Noah denkt™  -
    Project for Philosophical Evaluations of the Economy
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Let’s talk about Houellebecq again
Dialog with the Alter Ego on literature, first drafted on Feb. 8, published on Feb. 12, 2010
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Question by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): We have
recently published a dialog about Houellebecq that
pertains to his philosophical views. It seems to me though that we also have to talk about the artistic value of his
work. Obviously, he is way too successful and controversial in order to no touch upon that.
Answer by Noah denkt™ (Nd): Good point. How do you want to go about it?

AE: Well, I would like to start with an accusation that is ever so often leveled at him which claims that his work is
pornographic.
(See, for instance, the view held by Prof. Claire Colebrook, formerly University of Edinburgh, presented in the
BBC’s “The Culture Show” in May 2008 (still available for viewers
on YouTube)) Does Noah denkt™ share this point of view?
Nd: Well, there are certainly some pornographic elements in Houellebecq’s work. But we do not see why that
would be a problem.

AE: So you do not consider it a cheap move to try to sell your books by appealing to the lowest and most abject
instincts and fantasies that usually men tend to have?
Nd: We do not consider our sexual desires as being despicable or abject.

AE: In other words, you do condone pornography?
Nd: Well, if there is no element of abuse in it, and if it’s presented in an intelligent way it clearly can satisfy a need
that our fragmented post-modern world creates.

AE: What are you referring to here?
Nd: We are referring to the fact that a vast number of people live a very isolated and lonesome life, which offers
them next no sensual satisfaction. For these kind of circumstances pornography can be a rather non-offensive
and welcome solution given that it al least provides a virtual stimulation.

AE: The reality though is that most pornography isn’t exactly very educated, is it?
Nd: Sadly, that is correct. This, however, does not apply to Houellebecq’s eroticism.

AE: Why?
Nd: Because his erotic descriptions serve to illustrate and highlight a pretty coherent world view that is as well
subtle, as it is sensible and sensitive.

AE: And you do not think that this world view reduces women to mere sexual objects?
Nd: No. Much rather does it want to encourage women and men alike to develop into free and independently
thinking human beings. In other words, his so-called pornography is meant to help us understand the gap that
there is between a misguided consumerism on one side and a self-confident and educated use of one’s sexuality
on the other.

AE: So Noah denkt™ does not see any reason whatsoever do object to Houellebecq’s work?
Nd: Well, the truth is that we do have a hard time with the hopelessness that seems to be his philosophical
leitmotif. We understand why he would come to this conclusion. What we do not understand though is how he can
live with this. Or to put it differently, it appears to us as if he is in denial even of his own personal needs for hope.
And that is probably the most fundamental reason why some people object to his work so fervently.

AE: But doesn’t it contradict the precepts of reason to embrace hope just for hope’s sake? In other words do we
not need some further evidence that would somewhat justify our hopefulness, before we can allow ourselves to
fall for it?
Nd:  Noah denkt™ is of the opinion that we have to be hopeful if only to maintain our personal dignity. In that we
concur with Albert Camus’ existentialism which encourages us to take our chances even in the face of
overwhelming contradictory evidence. (See: Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”)  

AE: If this is what you stand for and if you are, hence, convinced that Houellebecq’s position is ultimately
untenable, why then do you endorse his work so much?
Nd: Because we share his overall devotion to rationality, even if we disagree in the final conclusion; we appreciate
certain insights that Houellebecq can develop from his vantage point, and we welcome the depth with which he
explains to us the predicament that we find ourselves in today. And all that hopefully helps us to become more
realistic when defining our own exit strategy.
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