Vagaries of Desire: A Collection of Philosophical Essays


Vagaries of Desire is a major collection of new essays by Timo Airaksinen on the philosophy of desire. The first part develops a novel account of the philosophical theory of desire, including Girard. The second part discusses Kafka’s main works, namely The Castle, The Trial, and Amerika, and Thomas Hobbes and the problems of intentionality. The text develops such linguistic tropes as metaphor and metonymy in connection with topics like death and then applies them to Kafka’s texts. The third part makes an effort to understand the mysteries of sadism and masochism in philosophical and rhetorical terms. The last article criticizes Thomas Nagel’s influential account of sexual perversion and develops a viable alternative.

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Biographical Note

Timo Airaksinen, Ph.D. (Turku, 1975) is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, University of Helsinki. He has published extensively on philosophy of literature (Sade, Kafka, Lovecraft), ethics, and the history of philosophy (Kant, Berkeley, Hobbes).

Table of contents


Part 1: Analytical Issues

1 Introduction: Depicting Desire
 Two Types of Desire
 Wishful Thinking and Wish Fulfilment
 De Re and De Dicto: a Paradox

2 Beliefs and Desires
 From Wollheim’s Challenge to Human Needs
 Modality: Beliefs as Constraints
 Hermeneutical Considerations
 Moral Beliefs
 The Demise of Directionality

3 Push and Pull Theories of Desire
 Background Checks
 Russell on Desire
 Desirability Demystified
 Push Theory Returns

4 Our Anxious Desires
 Sources of Frustration and Anxiety
 Immodest Desires
 Zero Desires
 Desire as a Metonym

5 René Girard and Mimetic Desire
 Girard on Desire
 Model, Not Desirability
 Scripted Desires
 Desires, Not My Own

Part 2: Desire in Context

6 Death, Desire, and the Generation of Metaphor
 Prelude: Death and Dress
 Meaning of Death
 Meaning of Desire
 Generating Metaphors

7 Kafka: Tropes of Desire
 Introduction: Two Persons, Two Tasks, Two Desires
 Tropological Considerations: The Trial
 Tropological Considerations: The Trial

8 Lost in Kafka’s America
 Preliminaries, or False Starts
 Empty Metaphors
 Irony: From Here to Eternity

9 Thomas Hobbes on Intentionality, Desire, and Happiness
 Theories of Happiness
 Happiness and Desire
 Desire and Its Intentionality

Part 3: Sexuality

10 Sadomasochistic Desire
 Kinky Sex
 Tropological Delineations
 The Riddles of Motivation
 Sade and Sadism
 Problems with Consent
 Safe and Sane?

11 Tricky Sexual Differences: What Is Perversion?
 The Tropes of Perversity
 Freud: Perverted and Pathological Desires
 Nagel: The Substantiality Thesis
 Nagel: Ideally Good Sex, or in the Singles Bar
 Nagel: The Genesis of Sexual Perversion
 Some Probable Reasons for the Success of SP
 Cases of Criticism
 Conclusion: Anxious Desires



Advanced students and specialists in philosophy of mind, anyone who is interested in the application of rhetorical notions to literature and philosophy, students and specialist in sexual ethics.

Index Card