Lust, says Simon Blackburn, is furtive, headlong, always sizing up opportunities. It is a trail of clothing in the hallway, the trashy cousin of love. But be that as it may, the aim of this delightful book is to rescue lust from the denunciations of old men of the deserts, to deliver it fromthe pallid and envious confessor and the stocks and pillories of the Puritans, to drag it from the category of sin to that of virtue.Blackburn, author of such popular philosophy books as Think and Being Good, here offers a sharp-edged probe into the heart of lust, blending together insight from some of the world's greatest thinkers on sex, human nature, and our common cultural foibles. Blackburn takes a wide ranging,historical approach, discussing lust as viewed by Aristophanes and Plato, lust in the light of the Stoic mistrust of emotion, and the Christian fear of the flesh that catapulted lust to the level of deadly sin. He describes how philosophical pessimists like Schopenhauer and Sartre contributed to ourthinking about lust and explores the false starts in understanding lust represented by Freud, Kinsey, and modern evolutionary psychology.
A distinguished thinker offers an unabashed defense of everyone's favorite sin, part of Oxford's series on the seven deadlies. Blackburn (The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy; Being Good) defines lust as acute sexual desire, untrammeled by any other elements that might make it, well, sinfullike aggression, selfishness or (though he doesn't mention it) self-destructiveness. This premise, along with the unquestioned secularism of modern philosophy, leave him free to consider a broad historical range of ideas about lust-from Plato and the Stoics through Augustine and "the Christian Panic" to Sartre and Martha Nussbaum-with care and discernment, but with no real vulnerability to their arguments. Because lust is broadly condoned in our culture, most readers will find that Blackburn's condescension comes across quite sympathetically. He is a witty writer and a canny reader, particularly adept at pitting temporally disparate thinkers (e.g., Hume and Stephen Pinker) against each other. A juicy group of illustrations, all works of fine art (including the torso of Mick Jagger), add to the book's allure. But Blackburn is so confident of being on the side of the angels that he creates devils that aren't really there, like the feminist concept of "objectification," which he conflates with lust itself. And since he insists that lust is a holiday from moral constraints, it turns out not subject to judgment. "So everything is all right," he concludes cheerily; it is only the inhibition of lust "by bad philosophy or ideology, by falsity, by controls, by corruptions and perversions and suspicions" that we need fear. This book is not so much a defense of sexual desire as a comprehensive excuse for it, like a note from the doctor. Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Oxford University Press, Incorporated
August 22, 2006
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.