Is Reason the Enemy of Pleasure? - Lecture, University of Oslo

Contemporary Western societies indulge in fighting against pleasure, in the name of reason: be it reasons of health, sustainability, economy, emancipation or security. The same has occurred in almost all 20th century aesthetics which considered themselves as liberating or emancipatory: neo-marxist theoreticians such as Lukacs, Adorno or Benjamin condemned pleasure within the arts by political reasons, just as Laura Mulvey did for feminism, and many others in the name of identity politics etc.Yet, according to the materialist lessons of Bertolt Brecht, the claim for what life is worth living for is the necessary condition for any emancipatory stance. If we take that into account, we have to ask ourselves: Do we have to renounce pleasure in order to be enlightened? What can we learn from art and everyday culture about this problem? Is pleasure an effect of illusion? Or does it arise, on the contrary, when we are beyond illusion? And is pleasure, finally, only something for the rich? Does art have to remind us of that?

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