The Way We Are

Allen Wheelis, Author . Norton $23.95 (141p) ISBN 978-0-393-06214-4

Eminent psychoanalyst and philosopher Wheelis (How People Change ) draws on his long life's central passions in this poetic meditation aimed at replacing our self-deception ("laid on from school and pulpit and lectern and TV and Internet") with self-knowledge regarding "the ways of power and the ways of the heart." He shows how distaste for our mortality informs every self-deceiving aspect of civilization. He further asserts that although civilization requires peaceful and orderly behavior from individuals, the primal human desire for power and destruction is transferred from the individual to state leaders. "[T]he will to power of nations, and the actions to which it leads them... bear no relation to any reasonable goal of human conscience," he writes. Wheelis goes on to examine the arbitrary nature of state morality: "States... behave as they see fit, and the way they see fit is then declared to be moral." Shifting to personal morality, Wheelis closes with a series of confessional reflections on sexual desire and its attendant moral choices, writing sensuously and with a novelist's sense of dramatic staging, before concluding with a series of terse ruminations on the nature of attachment, old age and love. Written with commanding force and fluency, Wheelis's sobering psychoanalytic brand of philosophy abounds with tautly argued ironies. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/08/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 144 pages - 978-0-393-33796-9
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