Desire under the Elms

Sam Pawlett rsp at
Fri Jan 28 14:44:12 PST 2000

JKSCHW at wrote:

Who possesses the Phallus? Oh, baby, it's too hard for me,
> don't stop.

Forget lawyering, get into the phone sex business, certainly more lucrative. Or how about ghost writing those letters in "Penthouse Forum?"

"I don't write about sex because... its boring" --Foucault int./w/ Rabinow and Dreyfus 1981.

> Although their prose often has an austere purity I admire, the NCErs don't
> havea feel for the raw energy of the greed they celebrate--for that you have
> to go to Balzac or Faulkner, maybe--there's not that much fiction that
> appreciates this driving Desire of western civilization, though Marx,
> actually, has a psychological feel for it and the literary talent to express
> it, even if from the outside rather than the inside.

How about our old friend Schopenhauer, who captured the energy and drive behind greed, elevating it to the most seminal and elemental force in civilization.

" All willing springs from lack, from defiency, and thus from suffering. Fulfillment brings this to an end; yet for one to wish that is fulfilled there remain at least ten that are denied. Further, desiring lasts a long time, demands and requests go on to infinity; fulfillment is short and meted out sparingly. But even the final satisfaction itself is only apparent; the wish fulfilled at once makes way for a new one; the foremr is a known delusion, the latter a delusion not as yet known. No attained object of willing can give a satisfaction that lasts and no longer declines; but it is always like the alms thrown to a beggar, which reprieves him today so that his misery may prolonged to tomorrow. Therefore, so long as our consciousness is filled by our will, so long, as we are given up to the throng of desires with its constant hopes and fears, so long as we are the subject of willing, we never obtain lasting happiness or peace. Essentially, it is all the same whether we pursue or flee, fear harm or aspire to enjoyment; care for the constantly demanding will, no matter in what form, continually fills and moves consciousness; but without peace and calm, true well-being is absolutely impossible. Thus the subject of willing is constantly lying on the revolving wheel of Ixion, is always drawing water in the sieve of the Danaids, and is the eternally thirsting Tantalus." WWR I 196.

> If, however, we want to discuss the concept of Desire, rather than lust or
> greed, though I am not sure why we would want to or why someone would think
> it was fun, we should look to the analytical literature on the belief-desire
> thesis. Arthur Ripstein has some nice papers demolishing the concept of
> desire as a useful notion for explaining human behavior. There was a good
> book, I have it somewhere, on pathologies of rational choice theory, that
> covers some of the same ground.

Elster? Some of Elster's best work is on the paradoxes of rationality especially his *Sour Grapes* where he talks about "willing what cannot be willed." You cannot use desire to get rid of desires or the satisfaction of desires is a by-product of some other process. For example going to sleep. You cannot will yourself to sleep.

Sam Pawlett

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