Pleasure, Happiness and Aesthetics in Leopardi's "Zibaldone"

Dissertation, Yale University (1999)
This dissertation examines Giacomo Leopardi's philosophy of pleasure and happiness in his philosophic journal, the Zibaldone di pensieri . Leopardi writes that man has lost his ability to find happiness in the modern world, because he has come to rely too much on his reasoning faculty. Reason destroys man's link to the imagination, which is the source of human happiness; as a result, it would appear that we are doomed to unhappiness because we cannot escape reason. In this study, however, I assert that Leopardi's philosophy allows for a sort of loophole: namely, modern man is able to find temporary happiness through the experience of art and poetry. ;Chapter One discusses the historical background of the ideas of pleasure and happiness, with an emphasis on the French thinkers of the Enlightenment who had the greatest influence on the development of Leopardi's own philosophy. ;Chapter Two examines Leopardi's philosophy of pleasure. The nature of pleasure, as described in the Zibaldone, is discussed first, followed by a study of the many types of pleasure Leopardi identifies. Finally I examine Leopardi's views on man's capacity for experiencing pleasure. ;Chapter Three examines Leopardi's philosophy of happiness as seen in the Zibaldone. The concept of happiness is discussed in relation to other important terms in Leopardi's philosophy, namely 'nature' and 'amor propio'. There follows a discussion of the question as to whether Leopardi views happiness as unattainable , and its relation to pleasure. ;Chapter Four asserts the possibility of modern man finding happiness in a world dominated by scientific reason. Leopardi's concept of reason is examined, followed by a discussion of art's role in the attainment of happiness
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