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Towards a Genealogy of Simulation

By Bruce Elder

"But our beauty lies," explained Metzger, "in this extended capacity for convolution. A lawyer in a courtroom, in front of a jury, becomes an actor, right? Raymond Burr is an actor, impersonating a lawyer, who in front of a jury becomes an actor. Me, I'm a former actor who became a lawyer. They've done the pilot film of a TV series, in fact, based loosely on my career, starring my friend Manny Di Presso, a one_time lawyer who quit his firm to become an actor. Who in this pilot plays me, an actor become a lawyer reverting periodically to being an actor."

    Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49. (New York: Harper & Row,1966), p. 33.

Part I - Mapping the Problem Space

         Our problematic antedates cyberreality. The first shockwaves of its impact were felt in the decades just before the beginning of the twentieth century, and was only one within a cluster of a shocks that shattered the foundations of faith in providential construction of reality. But the genealogy of the issue can be traced back even earlier, to Plato's fateful distinction between the universals and particulars, which accorded a higher reality to that which transcends the senses and so placed beyond understanding the relationship between Be-ing and beings, and second, to the passing of that synthesis of Judaeo-Christian and Classical thought that constituted the foundation of Western metaphysics. For Jews and Christians, as for the Greeks of the classic era, the be-ing of nature was warranted by something beyond itself, by Be-ing of a wholly different order, Be-ing that was necessary. By the early seventeenth-century, the metaphysical paradigm erected on these propositions had become massively insecure. The distinction between Be-ing and the be-ing of beings was challenged by discovery that the heavens and earth were ruled by the same laws. This discovery led thinkers to reject the proposition that the be-ing of beings was grounded in Be-ing. Nature presented itself as being without ground - and the fateful process which would seem ephemeralize it was set in motion.

         But the process accelerated with a number of momentous events that occurred in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One important breaking point, emphasized in Ilya Prigogine and Isabella Steger's monumentally influential book, Order Out of Chaos (1984), was Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier's startling feat of modelling the propagation of heat in solids. Fourier's findings became the basis of the science of thermodynamics, and the science of thermodynamics  -  a science that concerns irreversible processes. Newtonian celestial mechanics knew nothing of irreversible processes: 't' can just easily take negative as positive values. Thermodynamics substituted irreversible for reversible time by establishing that change, becoming, transformation are ineluctable conditions and, accordingly, that no event or state in the present can be identical to any other event or state in the past or the future. All changes in state involve transformations of energy, and energy is always degrading, becoming every moment less available to do work than in the state in which it existed a moment ago.

         Another event that unleashed forces that accelerated the break-up was Darwin's theory of evolution. That theory dismissed any vestigial remnants of the theological foundations of the earlier world-view  - creationism, teleology, and notion of divinely ordained natural types. To be sure, the theory of natural selection did not constitute a decisive refutation of the claim that evolution was the means for working out a providential plan, but it did discredit a literal reading of the two accounts of creation at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, and that had the general effect of rendering theological explanations of be-ing suspect. It also had an even larger effect. It made chance one of the processes by which nature operated. Laplace's demon was slain. The clockwork universe lay in pieces.

         Albert Einstein's theories of relativity also unleashed destructive forces against the world-view that dominated Western thought from the beginning of the Seventeenth to the end of the Nineteenth Century. The Special Theory of Relativity theory established that it was inconsistent with what we know through observation to maintain that space and time are separate entities. It showed that space and time must be conceived as a single reality, "spacetime." What is more, the Special Theory of Relativity demonstrated that the separation between two events in spacetime might be represented by a positive value for one observer and a negative value for another observer  - one observer might see event A as preceding event B, and the other seeing event A as following event B. Thus, the location of the events relative to one another depended upon the position of the observer in spacetime.

         Of course, that finding does not establish that there is no such thing as objective reality (even if many popular interpretations of the Special Theory of Relativity construed it as establishing exactly that). But the discovery that the answer to such simple questions as whether event A preceded or succeeded event B were "observer-dependent" (at least in the sense of depending on the observer's position) proved to be a powerful corrosive to beliefs in objective reality. But we must ask why it was such a powerful corrosive. The answer, I believe, is that uniqueness is a benchmark of self-identity and self-identity is a benchmark of reality in traditional ontology. In that ontology, for something to be self-identical demands that it have a unique location in a contiguous span of spacetime. It was this concept of identity that the Special Theory of Relativity challenged. The Special Theory of Relativity opened up the possibility that an event could have two different spatio-temporal locations for two different observers - it doubled, and in fact multiplied endlessly, the possible outcomes of observation of an event's spatio-temporal location. That multiplication constituted a challenge to conception of identity of traditional ontology.

         It is this doubling - or, by extension, multiplication -  as a challenge to the notion of object identity that I wish to explore in this paper. I wish to trace the genealogy of that idea in German Romantic thought, and show how it came to influence such thinkers as Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin (especially his idea of reproducibility) Guy Debord (and his idea of the spectacle) and Jean Baudrillard (and his idea of hyperreality). But before embarking on the genealogy, I wish to show how the issue continues to trouble contemporary scientific cosmology.

