The Seven Deadly Sins


Lust, says Simon Blackburn, is furtive, headlong, always sizing up opportunities. It is a trail of clothing in the hallway, the trashy cousin of love. But be that as it may, the aim of this delightful book is to rescue lust "from the denunciations of old men of the deserts, to deliver it from the pallid and envious confessor and the stocks and pillories of the Puritans, to drag it from the category of sin to that of virtue."Blackburn, author of such popular philosophy books as Think and Being Good, here offers a sharp-edged probe into the heart of lust, blending together insight from some of the world's greatest thinkers on sex, human nature, and our common cultural foibles. Blackburn takes a wide ranging, historical approach, discussing lust as viewed by Aristophanes and Plato, lust in the light of the Stoic mistrust of emotion, and the Christian fear of the flesh that catapulted lust to the level of deadly sin. He describes how philosophical pessimists like Schopenhauer and Sartre contributed to our thinking about lust and explores the false starts in understanding lust represented by Freud, Kinsey, and modern "evolutionary psychology." But most important, Blackburn reminds us that lust is also life-affirming, invigorating, fun. He points to the work of David Hume (Blackburn's favorite philosopher) who saw lust not only as a sensual delight but also "a joy of the mind."Written by one of the most eminent living philosophers, attractively illustrated and colorfully packaged, Lust is a book that anyone would lust over.
  • Oxford University Press; February 2004
  • ISBN 9780195347548
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: Lust
  • Author: Simon Blackburn
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"What midsummer night's feast would be digestible without Francine Prose's Gluttony; what weekend jaunt to your best friend's chateau would be survivable without Joseph Epstein's Envy? And you'll need Wendy Wasserstein's Sloth (wickedly subtitled 'And How to Get It') while you're struggling out of your deck chair."--O, The Oprah Magazine (on the series)
"Whimsically packaged exminations of Lust by Simon Blackburn, Gluttony by Francine Prsoe, Envy by Joseph Epstein, Anger by Robert Thurman, Greed by Phyllis Tickle, Sloth by Wendy Wasserstein and Pride by Michael Eric Dyson become playgrounds for cultural reflection by authors and playwrights in Oxford's Seven Deadly Sins series."--Publishers Weekly (on the series)
"A thoughtfully burnished essay on a titillating topic."--Kirkus Reviews
"A deft, Lilliputian trussing-up of a sprawling, Brobdingnagian body of thought...written with lucidity by a man of reason both by profession and by temperament."--The New Yorker
"A playful essay that delivers everything one might want--insight, historical perspective, critical bite--in books on the other six vices (pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed and gluttony)."--Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer
"An assuredly elegant essay, wrapped around a seductive compendium of poems and pictures, an ornament to Professor Blackburn's erudition."--Daily Telegraph
"Blackburn's wry and learned new book, 'Lust,' is part of a seven-book series--one for each of the deadly sins--that grew from a lecture series co-sponsored by the New York Library and Oxford University Press. In this slim volume the author seeks to redeem lust from its 'bad press' and ultimately enhance its standing with a public fed centuries of propaganda and outright disinformation. Neither prude nor dirty old man, he skillfully filters art, verse and prose through the prism of lust and romantic love and does so in a tone of well-read whimsy."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Less a study of the sin of lust than it is a sinfully amusing defense of it."--Washington Times
"A learned and delightful little book on lust, one of the most outrageous (and sometimes most delightful) of the so-called 'Seven Deadly Sins.' His generous but always judicious use of the ancients, in particular, makes his Lust not only respectable but, as it should be, philosophically intriguing."--Robert C. Solomon, author of The Joy of Philosophy
"In his delightfully literate, cogent, and congenial contribution to the Seven Deadly Sins lecture and book series, philosopher Blackburn argues that, far from being a sin, lust is, 'not merely useful but essential."--Booklist
"A distinguished thinker offers an unabashed defense of everyone's favorite sin, part of Oxford's series on the seven deadlies.... [Blackburn] is a witty writer and a canny reader, particularly adept at pitting temporally disparate thinkers (e.g., Hume and Stephen Pinker) against each other."--Publishers Weekly
"With wit, erudition, and great good sense, Simon Blackburn builds a seductive case for lust. Rejecting all that is mean or cramped in our collective thinking about sexual desire, and exposing what is silly or fantastical, he celebrates the 'deadly sin' as a form of human vitality. Lust is, oddly enough, a heartwarming book."--Louise M. Antony, Professor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University

About The Author

Simon Blackburn is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He was Edna J. Doury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, and from 1969 to 1990 was a Fellow and Tutor at Pembroke College, Oxford. He is the author of The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy and the best-selling Think and Being Good, among other books.