Proust on Desire Satisfaction

In Anna Elsner & Thomas Stern (eds.), The Proustian Mind. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 335-48 (2022)
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Abstract

For a certain ordinary class of desires, Marcel Proust’s thoughts on their satisfaction can be summed up in one word: don’t. Don’t satisfy your desires; doing so will fail to satisfy you. Should you therefore seek to eliminate desire? Absolutely not: desiring itself sustains you. The disappointment of attaining what you desire is one of Proust’s most persistent themes, elaborated in the florid unfolding of À la recherche du temps perdu but already expressed succinctly in an early story from Les plaisirs et les jours: “Desire makes all things blossom; possession wilts them.” If you believed this, what should you do? Best to aim not to satisfy your desires at all. This paper is a development and limited defense of these baldly stated claims, and includes discussions of the role of the imagination in the formation of desire, the distinction between the hypothetical imagination and the imaginativeness that is involved in the perception of beauty, and the relationship between desire, desire satisfaction, and agent satisfaction.

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Robbie Kubala
University of Texas at Austin

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