Rousseau, La Nouvelle Eloïse. "Woe to him who has nothing left to desire! He loses, as it were, all he possesses. One enjoys less what one obtains than what one hopes for, and one is happy only before happiness is achieved. Indeed man, greedy and circumscribed, destined to crave everything and obtain little, has received from Heaven a consoling strength that brings everything he desires closer, submits it to his imagination, makes it seem present and palpable, delivers it to him, so to speak, and in order to make this imaginary property more delightful to him, modifies it as his passion dictates. But this whole spell disappears in the face of the object itself; nothing any longer embellishes this object in the eyes of its possessor; one does not fantasize what one beholds; imagination no longer adorns anything one owns."
"Desire" comes from Latin “desiderium”, which refers to a nostalgia, or a lack of a constellation of stars. We often desire what is beyond our reach - but also beyond our needs.
If we are lucky enough to have the means to do so, we can get what we desire to fulfill it - but we could also change our desires. Why do we desire things that are out of reach, if we can fit our desires to what we have? Why do we have desires that make us unhappy? And what can we do about it?
In this Olio, we'll explore various schools of thought, from the Stoics' condemnation of desire to Spinoza's definition of desire as the very essence of men. Why do I want what I want? Is it really because I derive pleasure from it? I desire what I don't have, so desire is a painful feeling of lacking, missing, longing in that sense. But could I be happy if I didn’t have any desire to do, be, have anything?
Teacher: Jeanne Proust
While teaching at different universities in New York, Jeanne is advocating for a widening of philosophical education beyond the academia frontiers by participating in different events open to the general public. She taught at Rikers Island as a volunteer, and regularly gives public talks in philosophy, leading her to recently produce her own podcast, "Can You Phil It?”.
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April 24, 20197:30 p.m.
April 24, 2019
Think Olio | Desire
What is the connection between desire and happiness? Can we be happy without desire? And why do have desires that lead to unhappiness? Join philosopher Jeanne Proust as she walks us through different schools of thought on 'desire' at Berg'n Beerhall.