Supporting the Pleasure Principle
Supporting the Pleasure Principle
  • Professor Lee Sang-bin
  • 승인 2018.03.07 13:27
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▲'Blade Runner 2049' released in 2017, directed by Denis Villeneuve.
▲'Blade Runner 2049' released in 2017, directed by Denis Villeneuve.

During the 1960s, futurist Marshal McLuhan already predicted the opposition of Gutenberg and Marconi period through his book ‘Understanding Media, The extension of man’; image will replace writing, and technology will replace human’s consciousness in the future. Actually, modern life does prove that McLuhan’s prediction is partially right. Interest in books is not like the old days, and image genres such as movies are replacing the role of literature. In addition, technology is being developed in such a fast pace that we can’t even imagine where the end could be. The improvement in information media such as Internet is now threatening printed media.
However, humans are living animals. Every living being experiences pleasure, rage, sorrow, and joy. Can humans live with only a piece of bread? Are humans the type of beings that are satisfied by just huge houses and fancy cars? Apart from the nature of seeking power, wealth, justice, humans seek beauty. Seeking beauty is not different from saving one’s dignity. Making someone feel compassion to a starving little boy is what literature or art takes part in the society. It is the humanists that have consciousness and tries to prevent the disappearance of minority race and language. Identifying the victims and assaulters of history and presenting the directions of our history is what historians do. Sigmund Freud, a Psychoanalyst, used ‘reality principle’ and ‘pleasure principle’, two principles that control human. Defining the reality principle as the basic principle that dominates human history, there is a principle that dominates people who have dreams, who pursues amusement on the complete other side. That is what literature and art does. These two principles are complementary, and one cannot be superior to the other. Therefore, the moment humans become satisfied, they devote themselves to metaphysical desire.
What is culture, and its subordinate concepts, literature and art ultimately pursuing? It seems a bit far from utility, and money and power sometimes seem to decide the culture’s appearance. However, true literature and art is eternally amorphous and revolutionary. Denying any type of forced model, true literary art is engaged in revealing what is right in the world. For example, new flows in the movie industry such as New German Cinema, Neorealism, and Nouvelle Vague were movements opposing mammonism and commercialization. Nouveau Roman, a movement in the literary industry showed self-reflection, that the original novel form does not fit with the changing world.
However, these types of reflections cannot be limited only to culture, and should not be limited. France, the country I stayed when studying abroad had very different objectives of education from ours. Their objective was mainly two; ‘cultivation of conscience’ and ‘pursuing the common good’. In different words, it aimed ‘better together (vivre ensemble)’. These types of objectives were different from the US education, which seeks pragmatism, and culture that claims to support commercialism. French education has proposed a holistic human character as their objective (honnête homme) and emphasized the importance of liberal education for more than 300 years. In contrast, the US has concentrated on training professionals with specific fields, and these two educations cannot be the same. Virtues that are most emphasized through liberal education are protection of second-class citizen, high interest in cultural art, and elegant usage of language and etiquette. These are not what we can achieve through our type of education. If educations’ fundamental purpose is to foster ‘social man’ and by this, achieve the ‘Brave New World’, shouldn’t our way of education change?
There does seem to be a humanities boom in the Korean society. At least when you get out of universities, people talk about literature, philosophy, and history. This phenomenon rose because of the warnings of threats caused by civilization and worries of practical people, but it does make a good contrast with the regression of humanities in universities. The clear thing is that understanding history, literature and arts helps comprehending the overall humanity.
Usually literature is defined as losers’ voice. Discourse about power has disappeared these days and postmodernism is the best word to describe our world. This new aesthetic refuses any order of power. A good example is that the interest about Burakumin in Japan, the untouchables in India is highest along with postmodernism. War and concentration camp, the ghetto culture made by immigration and immigrants are common subjects used in literatures and movies these days. Literature is the best tool we can use to indirectly experience unrelated periods’ and regions’ passion and anguish. To overcome our fragmented historical awareness, and in long term, to explain our reason of existence on this land, shouldn’t we have more interest in our society, culture, history and art? Great scientists are held in honor due to their great discoveries but we cannot ignore the fact that these men had great belief in human’s possibility and love for humanity.
No advanced countries give good credit to those who only have large houses or expensive cars. Instead, people who can play an instrument or who feels sympathy to others are respected. We can take these values in by continuously having interest in literature, having direct contact with various esthetical experience.
The 20th century shows what tragedy can be brought by fragmented, partial understanding of humans. What would happen if scientists have no consciousness about the threats of atomic bomb and just concentrated on making massive destruction weapons? Watching the movie ‘Blade Runner 2049’, which shows the combination of humans and androids, I imagined the extinction of mankind. It may be an ‘undreamable’ dream, but I still hope that one day, literary art and science can meet in harmony. I believe the ‘media forum’ held in POSTECH since last November can be a good start.