Imperfections (Part 2: Anthropo-Reality, Simulation and the Symbolic)

“The faith in the categories of reason is the cause of nihilism. We have measured the value of the world according to categories that refer to a purely fictitious world. Final Conclusion: All the values by means of which we have tried so far to render the world esteemable for ourselves and which then proved themselves inapplicable and therefore devalued the world – all these values are, psychologically considered, the results of certain perspectives of utility, designed to maintain and increase human constructs of domination – and they have been falsely projected into the essence of things. What we find here is the hyperbolic naivete of man: positing himself as the meaning and measure of the value of things” Nietzsche, Will to Power

Simulation and ‘the Death of the Thing’: At first it was assumed that cyberspace (and all the associated technologies of virtual reality etc…) was an Imaginary space to act out fantasies prohibited in Real life. But cyberspace has increasingly become not a secondary, Imaginary, world but very much a way of experiencing and ordering our own Real world. Social media tools such as Google Earth and Twitter do not transport the user to an alternative world, but rather tell the user more about Real individuals and Real locales. Yes, many do use online spaces for entertainments such as World of Warcraft, but online spaces are definitely not exclusively places of fantasy.

So no, I do not think the danger of cyberspace (and its associated technologies of simulation) lies in the transformation of the Real into the Imaginary. Rather, the danger lies in the transformation of the Real into a Hyper-Real. Experiencing the world through online technologies is a thoroughly human endeavor, it belongs, in Nietzsche’s words to the ‘positing of man himself as the meaning and measure of the value of things’. So perhaps Hyper-Reality is misleading, rather we ought to use the term Anthropo-Reality (or, in a Lacanian parlance, the Real filtered through the Symbolic, Symbolic-Reality).

Lacan himself once echoed the Nietzschean ‘will-to-truth’ in a comment that “the symbol first manifests itself as the killing of the thing…” Upon emerging the Symbolic order, we no longer engage with the object-itself but with the object-as-symbol. It is no longer, for example, a spool that Freud’s nephew seeks in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, but a spool that has become, insofar as it is a linguistic object, structured by a system of language. It is rendered understandable. (But as is recognized by Lacan, there is in language an inherent logic of presence and absence. Thus, the making present of something implies some sort of absence, or in the Sausurrean ‘synchronic’ sense, the recognition that a term must, in order to ‘mean’, resemble an infinite synchronic system of differences.) Thus, what has replaced the physical spool is now a rapidly fluctuating string of floating signifiers, none of which has any signified, and as such is only synchronically linked to other signifiers. The spool has, for Lacan, been annihilated in favor of an unceasing abstraction of signifiers that relate only to one another.

The world as we know it is a “radical illusion” insofar as it is only endowed with meaning with our entrance into the Symbolic. The world that emerges,  the one applicable to the Laws of positivism and science have, quoting Thomas Kuhn, been “given the force of reality, ma[de] to exist and signify at all costs”.  This action, Baudrillard claims, “take(s) from [the Real’s] secret, arbitrary, accidental character, rid(s) it of appearances and extract[s] its meaning, divert(s) it from all predestination and restore(s) it to its end and its maximum efficacy, [and] wrest[s] it from its form to deliver it up to its formula.” “The sign and reality” in Baudrillard’s words, come to “share a single shroud”.  “…in simulation, in this giant dispositif of meaning, calculation and efficiency that encompasses our technical devices, including current virtual reality, the illusion of the sign is lost, and only its operation remains.”

Perhaps the rapid turn to simulation (and virtuality) represents the encroachment of the Symbolic into the terrains of the Imaginary and the Real. We are confronted with the Law of the Unchanging Binary Code, subject only to 1s and 0s. Perhaps it is not the risk of an overbearing Imaginary we have to fear, but that of weakening before an overbearing Symbolic.

“This gigantic enterprise of disillusionment – of, literally, putting the illusion of the world to death, to leave an absolutely real world in its stead – is what is properly meant by simulation” – Jean Baudrillard


~ by dccohen on February 20, 2010.

2 Responses to “Imperfections (Part 2: Anthropo-Reality, Simulation and the Symbolic)”


    The book purports to be from Noah and says this about the effect of writing ( symbolic representation ) : it speaks of the name of the fallen angle who is supposed to have introduced writing to men:

    “8. And the fourth was named Pênêmûe: he taught the children of men the bitter and the sweet, and he taught them all the secrets of their wisdom. 9. And he instructed mankind in writing with ink and paper, and thereby many sinned from eternity to eternity and until this day. 10. For men were not created for such a purpose, to give confirmation to their good faith with pen and ink. 11. For men were created exactly like the angels, to the intent that they should continue pure and righteous, and death, which destroys everything, could not have taken hold of them, but through this their knowledge they are perishing, and through this power it is consuming me†”

    i. e. to ‘symbolize’ instead of simply live is evil and part of death, not life. Knowledge effects the knower in a real way –it is not will-neutral. At a minimum, the document demonstrates those of ancient times ( however old they are ) were grappling with the same issues we face and had at the least a grasp of the essence of the problem. The issues are not new and are not the result of ‘technology’; they are result of moral evil.

    and yet God says of His Own Word, in contrast to other written words:

    John 5:44-47 How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and seek not the glory which comes from God alone? Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one who accuses you, Moses, on whom ye trust; for if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. But if ye do not believe his writings, how shall ye believe my words?


    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

  2. Hm hm.. that’s amazing but frankly i have a hard time understanding it… wonder what others have to say..

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