Modern Hermeneut's Reviews > Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life

Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life by Jonathan Lear
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's review
Jan 24, 2010

it was amazing
Read in January, 2010 — I own a copy

These three lectures are essential reading for those interested in the irrational, perverse, and self-destructive capacities of the human animal. Lear furnishes thoughtful, overlapping readings of Plato, Aristotle, and Freud to reveal the ongoing relevance of psychoanalysis. Along the way, he offers a wealth of critical insights. (For example, he points out that Plato's Allegory of the Cave is a kind of elegy to Socrates; it explicitly states that the person who leads the cave-dwellers out of darkness will be put to death.)

Lear's argument starts from the convincing premise that Plato and Aristotle inaugurated a picture of human behavior that raised "The Good" (or Happiness) to a metaphysical principle. Faith in this principle endured into the 20th century, when Freud attempted to replace it with the Death Drive. But Lear's genius is to recognize the latter "discovery" as just another metaphysical fantasy that covered over an illogical foundation. (Lear insists on citing the "seduction hypothesis" as the vehicle for Freud's rhetorical footwork, but we can forgive him.) He foregrounds this point by psychoanalyzing Freud, himself -- always a welcome exercise. And the well-earned payoff is that psychoanalysis, properly understood, is charged with helping us to live WITHOUT any overarching principle.

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