Today young people, at least in the West, are on the brink of a new world. With the decline of old traditions, they now face more choices than ever before. Yet powerful forces are pushing them in dangerous directions, into the vortex of consumerism or into reactive forms of traditionalism. This is a time when young people must be particularly attentive to the signs of the new and have the courage to venture forth and find out what they're capable of, without being constrained by the old prejudices and hierarchical ideas of the past. And if the aim of philosophy is to corrupt youth, as Socrates was accused of doing, this can mean only one thing: to help young people see that they don't have to go down the paths already mapped out for them, that they are not just condemned to obey social customs, that they can create something new and propose a different direction as regards the true life.
That is precisely the issue at stake in this dialogue, which serves as a very accessible introduction to what mathematics is and an exploration of the crucial influence it has always exerted on the greatest philosophers. Far from the thankless, pointless exercises they are often thought to be, mathematics and logic are indispensable guides to ridding ourselves of dominant opinions and making possible an access to truths, or to a human experience of the utmost value. That is why mathematics may well be the shortest path to the true life, which, when it exists, is characterized by an incomparable happiness.
Han offers a survey of the threats to Eros, drawing on a wide range of sources -- Lars von Trier's film Melancholia, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde,Fifty Shades of Grey, Michel Foucault (providing a scathing critique of Foucault's valorization of power), Martin Buber, Hegel, Baudrillard, Flaubert, Barthes, Plato, and others. Han considers the "pornographication" of society, and shows how pornography profanes eros; addresses capitalism's leveling of essential differences; and discusses the politics of eros in today's "burnout society." To be dead to love, Han argues, is to be dead to thought itself.
Concise in its expression but unsparing in its insight, The Agony of Eros is an important and provocative entry in Han's ongoing analysis of contemporary society.
This remarkable essay, an intellectual experience of the first order, affords one of the best ways to gain full awareness of and join in one of the most pressing struggles of the day: the defense, that is to say -- as Rimbaud desired it -- the "reinvention" of love. -- from the foreword by Alain Badiou