Desire: Freud, Russon, Plato


Desire is a word that is used to refer to a strong urge of attaining or possessing something. In human beings, desires rise, but other feelings of desire often replace some. These feelings are the ones that spark the urge to do a thing, and without them, there would not be any reason to do anything and life would be void. For people who have lost the ability to have desires, their lives grind to a halt. It is this lack of desire that causes people to experience boredom or slides into a phase of depression. Desire is what moves us, and through it, we get a sense of direction and purpose. For instance, it is right to say that it is a desire that has led me to write this essay. Therefore, this paper will be discussing desire according to the theories of Freud, Russon, and Plato. It will also analyze the role that the theory of desire has played narratives like The Odyssey, Fun Home, and Between World and Me.

Desire is directly related to self-realization and the relationship that exists between our transformation and the human level awakening. Most of the time, the desired force is positive, and without it, we would lack the will to live. It directly touches on all dimensions of our existence such as the experiences of love, creativity, learning, and the spiritual evolution. Transcending desires that are negative or detrimental to our sanity requires us to understand that the desire itself is not an issue, but its context and content. Desire comes with both a positive and negative side. The negatives are associated with different neurotic behaviors such as desiring things we cannot have or things that are bad and destructive for us. It is also associated with desiring bad things for other people, or using the desired energy to run away from emotional emptiness one may be going through. Negative desire emerges as compensation for spiritual poverty, psychological lack, or an inner deficiency. Excessive desire may sometimes arise as a result of repression on the natural desires such a having sexual desires when one chooses to abstain or being infatuated with food while fasting. Desire also relates to being excessively emotionally attached to other people or things. These kinds of people may be referred to as being needy. Such neediness expresses itself in several ways such as clinginess in romantic relationships. Emotional emptiness results in the constant search for approval or appreciation.

Some desires may be related to sensual gratification and physical security. There is nothing bad with any of these as physical security is important for us to continue living. However, when we become excessively obsessed with physical security, it develops into greed which is a desire that has gone out of control. Desire points out what we lack on the lower level, and on the higher level, it points out to out positive expansion both on the outside and on the inside. Our desires connect with our imaginations and intelligence directly. Our soul desire needs to be honored above any other desires since only what we desire will be manifested in our deeds. Actualizing our true selves enables us to become more fulfilled by our existence.

There exists a very big difference between love and desire. When one loves somebody, they want the best for them, but desiring them means they want and long for them. These two may exist independently or may be wrapped into one amazing bundle. Love is said to be kind, and it appreciates a person just the way they are. It respects the differences that exist between any two people and draws a line between reality and expectation. Desire is more confining, and it tends to pull the other person towards itself. Sometimes, desire may attempt to manipulate perspectives, situations, and responses, with the aim of creating a result that suits its demands or ideals. There is also a difference between desire and pleasure. Pleasure refers to a feeling of satisfaction or happiness. Therefore, pleasure can be said to be the enjoyment that comes with the fulfillment of desire.

Desire is a state of mind that can be associated with several other effects. Having a desire makes one act or think in certain ways. For example, if you desire a sandwich, you will certainly get up and make yourself one. There are several varieties and theories of desire that are known. Some of the theories of desire are; action-based theories of desire, good-based theories of desire, pleasure theories of desire, attention-based theories of desire, holistic theories of desire, and learning-based theories of desire. The varieties of desires range from states of affairs, objects, intrinsic and instrumental desires, strong and weak, and current and standing desires.

According to Freud, the behavior is often controlled by desires and fears that are locked in the unconscious part of us. This unconscious part of us is what he has attempted to get to through psychoanalysis (Holt 48). Freud suggests that the lives we live are shaped by forces that we do not know. We may think that we are in charge, but we often repeat the same mistakes over and over again without knowing. For instance, sometimes we take jobs we do not enjoy, alienate our spouses, or fall out with some close friends. Sometimes it takes a bad incident for us to realize that we are not masters of our minds. Freud believes that this is the unconscious part of us at work. Being a neurologist is what triggered Freud’s fascination with the unconscious mind (Holt, 67). To him, the unconscious often conflicts with the anatomical. For instance, different thoughts tend to develop tension in our minds, and the symptoms are manifested in our bodies. Most of what we think about takes place in the unconscious, but it powerfully affects our lives. In our normal lives, we do some things without realizing that they are influenced by the unconscious. For instance, we tend to get angry with our employers because we find them unreasonable, but we fail to notice that this is perhaps because he echoes the safe behavior of our dad. According to me, I believe human desire comes from the unconscious. Our desire for something or someone is of the unconscious mind, and we may desire them just because they have traits that are interesting to us, or because we share the same interests. It may not be easy for one to know or understand their unconscious self.

