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Happiness, Death and the Remainder of Life

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About the Author

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).


Originally presented at Harvard as a three-part Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Lear's (Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul) latest book meditates on life's meaning. "What difference does psychoanalysis make," Lear asks at the outset, "to our understanding of human existence?" Drawing on both psychoanalytic theory and the history of philosophyÄby way of Aristotle and FreudÄhe teases out a usable answer to this question. Treating, one by one, the subjects of happiness, death and everything elseÄthe "remainder" of lifeÄLear, a philosopher at the University of Chicago as well as a practicing psychoanalyst, reconsiders along the way Freud's theory of the unconscious, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and a host of the classic philosophical notions. Freud's idea of the unconscious, Lear argues, offered a radically new idea of human characterÄone that could finally compete with that described by Aristotle. But because of the teleological weak spots (which he considers at length) in both theories, neither thinker alone provides a sufficient guide to living or to thinking about life. Aristotle, he argues, skirts around the explicit idea of happiness; Freud, he incisively suggests (turning Freudian critiques back on their inventor), repressed his own insights into the death urge. In the end, Lear ties the ideas of these two rather different thinkers together in a cogent, if not necessarily revelatory, way. Complex in theory and filled with dense language ("enigmatic signifiers," "the metaphysics of aggression"), this text is more suited to an academic than a popular audience. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

An extended meditation on Aristotle's conception of happiness and Freud's approach to death, the book argues that both thinkers fell prey to a similar illusion...[the thought] that our desires can ever come to an end... There is great depth to Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life.--Andrew Stark"Times Literary Supplement" (12/08/2000)

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