Venus- goddess of love and desire

Venus- goddess of love and desire

Ok, so Book III of Paradise Lost has been a struggle. I am finding it boring, and also, I just went away on a little vacation to visit a friend, so I have been really slacking all around. 

Now, rather than get back to Milton, I wanted to explore Desire for a number of reasons– none of which are really important since no one is reading this anyway. But let’s begin the exploration.

One of the initial thoughts I had on desire stems from a conversation I had with a friend about Derrida’s conception of desire. Derrida’s starting point is Rousseau’s essay in which Rousseau condemns writing because speech is present and writing is just a poor substitute (a lack of presences). Rousseau explains that masturbation  is like writing: a poor substitute for the “real” thing. 

But Derrida points out that R’s desire for a real woman is grounded on this distance (the fact that she is not actually present). Furthermore, the object of desire is a substitute for the original love object (R’s mom). Also, Desire’s structure itself is based on only being able to desire what you don’t have. To keep it short and poorly wrap up what is being said here, I turn to Barbara Johnson’s introduction to Dissemination, in which Johnson sumerizes, quite nicely, Derrida’s deconstruction of R’s essay:

Presence, then, is an ambigous, even dangerous, ideal. Direct speech is self-violation; perfect heteroeroticism is death. Recourse to writing and autoeroticism is necessary to recapture a presence whose lack has not been preceded by any fullness. Yet these two compensatory activities are themselves condemned as unnecessary, even dangerous, supplements. 

[These comments are dealing with Derrida’s essay “That Dangerous Supplement”]. Johnson goes on to say:

Thus, writing and masturbation may add to something that is already present, in which case they are superfluois. AND/OR they may replace something that is not present, in which case they are neccesary (xiii).

What I really want to focus on is the idea of desire, and how it is that desire is by definition that thing which you can never have. I think this concept nicely supports the ideas on love I have been trying to deal with lately. Desire can never be reached because if it is reached then it is not desire anymore– and isn’t this what love is too? I think this is what Derrida wants to point out in R’s essay. Derrida wants to show how R is missing the point of the thing R. desires.

When one is in love, that desire doesn’t go away because it can never be reached, and the idea that you can never reach it (that “thing” desire– whatever that is) is love. You can never “reach” love because love is not an object to be reached. It is the same reason that desire, in order to be desire, must never be reached. 


–verb (used with object

1. to wish or long for; crave; want.
2. to express a wish to obtain; ask for; request: The mayor desires your presence at the next meeting.

3. a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment: a desire for fame.
4. an expressed wish; request.
5. something desired.
6. sexual appetite or a sexual urge.


Desire will always stay an urge, and is this not what love is? It is the urge that does not go away even when you “have” the person you desire.

I have to read more Lacan, but from the little I have read, it seems Lacan has a better conception of Love (or even Levinas, who realizes how much language gets in the way to ruin love because language is too poor to be able to “capture” love). It seems to me that desire is then is what the definition above says it is (of course, not completely as was just pointed out, language gets in the way), but the thing that is craved and longed for is the other’s desire. We all want to be desired, but what happens when the other you want to desire you is desiring your desire? Again, this is a shortcoming of my limited knowledge on the subject. To use Levinas as an example again: Levinas says that we are responsible to the face (visage) of the other, but what happens when one face meets another face? Who is responsible to whom?

Then love is like desire– or rather (maybe)– desire fuels love in that when you are in love, you constantly desire the other person (and all this language and vocabulary, to repeat, is limited and almost violent. The language and rhetoric of love and desire is so crass. It is the language of possessive nouns and pronouns: mine, my b/f or g/f, I love all of you, etc…). There is a difference between using a person (for, say, a one night stand) in which you fulfill some narcissistic drive and were able to make someone want you, made you feel desired, and once you achieved that goal, that person is no longer important– and then there is the love relationship where you are constantly wanting to be desired and desiring.

There is more here, but I got to get back to Paradise Lost and reading more Lacan and Levinas.