Why be happy when you could be interesting?

We don't really want what we think we desire, says philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

Slavoj ZizekYou know, happiness is for me a very conformist category.  It doesn't enter the frame.  You have a serious ideological deviation at the very beginning of a famous proclamation of independence -- you know, pursuit of happiness.  If there is a point in psychoanalysis, it is that people do not really want or desire happiness, and I think it’s good that it is like that. 

For example, let’s be serious: when you are in a creative endeavor, in that wonderful fever--“My God, I’m onto something!” and so on--, happiness doesn't enter it.  You are ready to suffer.  Sometimes scientists--I read history of quantum physics or earlier of radiation--were even ready to take into account the possibility that they will die because of some radiation and so on.  Happiness is, for me, an unethical category.

And also, we don't really want to get what we think that we want.  The classical story that I like, the traditional male chauvinist scenario: I am married to a wife, relations with her are cold, and I have a mistress, and all the time I dream, “Oh my God, if my wife were to disappear . . . ,”  I’m not a murderer, but let us say, “it would open up new life for me with the mistress.”  You know what every psychoanalyst will tell you quite often happens?  That then, for some reason, wife goes away, you lose the mistress, also. 

You thought this is all I want.  When you had it there, you found out that it was a much more complex situation, where what you want is not really to live with the mistress but to keep her at a distance as an object of desire about which you dream.  And this is not just an excessive situation.  I claim that this is how things function.  We don't really want what we think we desire.

Interviewed by Megan Erickson

Directed / Produced by 
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

 

 

We don't really want what we think we desire, says philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Shutterstock
Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less