Detail from Bosch’s Seven Deadly Sins, depicting ‘luxira’ or lust.

Federico Campagna, on lust too

In his essay on the subject, the radical atheist philosopher Federico Campagna descries the fact that though lust is given ample attention in many fields “the quantity of such attention has rarely been matched by quality.”

He therefore seeks to make up for this, addressing lust in a fascinating – and severe – manner so that he can

attempt to circle around the concept of lust, slowly unpicking each layer of its constitution, retracing my steps to correct the description of the previous layer in light of the following.

His exploration is not shallow, though, so he warns us at “times, it is possible that I shall suspend my exploration – for a moment – if things become irresolvable.” This is an essay that, almost miraculously, carries out an almost threatening investigation with a light touch and refreshing humour.

I became interested in Campagna after reading his book The Last Night: Anti-Work, Atheism, Adventure (2013), in which he describes ‘Work’ (with a capital ‘w’) as a mantra of universal submission, and presents his alternative: ‘a wasteful opportunist squandering of obedience.’ This alternative is carried out by ‘squanderers’  who ‘perform as much is requested of them, or, if they are able to, they falsify the books. Always smiling, always cunning.’ Yet squanderers are not puritans seeking, like monks, ‘celestial pauperism’. No, they will take what they can get from Work’s civilisation ‘providing, of course, that they can get away without having to pay with it, or at least not dearly.’ Finally, they are not punks, who Campagna believes to be ‘honourable… consistent and uncompromising: they serve their Ideal, which is only a negative copy of the ‘decent’ bourgeois ideal.’  In other words, they Work too.

I’ve never trusted the idea of Work as a virtue in itself – though, and I assume this is true of Campagna too, I occasionally fall prey to it – so I was more than sympathetic. The Last Night can be read as both a condemnation and a manifesto: it highlights our chains and points toward their keys.