Sunday, April 12, 2009

What is it

There are two ways to have your desires fulfilled: you can either get what you want (if you're lucky enough) or change your desires.  If we can fit our desires to what we have, we're likely to be a lot happier.  So why do we desire things that are out of reach?  Why do we have desires that make us unhappy?  And what can we do about it?  John and Ken explore the relationship between desire and happiness with William Irvine, author of On Desire: Why We Want What We Want, in a program recorded live at the Illahee Institute in Portland, Oregon.

Listening Notes

Why do I want what I want?  Am I really just a slave to pleasure?  Desires cause me to always want more and never be satisfied, so perhaps they’re the source of unhappiness.  But then again could I be happy if I didn’t have desires to fulfill?  John and Ken ponder these questions, and they have expert William Irvine, author of On Desire: Why We Want What We Want, to help them hammer out the answers.  Irvine explains the difference between terminal and instrumental desires, and why following the chain of our desires can produce unexpected results.  William and John join up against Ken to debate whether intellect or passion wins out in motivating our desires and our resulting behaviors.  Find out who agrees with Hume, and who thinks he had it wrong.

Our hosts go on to talk about various schools of thought and how they tell us we can be happy.  The Buddhists have suggestions on desire, as do the Stoics.  Irvine argues for learning to want what we have rather than seeking what we want.  Ken questions this approach, and points out the role of desire in human progress.  If people had been happy with their lot 10,000 years ago, you might not be reading this summary on the internet right now.  Irvine has a response to this, and the debate continues.  Tune in to find out about desire, pleasure, and how one might live the best life.  You’ll also find out why desires are essential to rationality, and why it might be in your best interest to allow yourself to be labeled as crazy.

  • Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 6:15):  Reporter Julie Napolin looks at popular culture to try and get a handle on what we really desire, and how we achieve it.  She and Portland psychologist Peter Armstrong take a critical look at Tony Soprano and his employment of a psychoanalyst to help him sort out his desires, and determine that getting what we want is not necessarily the key to happiness.
  • 60-Second Philosopher (seek to 49:30): Ian Shoales asks the age-old question, what do women want?  In an attempt to find the answer, he ponders a study of women’s and men’s arousal when viewing various types of sex.  

William Irvine, Professor of Philosophy, Wright State University


Bonus Content


Upcoming Shows

27 October 2019

The Limits of Medical Consent

In our healthcare system, parents normally make medical decisions for their kids because, we think, children are not competent to make such decisions...

03 November 2019

Hobbes and the Ideal Citizen

Seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed that without government to control our worst impulses, life would be 'solitary, poor, nasty,...

10 November 2019

Should Beliefs Aim at Truth?

If beliefs can be described as having a goal or purpose, then surely that is something like aiming at the truth. Yet we all hold many false beliefs...