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On Desire: Why We Want What We Want Paperback – 18 Jun 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; New Ed edition (18 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195327071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195327076
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 3 x 12.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 655,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A program of illumination whose goal is to help the reader 'master desire.' That human life depends on desire, or is at the least inseparable from it, Irvine does not dispute, but his purpose is not to glorify this essence that artists celebrate. Exposes 'the secret life of desire': how we experience our wants, from those for basic animal requirements, like food, to abstract goals―the esteem of our fellows, for example―that may feel as necessary as food to complicated creatures who cannot live by bread alone."―The New York Times Book Review

"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

"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

"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

"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."―PsycCRITIQUES

About the Author

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

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some interesting explanations here on the biological/psychological origins of desire. Overall though this is really quite a derivative work presenting other people peoples views rather than adding anything. As such it has been researched as a student might research for an essay...consequently the understanding shown in some areas is shallow.

More could have been made of the nature of consciousness and desire perhaps. Conversely, the rather obvious fact that our desires are determined by evolution is expounded at excessive length.

Irvine seems to be a teacher of American undergraduates and this book is at that level..so if you want an intro in this area this will probably be a good read. If you are looking for something meatier and already know something of evolution, psychology, the major religions and classical philosophy then you will soon be skimming through.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book although it was heavy going in the middle. The last 3 chapters were the best. They covered how philosophers and eccentrics went about mastering their desires and how we can emulate them. Some of the key insights are that we should only concern ourselves with what we can control, most of our desires arise because we care about what other people think of us and therefore we should reduce the number of people whose opinion we care about and that wealth hardly compensates us for the drudgery necessary to acquire it. In summary, a good book packed with useful ideas from philosophy, religion etc on how to manage our desires and be more content.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Outstanding,a must read for all who want to understand the real reason behind unhappiness and dissatisfaction . A real way that leads to life change.
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