Tuesday 20 December 2005

Fewtril #53

With mass education, one must expect that fools will no longer be satisfied with simple truths, and will most likely become fodder for the sophisticated falsehoods of clever men.

Friday 16 December 2005

Fewtril #52

Many fools believe the surest way to appear clever is by declaring dissatisfaction with compelling explanations, as if they see deeper, and by denying widely attested phenomena, as if they see beyond the myths. It seems that some amongst them have achieved such mastery of this trick that it comes as a natural reaction without conscious pretence.

Fewtril #51

The ideologue prefers ideas to facts – and so might every man, yet not every man is so luxuriant in his dealings with the world nor so indulgent in treating himself to his own preferences, that he would buy at the price of his intelligence a serenity and a stupidity and a security therefrom.

Fewtril #50

Feminist scholarship may yet secure its greatest contribution to human knowledge in attempting to prove that the man in the moon is in fact a bearded lady.

Tuesday 13 December 2005

Stark Megalomania

Whining brats sometimes complain that they never asked to be born, and though this complaint might lack grace, it resounds with truth. That one wasn’t present at one’s conception, signing a letter of consent, or even holding out for a better deal, is a fact as uncontroversial as one is ever likely to meet. It is similarly uncontroversial that one cannot live for as long as one does not agree to die. Acceptance of these things – that one is born without one’s agreement and that one will die whether one likes it or not – marks a basic acceptance of the world about us, and one would hope that everyone accepts these facts without controversy, without fuss, and preferably without penning dreadful plays peopled with cheerless pillocks lamenting them.
But life amongst the squabbling apes of this planet affords us the view that nothing is necessarily without controversy:
My world view . . . is not like that of many people with whom I have either close or distant relationships or acquaintanceships. It begins with a deliberate movement by me to agree to conception, and travels and weaves through the lives and deaths of others near and far, leading ultimately to my own ending which will take place with my full agreement. I do not mean to suggest that I know the time or the how, only that I am sure that life will require my agreement to leave as it did to arrive.
Khyla Russell, “Movements”, Junctures, Vol 4, June 2005.
No doubt some academic defence of these words could be mustered, proclaiming them to be helpfully metaphorical or instructively mystical or deeply wise or some such piffle. As far as I can see, however, these words indicate a detachment from reality and a stark megalomania. Is it pertinent or flippant to mention that the author has a PhD in Anthropology?

Monday 12 December 2005

Fewtril #49

When many people, citing rational thought as their guide, come to the same non-sequitous conclusion, then one ought to consider that there is in common a philosopher who has done their thinking for them.

Friday 9 December 2005

The Professor of Absurdity

If it were true that “[t]he belief in truth is part of the elementary forms of religious life . . . [and] is a weakness of understanding, of common-sense” [1], and one believed it to be true, then necessarily one would be weak of understanding and common-sense. This is of course an absurdity, than which in the sophistication of modern life it is hard to find a more salient example. In consideration of the works of Jean Baudrillard, however, from which the quoted words are drawn, such absurdities are neither rare nor hidden.
.....It has been said that Jean Baudrillard is “a symptom, a sign, a charm, and above all, a password into the next universe” [2], which hagiographic hogwash nevertheless leads me rather to the opinion that we should take our chances with the reality of this universe. But Prof. Baudrillard, for whom “[r]eality, in general, is too evident to be true” [3], would like to make it known that he has boldly gone where nobody can go. At least, if it is from the evidence of real life that he believes that “nobody . . . believe[s] in the evidence of real life” [4], then I presume he must be that nobody of whom he speaks and who boldly goes.
.....Such silliness has provoked ridicule of Prof. Baudrillard, and it has obviously caused him some hurt, which he hopes can be soothed by more silliness:
Say: I am real, this is real, the world is real, and nobody laughs. But say: this is a simulacrum, you are only a simulacrum, this war is a simulacrum, and everybody bursts out laughing. With a condescending and yellow laughter, or perhaps a convulsive one, as if it was a childish joke or an obscene invitation. . . . Truth is what should be laughed at. One may dream of a culture where everyone bursts into laughter when someone says: this is true, this is real. [5]
The vehicle by which Baudrillard believes we may travel beyond truth and reality is that which he terms “radical thought”, which “is in no way different from radical usage of language. . . . [and] is therefore alien to any resolution of the world which would take the direction of an objective reality and of its deciphering.” [6] Furthermore,
This thought wants to be illusion, restituting non-veracity to the facts, non-signification to the world, and formulating the reverse hypothesis that there may be nothing rather than something, tracking down this nothingness which runs under the apparent continuation of meaning. [7]
The efforts of many an intellectual to implement this “radical thought” are humble in comparison to those of such a master-absurdling as Prof. Baudrillard, who is in “the next universe”, as it were. It takes a special kind of dedication, for instance, to produce such pretentious drivel as “Photography also questions ‘pure reality.’ It asks questions to the Other. But it does not expect an answer” [8] or “[O]nly in our sleep, our unconscious, and our death are we identical to ourselves.” [9] Nevertheless, our academicians are coming along nicely, and our journalists and politicians have made sterling efforts at “restituting non-veracity to the facts”. This must fill him with hope.
.....It would be wrong to say that reading through the works of Jean Baudrillard is always a chore; for one may find relief in questions that require of the reasonable man only short answers: “Couldn’t we transpose onto social and historical phenomena language games like the anagram, acrostic, spoonerism, rhyme, strophe or stanza and catastrophe?” [10] or “Does architecture still exist beyond its own reality . . . ?”. [11] The short answers are: “No” and “No”. (If you require the long answers, then there is little hope for you.) Moreover, we owe him a debt of thanks for expressing what could stand as the confession of the modern ideologue: “Consequences and effects interest me less than devaluing” [12].
.....Indeed, it is to Jean Baudrillard that we owe one of the clearest formulations yet written of the creed of pseudo-philosophic obfuscation: “The absolute rule of thought is to return the world as we received it: unintelligible. And if it is possible, to return it a little bit more unintelligible.” [13]
[1] Jean Baudrillard, “La Pensee Radicale”, in Collection Morsure, ed., Sens & Tonka, (Paris, 1994); tr., F. Debrix, “Radical Thought”, online at The European Graduate School.
[2] Arthur Kroker & Charles Levin, "Baudrillard's Challenge," The Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, vol 8:1-2 (1984), 5-16. p. 5.
[3] Jean Baudrillard, “La Pensee Radicale”.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Jean Baudrillard, “La Photographie ou l'Ecriture de la Lumiere: Litteralite de l'Image,” in L'Echange Impossible, (Paris: Galilee, 1999), pp. 175-184. Translated by Francois Debrix as “Photography, Or The Writing Of Light”, online at the European Graduate School.
[9] Jean Baudrillard, “La Pensee Radicale”.
[10] Jean Baudrillard, Hystericizing the Millennium. (L'Illusion de la fin: ou La greve des evenements (Paris: Galilee, 1992.)) Excepted and Translated online by Charles Dudas at The European Graduate School.
[11] (“Existiert die Architektur noch jenseits ihrer eigenen Realität . . . ?”) Jean Baudrillard, “Architektur: Wahrheit oder Radikalität?” At The European Graduate School.
[12] (“Mich interessieren weniger die Konsequenzen und Auswirkungen als das Entwertende”), Jean Baudrillard. (Interview) “Demokratie, Menschenrechte, Markt, Liberalismus.” Frankfurter Rundschau, 28th November 2002.
[13] Jean Baudrillard, “La Pensee Radicale