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On Desire: Why We Want What We Want

On Desire: Why We Want What We Want

by William B. Irvine


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A married person falls deeply in love with someone else. A man of average income feels he cannot be truly happy unless he owns an expensive luxury car. A dieter has an irresistible craving for ice cream. Desires often come to us unbidden and unwanted, and they can have a dramatic impact, sometimes changing the course of our lives.

In On Desire, William B. 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. Spicing his account with engaging observations by writers like Seneca, Tolstoy, and Freud, Irvine considers the teachings of Buddhists, Hindus, the Amish, Shakers, and Catholic saints, as well as those of ancient Greek and Roman and modern European philosophers. Irvine also looks at what modern science can tell us about desire—such as what happens in the brain when we desire something and how animals evolved particular desires—and he advances a new theory about how desire itself evolved. Irvine also suggests that at the same time that we gained the ability to desire, we were "programmed" to find some things more desirable than others. 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195327076
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 06/18/2007
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,068,776
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 4.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

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

Table of Contents

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. Conclusions

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