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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 behaviour in terms of a higher principle - whether happiness or death - the pictures fall apart. Aristotle attempted to gound 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.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674006744
ISBN-10: 0674006747
Format: Paperback
(208mm x 138mm x 13mm)
Pages: 202
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 2-Nov-2001
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Jonathan Lear

Jonathan Lear is John U. Nef Distinguished Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. His books include Open Minded (Harvard).

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