According to Plato, all humans desire for everything that they believe is good (Kahn 77). This means that desire is objectivist and realist. By desiring, we tend to respond to the detection of the world’s value. This, therefore, means that Plato does not set limits on the things that one may desire, or the things that can be desired (Kahn, 78). He suggests that anything that is desired is desired by a belief that has been evaluated. We tend to have desires for the apparent good, in the sense that we do that as best as we can. We tend to desire things that are of value to us. For instance, once we finish our undergraduate degree, some of us desire to continue with their masters, the reason being the value it adds to us.

The Odyssey is an epic story by Homer about the struggle of Odysseus to get back home after theTrojan War ended. Odysseus battles supernatural creatures and faces the god’s wrath. During this time, some rowdy suitors take over the palace and begin courting his wife believing he is dead. Athena, the goddess, receives permission from Zeus to go and urge Odysseus, son, to seek any news regarding his father at Sparta and Pylos. In this narrative, Athena is presented as an immortal ally to Odysseus. In his quest to find his father, the suitors being led by Antinous plan on ambushing Telemachus once he gets back. His son tries to track his father’s trail through the old comrade in arms stories, while at the same time, Athena is arranging for Odysseus’ release from the goddess Calypso’s island. Odysseus has been Calypso’s lover and prisoner for over eight years. Once Odysseus has set sail to leave the island, Poseidon, the sea god, invokes a storm. This is because Odysseus had blinded Poseidon’s son and therefore incurred his wrath. However, Athena helps him sail through to the Phaeacians. Upon getting there, he hides his identity for a long time until the Phaeacians request him to tell his story of adventure.  Odysseus recalls of how his men suffered following the Trojan War at the hands of the Kikones. Many of his men were also devoured by the Cyclops Polyphemus before he could create a plan for the rest to escape. Once Odysseus is done narrating his story of adventure to the Phaeacians, they give him gifts and offer to take him home on a ship. Athena disguises him as a beggar.

In this narrative, the development of desire is portrayed by the male warrior. Odysseus is the brave, strong and smart man who is known for how witty his brain is. His desire to get back home is what drives him to take the dangerous journey back home. All he wants is Calypso, and his desire to stay with her is evidently strong. His desire for her makes him say to her ‘Look at my wife, Penelope. She falls far short of you, your beauty, and stature. She is mortal after all and you, you never age or die…” (Lattimore, Book 5 line 239, 102). He appears to favor Calypso over his wife Penelope, but at the back of his mind, he is aware that he needs to go back home to his family. He puts his desires aside, and he decides to leave the Island.

In this narrative, the interference of Odysseus by the suitors delays his return back home to Ithaka. Odysseus shipmates portray the desire for physical objects, while his wife Penelope, shows a lustful desire by engaging the suitors who are trying to court her. His shipmate’s desire for physical objects is seen when they are at the caves, and they see Polyphemus plentiful produce. They go ahead to tell Odysseus “take this cheeses, get them stowed, come back, throw open all pens, and make a run for it” (Lattimore, Book 9, lines 235-236, 99).

In the narrative Between the World and Me, the author is trying to answer some of the questions about race through a letter to his adolescent son (Coates, 23). Coates shares with his readers his story of awakening to the true American culture through several experiences. Coates gives philosophical investigations into the police and slavery systems. Coates does not seem to like the education system in the United States. He says “I was made for the library and not the classroom (Coates 48). Despite being dissatisfied with the traditional form education, Coates presents an insatiable desire to learn. This portrays a young man’s desire to make his life better through better education. The book resonates with the life of blacks living in Harem, and the violence the black men faced. The poem is a letter written to his son, to pass knowledge to him on how he will survive and succeed in the U.S as a black man. He reflects on what he went through as a child, and he desires that his son would not have to endure the same.

In conclusion, desire is the strong urge to achieve something, as we have seen, both Plat and Freud had their unique description of desire, but they all add up to one thing, personal fulfillment. The theory of desire has been presented in the Odyssey in evident ways that have been explained in this post. It is Odysseus desire to go back to his family that makes him take that dangerous journey to go back home. In the narrative between the world and me, Coates desire to study is portrayed by how he expresses the struggles he had to endure during his time in school. He writes this letter as a guide to his son on how he will become successful in a white-dominated society. It is his desire for his son to be educated and to make it in a society that believes in the destruction of the black body.

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  1. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the world and me. Text publishing, (2015):1-152
  2. Lattimore, Richmond. The Odyssey of Homer. Harper & Row, (1999):1-410.
  3. Kahn, Charles H. “Plato’s theory of desire.” The Review of Metaphysics (1987): 77-103.
  4. Holt, Robert R. Freud reappraised: A fresh look at the psychoanalytic theory. Guilford Press, 1989. 45-89.
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