Dmitry Usenco – A Philosophical Reading of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Vergnügungen’

Date(s) - 07/07/2024
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

The Crown Lavender Hill

Dmitry Usenco will give A Philosophical Reading of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Vergnügungen’

‘Vergnügungen’, a 1954 poem by Bertolt Brecht, has only 16 lines and consists of a seemingly random list of various ‘pleasures’ available to an average man in postwar Europe. However, this apparent randomness quickly disappears at closer look, revealing not only a coherent set of contemporary values but also (as the speaker will try to show) a reflection of/on some fundamental philosophical issues that has dogged many a western intellectual over the last couple of centuries, but especially someone who first had made a deliberate choice in favour of Marxism during the interwar (‘Weimar’) period of German history and was later lucky enough (or perhaps unlucky) to witness his cherished theoretical principles being converted into social practices. All this, in the speaker’s opinion, makes the ‘Dialektik’ (the word that, rather unexpectedly, pops up halfway through the poem) rather than ‘Vergnügungen’, the true protagonist of that piece. Can it be that pleasure will always remain (consciously or subconsciously), if not the ultimate goal of any learned discourse, at least one of its necessary components? Which ‘pleasure’ is more essentially human: ‘The first look from the window in the morning’ or ‘The old book found again’? Or – to translate it into philosophical idiom – Which is of paramount importance: our ‘untainted’ phenomenological experience OR our mastering of inherited ‘symbolic forms’ which we cannot avoid proceeding on in building our relationship with the outside world? In order to find out, the speaker will suggest travelling slightly back in time – to the 1929 Davoser Disputation between Cassirer and Heidegger – and see whether that seminal event may supply a clue to deciphering Brecht’s own humble attempt at reconciliation (‘freundlich sein’) of dialectic opposites.

Dmitry will give his talk at The Crown, 102 Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5RD but the meeting will also be on Zoom see SLPC Zoom Meeting


We always welcome new speakers.  If you would like to give a talk on a philosopher or a philosophical topic please contact Adrian Carter at