Unforbidden Pleasures

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Unforbidden Pleasures NYT Notable Books 2016
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Product Description

Much has been written of the forbidden pleasures. But what of the "unforbidden" pleasures?

Unforbidden Pleasures is the singular new book from Adam Phillips, the author ofMissing Out, Going Sane, and On Balance. Here, with his signature insight and erudition, Phillips takes Oscar Wilde as a springboard for a deep dive into the meanings and importance of the unforbidden, from the fall of our "first parents," Adam and Eve, to the work of the great psychoanalytic thinkers.

Forbidden pleasures, he argues, are the ones we tend to think about, yet when you look into it, it is probable that we get as much pleasure, if not more, from unforbidden pleasures than from those that are taboo. And we may have underestimated just how restricted our restrictiveness, in thrall to the forbidden and its rules, may make us. An ambitious book that speaks to the precariousness of modern life,Unforbidden Pleasures explores the philosophical, psychological, and social dynamics that govern human desire and shape our everyday reality.

Editorial Reviews

What would society look like if it did not promote the idea "that we are primarily a danger to ourselves and others"? In his latest philosophical exploration of mind, selfhood, and desire, prolific British psychoanalyst Phillips (Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst, 2014, etc.) asks how the idea of forbidden pleasures shapes thought and behavior. "This book," he writes, "is about whether the unforbidden pleasures have something more to tell us, or at least something else to tell us, about pleasure than the forbidden ones." The "tyranny of the forbidden," he maintains, "is not that it forbids, but that it tells us what we want—to do the forbidden thing." What is forbidden, then, "narrows our minds, narrows our picture of ourselves"—in short, it circumscribes our freedom to know ourselves. Phillips draws on wide-ranging sources from literature (Shakespeare, Milton, Wilde), philosophy (Nietzsche, Jonathan Lear, Stuart Hampshire), and psychology (Freud, of c ourse, and also Jacques Lacan, D.W. Winnicott, and neuropsychologist Brenda Milner) in his discussions of obedience, self-criticism, sexual taboos, and the concept of the superego. "The Freudian superego," writes Phillips, "is a boring and vicious soliloquist with an audience of one," a "made-up voice" distinct from the religious and cultural legacy of conscience. The patient undergoing analysis "discovers he is the casualty of forgotten obediences," not all of which he may want to discard. Psychoanalysis encourages a conversation about the forbidden, allowing the patient a chance to make choices "about which rules he believes are worth following, and which rules he has merely been following, consciously or unconsciously, for fear of punishment." Finding pleasure in the unforbidden, Phillips suggests, means "finding new kinds of heroes and heroines (or dispensing with them)" and redefining what we mean by satisfaction. A dense, challenging, provocative meditation on morality and identity. Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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