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Books  >>  Philosophy

Robert Pfaller

On the Pleasure Principle in Culture

Robert Pfaller On The Pleasure Principle In Culture Illusions Without Owners
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Biographical note:

Robert Pfaller teaches philosophy and cultural theory as associate professor at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Main description:

For many illusions, it is easy to find owners – people who proudly declare that they believe in things such as life after death, human reason, and self-regulation of financial markets. Yet there are also different kinds of illusions at work, for example, in art: trompe l’oeil-painting pleases its observers with “anonymous illusions” – illusions where it is not entirely clear who exactly it is that should be deceived.

Anonymous illusions offer a universal pleasure principle within culture: they are present in games, sport, design, eroticism, manners, charm, beauty, etc. However it seems that this pleasure principle is increasingly subjected to misrecognition: the proud proprietors of certain illusions are no longer capable of recognizing that they too follow anonymous illusions. As a consequence, they mistake happy, polite others for naïve idiots or “savages” – as owners of stupid illusions; and consider their happiness an obscene intrusion – as something in which they could never share.

Pfaller explores the strange properties of these shared illusions, and finds that they have a central and crucial role in our culture—and we need to better understand them in order to protect the public sphere.

Review quote:

“But let’s go back to belief, to the cliché that today we have lost belief. This is nothing more than a pseudo-debate: today we believe more than ever – and this is the problem, as Robert Pfaller has shown. The concepts of the debate are therefore no longer the same. Unfortunately, however, the great majority of philosophers haven’t stepped up to the challenges at this high level, and thus they burden us with false answers.” —Slavoj Žižek

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