Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Buy Used
$4.99
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Used: Acceptable | Details
Sold by ToyBurg
Condition: Used: Acceptable
Comment: Eligible for FREE Super Saving Shipping! Fast Amazon shipping plus a hassle free return policy mean your satisfaction is guaranteed! Good readable copy. Worn edges and covers and may have creases. The cover may have significant wear. There may be page curls. It is possible that there are heavy highlights or writing in this book. All pages are there and otherwise item is in good condition.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

On Desire: Why We Want What We Want Hardcover – November 1, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

See all 6 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Price
New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$8.17 $0.01

The Amazon Book Review
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While most contemporary philosophers mull over theoretical matters and shy away from giving advice on how to live, Irvine plumbs the age-old question: how do we master our desires? When it comes to desire, he says, "we are like a vacation home owner who, regardless of who shows up at the door... welcomes the visitor and convinces himself that he must have invited the visitor." Our evolutionary past, Irvine claims, has wired us for endless dissatisfaction since, from an evolutionary standpoint, it doesn't matter if we're miserable as long as we survive and reproduce. Early humans who basked in contentment, he argues, were less likely to survive than ones with a nagging itch to better their lot. Given this treadmill, how can we lead happy, meaningful lives? Irvine shares the advice of those who claim that "undesirable desires arise because we care what other people think of us." Examining teachings of Zen Buddhists, the Amish, the Hutterites, Hellenistic philosophers (the Stoics, Epicureans and Skeptics) and others, he concludes, "the best way to gain... lasting satisfaction... is to change not the world and our position in it but ourselves... we should work at wanting what we already have." This is no easy task, and Irvine admits that readers seeking further instruction had best look elsewhere. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In a ruminative volume that falls, thankfully, between mass-market, silver-bullet self-help guide and unreadable thesis, Irvine, a professor of philosophy at Wright State University, carefully, with intelligence and good humor, walks readers through the nature of desire in human beings. He explains how desire--really a multitude of desires, uninvited and unannounced--manifests itself, how it can be identified and parsed, and how it can be mastered in a way that offers the best chance at self-fulfillment. He uses modern psychology to delineate desire but then shows how the world's great religions--here mainly Christianity and Buddhism, but also Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism--address this phenomenon. He advocates no particular approach, admitting instead that different tacks probably work for different people. And he never lets the reader think that mastering desire will be easy. This is that rare book that should appeal to a wide range of readers without necessarily trying to do so. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195188624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195188622
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,208,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tony Schwartz on November 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How rare is it to read a book that is at once intellectually provocative truly original, accessibly and gracefully written, and relevant to everyday life? In "On Desire," William Irvine has done all of that and more. An academic philosopher by training, he's had the courage to write a book about how to live-- something most philosophers wouldn't think of doing. Irvine's subject is the primary impulse that drives and bedevils nearly all of us throughout our lives. We don't spend a lot of time thinking about desire (largely because we're too busy feeling captive to it) but Irvine has looked at it from multiple angles including science, religion, and philosophy,. If unmet desire is a leitmotif in your life (and in whose isn't it?), this book will give you a whole new way of looking at how to tame your impulsive passions without retiring to a cave or renouncing life's pleasures altogether.
Comment 45 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
I say "pedagogic" because, as a former philosophy student, I can see where some of this might have come fairly directly from lectures. And I did find some of it slow-going at times, although the careful building of his arguments was persuasive. What lead me to read the book was a radio interview in which Irvine said that the Stoics were not drab, glum folk as are often assumed - they knew how to enjoy life and were particularly good at making the best of any situation. I have found Irvine's final thoughts valuable, although this is not, as he says, a self-help manual. Yet now, when I feel a desire, I remind myself that desires are not designed to lead us to happiness, and try to judge how much my life would be better - how much happier I would be, if at all - if I got what I desire. That's not an easy exercise. You can read more on that in the New York Times Magazine article, "The Futile Pursuit of Happiness, " published on September 7, 2003.
4 Comments 33 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
This book was worth the wait. I have searched for a book like this since I was seventeen years old. Back in 1972, when I was a junior in high school, I was disgusted by the BS in the church and went in search of my own truth. In response to my search as a gullible and naive teenager, I joined a non-denominational group, which turned out to be a religious cult.

This book, ON DESIRE, explains to me the why I want what I want and why others do what they do. He strongly urges us to stop, think, explore our own reasons for who we allow in our lives and what we allow ourselves to think about. In my view, we have to be the traffic cop to our souls and this book shows me how. (See pages 118-119).
Comment 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for a "philosophy" book that is practical, this book is a welcome addition. Reminiscent of the Ancient Schools of Philosophy - i.e. those that believed that philosophy should make a practical difference in your life, this book provides a comprehensive overview of desire along with some thoughts that may lessen our slavery. If there is one shortcoming, it comes from the fact that because the author covers so much ground, much of it is covered at a very surface level. It would have been helpful if the author could have included a "For Further Reading" section at the end of each chapter. However, when all is said, the value of this work is that it has organized and synthesized the topic and makes you think about what really is driving your behavior.
Comment 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
More people should. I majored in biology so I already knew the basis for most of his arguments (re: evolutionary programming), but reading it in all the different contexts (religious, philosophical, etc.) was to view the ways we try to adapt and understand our wants in a singular or communal setting (have a new respect for the Amish and Mennonites!).

A portion that really stuck with me though was in discovering that our brain knows what we want before our conscious actually does -- much to chew on in that section.

Live your life by controlling your desires, don't let them control you is essentially what I took away from the vast landscape he manages to cover in this little book. Read it and see what message you come back with.
Comment 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
A former professor of mine recommended this book to me, and I actually read it twice in a row. It's incredibly lucid for a philosophy text; Irvine's style is gentle and meditative, but sharp, and the book has plenty of relatable, real-world examples of what he's talking about woven through it.

Irvine seems to ultimately side with Buddha, Epictetus, and many other thinkers who concur that mastering desire is the key to lasting happiness. But Irvine's perspective is, of course, that of a 21st century human being, so perhaps this book is easier to take than a canonical text. It's not as heavy as it looks. A thought-provoking but not brain-crushing read.
1 Comment 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most good philosophy books draw our attention to features of human experience that are so "obvious" that we take them for granted. That's the key to the brilliance of "On Desire," which unpacks the meaning of four often overlooked truths: (1) that our conscious and unconscious life is permeated by basic (or "terminal") desires for food, sex, social prestige, physical safety and so forth; (2) that our non-basic desires are usually instrumental desires aimed at achieving our basic desires; (3) that our basic desires are not chosen by us, but are bequeathed by natural selection; and (4) that fulfillment of our basic desires may help us to survive and reproduce, but does not necessarily make us happy, since happiness it not a concern of natural selection. The bottom line is that we are slaves to desires that are unrelated to our happiness and personal satisfaction. We spend our lives beavering away to fulfill these desires and then wonder why the results don't make us happy.

That's an important (if depressing) truth about the human condition, and it sets the stage for the author's exposition of Buddhism, Stoicism, and other strategies for mastering our desires and regaining control of our lives. The writing is lucid and the book is filled with common sense and casual erudition. I knocked off one star only because the sections on "coping" philosophies were really too brief to do them justice.
Comment 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews