/2002
Series: The Tanner Lectures on Human Values , #4
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 204
Sales rank: 437,279
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Lear is John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. He is also the Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society.

Table of Contents

1. Happiness

2. Death

3. The Remainder of Life




What People are Saying About This

Hanna Segal

In this book Jonathan Lear provides an invaluable and necessary link between psychoanalysis and philosophy. He describes the break that was introduced into earlier world views by Freud's discovery of the unavoidably irrational and chaotic unconscious part of our mind, and the way the mind internally attacks itself (Freud's death instinct). Lear shows how such a "break" can be a breakdown or a breakthrough, opening new possibilities and enlarging our horizons.
Hanna Segal, Training Analyst, British Institute of Psychoanalysis and author of Dream, Phantasy and Art

Slavoj Zizek

Today, the domain of psychology is hopelessly split between the "high" theory, caught in its expert language, and the popular self-help manuals addressing people's actual crises and dilemmas. The miracle of Lear's book is that he effortlessly unites these two seemingly incompatible dimensions. Through the most stringent conceptual analysis of the basic notions of the Freudian edifice, he asks the simple crucial questions that gnaw us all: What is happiness? How does psychoanalysis enable us to orient ourselves in today's reality? With envy and admiration, I still wonder how Lear was able to do it!
Slavoj Zizek, author of The Sublime Object of Ideology

Robert Michels

Jonathan Lear has done it again! Bringing sophisticated psychoanalytic understanding to a close textual analysis of the Nichomachean Ethics, he demonstrates how both Aristotle's contemplative life and Freud's death instinct were designed to defend against a fundamental problem in constructing a unified view of man, and suggests the outline of a new and original approach--one that will allow us to think of self-disrupting minds in creative but non-principled ways. Lear has continued the rich dialogue that he began in Open Minded, and that spans centuries, cultures, and great minds--from Plato's and Aristotle's Athens, to Freud's Vienna, and finally to Lear's America. This book is essential reading for students of philosophy, ethics, psychoanalysis, and Western civilization.
Robert Michels, M.D., former Dean, Cornell Medical School

Alan Code

These deeply thoughtful and provocative lectures present, dissect, and critique the attempts of both ancient Greek ethics and modern psychoanalytic theory to come to grips with purposefulness in human life. Lear's elegant interweaving of textual exegesis, philosophical reflection, and psychoanalytic theorizing is at once a welcome contribution to scholarship and a highly accessible exploration of the sense that something is missing in life.
Alan Code, Nicholas C. Petris Professor of Greek Studies, University of California at Berkeley

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