The 'problem' of desire has permeated philosophical thought all throughout history and across cultures, with desire persistently interpreted in Western Tradition as a potential danger, both to individuals and societies as a whole—mainly due to its close association with passion and emotions and its perceived distance from reason. The real 'danger' with regards to human desire, is simply that we continue to face and perpetuate massive misunderstandings about it. This includes ongoing misperceptions around what desire truly is and means, as well as why it emerges and how it operates within us. We're also lacking a relatable paradigm of desire in Western thought, that accurately explains its complex relationships with both pain and pleasure. One of the most insightful explorations on the essence and workings of desire, can be found though a close reading of Marcel Proust's modernist fictional novel In Search of Lost Time. And when combined alongside the philosophical theory of desire formulated by Gilles Deleuze, in addition to discussions on metaphysical desire and longing for the 'Other' argued by Emmanuel Lévinas, possibilities for a new and collaborative theory on desire emerge. A theory that can provide us with much needed understandings on how human desire actually forms and behaves, as well as our active and productive role in it. A collective philosophical theory based on these three distinct writers rejects dominant understandings which describe desire as an inherently painful 'lack', perpetually in search of pleasurable 'satisfaction' through the pursuit and 'acquisition' of real 'objects'. Desire is more accurately understood through its painfully pleasurable trajectory and as the productive activity of forming associations between various 'objects', either real or imagined, resulting in complex assemblages of desire. These multi-element aggregates are fuelled through the constructed connections and continued fantasies or belief in them, as well as by the ongoing distance between a desiring subject, primary 'object' and all the contextual elements involved. The combined work of these authors offers a more accurate and relatable explanation of the source and essential characteristics of desire, as well as the complexities of the entire desiring process.
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Thesis advisor: Duguid, Stephen
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