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Boredom

Related: everyday life - mood - depression - melancholy - spleen

Films with boredom in title: L' Ennui (1998)

Literature dealing with boredom: Madame Bovary (1857) - Gustave Flaubert - Boredom (1960) - Alberto Moravia

Contrast: ecstasy - curiosity - epiphany - fantastic - fascination - the unexpected

Philosophy of boredom: Arthur Schopenhauer - Martin Heidegger

"There is nothing they won't do to raise the standard of boredom" --Guy Debord

Boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other. --Arthur Schopenhauer

A Philosophy of Boredom (1999) - Lars Svendsen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Definition

Boredom, or ennui (pronounced "on-we," this French word comes from Old French enui, root of the English word 'annoy') is a reactive state to wearingly dull, repetitive, or tedious stimuli: suffering from a lack of interesting things to see, hear, etc., or do (physically or intellectually), while not in the mood of "doing nothing". Those afflicted by temporary boredom may regard the affliction as a waste of time, but usually characterise boredom worse than just that. Alternatively one may have the feeling that having too much spare time causes boredom. Indeed, time often appears to move more slowly to someone suffering from boredom. This results from the way in which the human mind measures the passage of time, by the frequency of notable events, the absence of which may cause the feeling of boredom. Boredom can also occur as a symptom of clinical depression.

Boredom may also lead to impulsive (and sometimes excessive) actions, that serve no purpose and may damage one's self-interest. For example, studies in behavioral finance have shown that stock traders can enter into "overtrading" (buying or selling even without any objective reason to do so) simply because they feel bored when they have nothing worth doing. Using recreational drugs provides another example of the possible perils of boredom. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boredom [May 2005]

Books

  1. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude () - Martin Heidegger [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    In these lectures, which noted German philosopher Heidegger gave in 1929-30 at a turning point in his thought, the aim is to show how Western philosophy went wrong. Heidegger says "Being" was confused with "beings," and philosophers, especially medieval philosophers, made even God into something cozy. But passive acceptance of irrationality is precisely what needs to be understood if we are to grasp the horrors of our time: it is at the heart of the problem that made Heidegger, a sensitive, intelligent man who took up Nazism, an embarrassment to philosophy. And so these lectures are very important. Some of the text is straightforward, but much of it concerns what the translators (not unreasonably) render as "boredom," though it is really about how time intrudes in human affairs. The "boredom" discussion is hard to follow, but it may well be at the back of what Hannah Arendt called the "banality of evil." The translators, Chicago and Oxford academics, write clearly, though the Germanic heaviness of the prose will not endear it to English readers. Primarily for academic collections.? --From Library Journal, amazon.com

    Title of paper Beckett's Boredom and the Place of Theory

    Abstract What is the role of boredom in Beckett's art? Is it still a question of art? How does, for example, a particularly repetitious and mechanical passage in Watt relate to Benjamin's reflections on the aura of art? And how does it relate to Adorno's reflections on the spiritualisation effected by anti-art? Is the frustration of sensual pleasure in a boring passage eased by a meta-interpretation of the passage and is its boredom thereby ignored and its challenge to the pleasurability of art suppressed? Boredom is difficult to face. Heidegger's lengthy analysis of boredom in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics ends up making boredom interesting. For Heidegger, the interest of boredom is regrettable as it prevents boredom's revelation of the truth of time (boredom, Langeweile, is time in its extension, as a "long while", and thus in its difference from the atomistic "nows" of the derivative concept of time). But Heidegger is too critical of voluntarism, for one thing, to advocate giving oneself up to boredom. If there are problems with the theoretical recuperationi of boredom, it still has to be asked - but asked in what sense? - what the boredom in Beckett's text "does". --James Phillips, http://sites.uws.edu.au/uws/conferences/beckett/speakers/phillips.html

  2. Essays and Aphorisms () - Arthur Schopenhauer [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Essays
    On the Suffering of the World
    On the Vanity of Existence [boredom]
    On the Antithesis of Thing in Itself and Appearance
    On Affirmation and Denial of the Will to Live
    On the Indestructibility of our Essential Being by Death
    On Suicide
    On Women
    On Thinking for Yourself
    On Religion: A Dialogue

    Aphorisms
    On Philosophy and the Intellect
    On Ethics
    On Law and Politics
    On Aesthetics
    On Psychology
    On Religion
    On Books and Writing
    On Various Subjects

Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) - Robert Burton

Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) - Robert Burton [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton appeared in 1621. It is one of the most curious books ever written in English, and one of the unlikeliest literary masterpieces ever written.

The full title of the first edition, The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Historically, Opened and Cut up. In contemporary language, an Anatomy of Melancholy would likelier be called A Treatise on Clinical Depression. At the outset, then, Burton proposes to give us a medical textbook. And in large measure, that is what it is: Burton applies his large and varied learning in the Scholastic manner to the subject of melancholia. Each section piles on ancient and mediŠval medical authorities, from Hippocrates, Aristotle and Galen forward, and adds to these ancient examples a great deal of Latin poetry. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatomy_of_Melancholy [Apr 2005]

see also: depression

A Philosophy of Boredom (1999) - Lars Svendsen

About the Author
Lars Svendsen is associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bergen in Norway. He is the author of many books, including Man, Morals and Genes: A Critique of Biologism and The Philosophy of Evil.

Product Description:
It has been described as a "tame longing without any particular object" by Schopenhauer, "a bestial and indefinable affliction" by Dostoevsky, and "time's invasion of your world system" by Joseph Brodsky, but still very few of us today can explain precisely what boredom is. A Philosophy of Boredom investigates one of the central preoccupations of our age as it probes the nature of boredom, how it originated, how and why it afflicts us, and why we cannot seem to overcome it by any act of will.

Lars Svendsen brings together observations from philosophy, literature, psychology, theology, and popular culture, examining boredom's pre-Romantic manifestations in medieval torpor, philosophical musings on boredom from Pascal to Nietzsche, and modern explorations into alienation and transgression by twentieth-century artists from Beckett to Warhol. A witty and entertaining account of our dullest moments and most maddening days, A Philosophy of Boredom will appeal to anyone curious to know what lies beneath the overwhelming inertia of inactivity. --via Amazon.com

Lars Svendsen's inquiry is a good, solid practical work of philosophy, in the tradition of Aristotle's Ethics and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. He has a light touch and a playful attitude, and draws on a wide range of texts, from Martin Heidegger and Samuel Beckett to Iggy Pop and the Pet Shop Boys.

The opening section is particularly strong. I was fascinated to learn that boredom was invented in 1760; the word is not found in English prior to this, though related concepts such as melancholy and acedia did exist. Acedia is from the Greek akedia, meaning "not to care". Usually translated as sloth, it meant not so much laziness as a betrayal of your duty to observe God. The monk who gave up, who didn't care, was committing possibly the most grievous sin of all, because not caring about God implied not caring about being lustful, avaricious or proud. --Tom Hodgkinson via http://www.newstatesman.com/Bookshop/300000095197 [Apr 2005]

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