Monday, March 11, 2013

how can anyone take philosophy seriously?

For the last fifty years, those who have been paying attention have witnessed the death and burial of the dream of the Enlightenment, the final destruction of claims to originary points of certainty, of any universal claims, and of any pretender to a philosophical method. Only the most naïve of naïve realists has any hope to resuscitate positivism of any kind. Tough days for philosophy.

Those who have been paying a different kind of attention may have witnessed the implosion of meaning and the social (to use Baudrillard's words), and the unhinging of signs from signification. The form of advertising has liquidated the possibility of a discourse in which any of the problems of philosophy could be discussed, or could matter. Without a discursive home, well, that seems to about wrap it up for this whole philosophy business.

This would be the case if Baudrillard is right about the impact of "absolute advertising" -- a steering medium masquerading as a communications medium. If I'm reading Baudrillard right, he says that advertising has overtaken language and driven meaning to extinction. To give a simple example, a term in a language has a particular meaning by its differentiation from other terms and its denotative function. Tree can mean "tree" because tree isn't potato or Duane and because the arbitrary marker tree can designate the image/idea of "tree." Advertising language takes those same signs, and decouples them from those images/ideas, puts the denotative function out of play, and applies the unhinged sign anywhere, onto anything. Each term in advertising's sign system is still differentiated from the others, but none of them denotes anything in particular, so the differentiation doesn't make any difference.

Ads rarely use tree, of course. But they use freedom, love, natural, good, and any other word of the lexicon that seems handy. When the ad uses those terms, they do not mean anything in particular. All-natural is precisely meaningless, for instance.

Now, it's important to note that for Baudrillard it is not advertisements that have liquidated meaning and the social, it's the form of advertising, which he further elaborates as a vaguely consensual, vaguely seductive form of language in which signs serve as enticements and lures, bits of exposed skin, moods, etc. The form of advertising is a medium of fascination, ultimately, and that point of fascination is the abyss of meaning and the social.

What matters post-meaning is connection, exchange, feedback loops -- the merest nodal/modular transferral of signs. This form of the exchange of signs is too rapid, too thin, too ephemeral, and too brutal for meaning to be conveyed or understood. I think this characterizes very well the digital media environment of siliconized societies: Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, instant public opinion polling based on market research and demographic targeting, news media, and the constant, continuous, ubiquitous bombardment of data in all forms, everywhere.

The problem is not that any of us are duped by ads, the media, political parties, or any of the rest of it. That doesn't matter. What matters is that these media, taken as a system, operate as steering media to coordinate need and desire geared to production (again, as a system -- not the obviously stupid idea that an ad makes me want to go buy some product, which no one really believes happens), yet they appear to be doing the job of communications media.

In this social situation, I ask myself, more than I ask anyone else, how can anyone take philosophy seriously?

So I wrote a blog post about it. And I posted a link to that on Facebook.

(And yes, I have a response to my own question, but you'll just have to wait.)


xtian said...

Those are the reasons why we should take philosophy or art seriously.

publius said...

Adapted, Adopted or Developed Philosophy

Start W/
How can one know he/she physically possesses what is called a spirit or soul? The spirit-soul-mind of man is “objective/cognitive awareness” which is only manifest during what we call “consciousness”. This is a real condition not an imaginary one and is what is referred to as metaphysical, which means not of this dimension or the physical world as we subjectively know it to be, thus consciousness is the spirit’s state of being within the physical world.

To simply believe something, is an evasion, equivalent to a matter of faith in the unknown. The intelligent objective mind either knows or doesn’t know as in a binary calculation and does not allow for belief. The only home for a belief lies within the subjective imagination of the mind, as a could or should state.

The psychology of the individual comes from his/her philosophy conscious or unconsciously established. To truly know ones self one must chronicle his/her own complete philosophy.

The individual’s philosophy (Everyone has one albeit still in development); of each individual person represents the “premises: to everything they say or do. A weak and/or poorly developed philosophy causes many false or erroneous premises to spew forth into society which in turn confounds what would otherwise be the self-evident truth of what we experience, hear, see or read. Most people do not consciously chronicle their own philosophy but subconsciously adhere to one they are unaware they have, because they cannot intellectually define the particulars openly. This would show its poor and ill conceived standards.

“Premises”; we think or have thoughts before we know any words (language) is self-evident. So what is “thought” if not within the scope of language? Thru the power of thought otherwise known as “conscious reasoning” we teach ourselves everything from the subjective walking to talking to objective geography (where we are; as to mapping).

A human thought is “abstract” too use a word; an “enigma”. There is no direct path or interface between the mind and the brain of one person to himself or to another or to language (words). A single “thought” may encompass a thousand words and still fall short so that others may “understand” it with an equal grasp as the source.

DMT (the spirit molecule) is the most probable enigma code/decode machine (interface interpreter) between the brain and the metaphysical mind of man. DMT has no known purpose or function within the body yet is naturally produced in it, it is what we call a hallucinogenic.

Doc Nagel said...

I have no idea what that means.

publius said...

Doc Nagel,
I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to muddy the waters of “philosophy or enlightenment” but to clarify by taking it within the world of human thought where it truly belongs. Philosophy is individualistic extremely variable not applicable to a monolithic point of view. But if one can chronicle one’s own philosophy one can achieve what you call an enlightened state of mind