- Series: New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities
- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 12, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195162005
- ISBN-13: 978-0195162004
- Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.7 x 5.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lust: The Seven Deadly Sins (New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities) 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
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In his delightfully literate, cogent, and congenial contribution to the Seven Deadly Sins lecture and book series, philosopher Blackburn argues that, far from being a sin, lust is "not merely useful but essential." Blackburn first defines lust and what may be wrong with it, and then weighs major attitudes toward lust throughout Western history. Lust is the keen desire for sex and its pleasures for their own sake, he says, and problems arising from it are matters of excesses not intrinsic to it, such as violence, compulsion, and indiscretion (the ancient philosophical Cynics reputedly had sex in public). Plato, the Stoics, Augustine, and Aquinas all had varyingly severe reservations about lust that Blackburn defuses before turning relievedly to Hobbes (yes, the "war of all against all" fellow) with his contention that lust, affording "sensual pleasure" and "delight of the mind," leads to the most complete personal communion possible. Kant, Freud, and Sartre backslid from Hobbes, but now, "everything is all right," and "we can reclaim lust for humanity." Mmmmm. Cigarette? Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
Most philosophy books fall into two deadly and sinful categories. They tend to be either simplistic, so that anyone with a serious interest beyond degree level becomes frustrated and dissatisfied; or they're way too 'academic' and technical, forcing the reader to tear his (or her) hair out by the roots and retreat to the sports channels on television. Blackburn avoids both hellish places here, giving an intelligent overview of his allocated sin while keeping the reader pinned to the pages as though reading a novel.
His amusing and often almost poetic writing style not only grips, but leads you down alleyways of the history of ideas that both entertain and get you thinking. But that's his chief problem, because once you think a little about what you're reading, you realise the flaw in his method of argument. He's simply enjoying himself too much.
This shouldn't hurt, and really it doesn't; on the other hand it leaves you with the feeling that he's missed something along the way. Sin is, after all, quite deadly, and rather than condemning as prudes or psychologically scarred misfits those people who have historically told us that it's bad, it would have been helpful to have been taken along the darker streets of lust for a change.
Hell, it's fashionable these days to defend things like lust.Read more ›
Lust has gotten plenty of bad press, a short history of which Blackburn enjoys giving. Plato put a shamefulness upon lust that it has never subsequently shaken. It was an axiom, however, that shame was inherently connected to lust, and that although there was no shame in enjoying a good meal, there was in enjoying a good coition. Saint Augustine has the reputation of demonizing lust for all Christians thereafter, but Blackburn points out that by the time he came along, "the cult of virginity was in full swing." Augustine insisted that it was regrettable to feel pleasure when one impregnated one's wife, but coitus just for the sake of pleasure was incomparably naughty.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting reading. Changed my views of Lust as a concept.Published on September 2, 2014 by Rick
I used this essay for research on a class I was teaching. I did not find it as helpful as some of the others in this series.Published on March 25, 2013 by Barbara E. Koenig
It has some funny passages and - throughout - Simon Blackburn's usual eloquent narrative. It is perhaps not as to-the-point as his other introductory books (like Think and A Short... Read morePublished on November 25, 2011 by Maria
In the uneven 7 Deadly sins series, copublished by Oxford University press and the New York Public Library, three of the volumes are stinkers, one is above average, and three are... Read morePublished on February 26, 2008 by Kerry Walters
Well, it's good to see at least one philosopher who understands lust better than most historical figures. Read morePublished on May 20, 2007 by RESEARCHER SMITH
This book that contains an essay by philosophy professor Simon Blackburn, analyzes one of the "Seven Deadly Sins," namely lust. Read more
Blackburne's book is the best of the series, yet they all tend to be of a high calibre. It is highly readable yet carefully researched. Read morePublished on July 24, 2004 by Quinn D.