         One development that troubled Newtonian science was Einstein's second relativity theory, the General Theory of Relativity. The General Theory of Relativity is a theory of gravitation force that explains how the matrix within which objects have their be-ing, that is to say, spacetime, influences their behaviour and how, conversely, objects affect that matrix  - spacetime is curved by the mass of objects rather as a stretched blanket is pulled out of plane when a heavy ball is placed in it, and gravity on this model, resembles the tendency of objects to roll down the curves to reach the lowest point. The destructive impact that the General Theory of Relativity had on the what had been, for the two centuries previous, the dominant conception of reality can be accounted for partly by the fact that it depicts a reality in which objects had a role in shaping the topological features of the terrain in which they exist, and this terrain, in its turn, has a role in shaping the behaviour of those objects: the terrain and the objects are not independently existing realities, but mutually influence one another. Thus the General Theory of Relativity brought into question the framework of an absolute space and time whose topologies are fixed from time immemorial unto all time. As Kant's conception of the pure forms of sensibility shows, an object's spatio-temporal location was thought to be essential to an object's identity. So Einstein's theory had no less effect than to challenge the Western conception of an object.

         Another discovery was to have even more corrosive effects on the Newtonian conception of reality. At the same time that Einstein was working in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, Max Planck in Berlin discovered that energy given off by a hot object ("a black body") is not continuously variable, but comes in minimum sized packets. In fact, he showed that light energy comes in chunks whose size depends upon its colour.

         This discovery opened the door to findings so strange they would shake any remaining certainties about the constitution of reality. One of these discoveries resulted from the famous  Two Slit Experiment. Imagine we have a sheet of steel with tiny holes in it. We fire a stream of tiny pellets at the steel plate, and some of the pellets pass through the holes. Behind the sheet, we have a strip of detectors that reveal where the pellets fall. Now, we open a second tiny hole and shoot bullets at the sheet again. We observe that the bullets that land on any spot on the strip of detectors is just the sum of the bullets that land on that spot from each hole. Now, we swap buoys for the detectors we have been using and instead of pellets we project water waves towards the steel plate. At first we open just one of the holes: in this case, the phenomenon we discover resembles that which we observed when we opened just hole and shot pellets at the steel sheet. However, when we open both holes, we see something entirely different: the displacement of the buoys fluctuates, and the fluctuation follows a regular pattern. It is periodic, like a waveform. The fluctuation is accounted for by interference between waveforms, a phenomenon that produces a new, more complex waveform - where the waves are in phase with one another (that is, where their peaks and troughs line up with one another) reinforcement occurs and the displacement of the buoys increases, while where the waves are out of phase with one another (that is, where the peaks of one line up with the troughs of the other) they cancel each other and the displacement of the buoys decreases.

         Now we do the same thing with electrons or photons (in this case our detector can be something as simple as a sheet of photographic film). When only one slit is opened, the detectors reveal that electrons and photons behave like particles. However, when both holes are open, the detector records an interference pattern -  the signature of interacting waves. Stranger still,  the interference pattern appears even if you send only a single photon through the tiny slit: the photon finds its way through both holes and interferes with itself. But two openings are required: close one hole and the wave signature disappears. Now it acts just like a pellet: either it emerges from the single open hole to impact upon the detector, or it misses the hole entirely, and hits the steel sheet. Still stranger yet, the interference pattern is observed even if you wait until the last moment, just before it reaches the steel sheet, before deciding to close one hole or leave both open. The photon responds instantly to whether one or both holes are open, as though it could feel out the entire setup and respond any changes anywhere to it, and could so instantaneously.

         So long as two slits are open, we have evidence of their behaving as waves; when only one slit is open, however, we have evidence of their behaving like particles. The question that immediately strikes one about the experiment is the question whether electrons are "really" particles or waves. The quandary that issue induced set in motion a series of events that would result in the repudiation of the Newtonian conception of reality which had been the dominant world-view for the previous two to three centuries and, more startlingly, for the concept of an object that had dominated Western thought since it was first recorded. It did so by raising a challenge to the concept of identity.

         What picture of reality could ever account for anything that strange? The weirdness of the findings of the two-slit experiment resulted from what became known as the "complementarity" of quantum phenomena. Classical physics has depicted waves and particles as behaving very differently. To put the matter simply, waves act as though they can feel out the entire setup and respond any changes anywhere to it, and can do so instantaneously - a wave is, so to speak, all over the place. A particle, on the other hand, occupies one place only. But quantum entities behave sometimes as waves and sometimes as particles - they have complementary attributes. But how are we to interpret this strange wave-particle duality. What picture of reality at the quantum level can account for this weird complementarity.

         Many Quantumweltbilder were advanced as models that could explain those strange findings. Niels Bohr, for example, explained the wave-particle duality by declaring that subatomic systems don't have either of their complementary states until they are observed. This view came to be known as the "Copenhagen" interpretation of quantum mechanics, and for many years, it was the quasi-official interpretation of quantum theory. The Copenhagen interpretation proposes that, in themselves, quantum entities are neither waves nor particles. The attributes they possess are contextual: they depend on the measurement situation, and cannot be ascribed to entities independent of the measurement situation. Their complementary states are only resolved, one way or the other, by their being observed - that is the gist of Bohr's famous Complementarity Principle, which states that whether a quantum object displays wave properties or particle properties depends upon the protocols of mensuration, and not simply on the object itself. The dynamic attributes of particles are not properties of the quantum entity in itself, nor of the measuring device, but of the interaction between the measuring device and the object. Translated from the quantum domain, the claim is tantamount to the assertion that the moon is not there until you look at it.

         In 1935 the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger challenged Bohr's view of the role of observation in quantum systems by proposing a famous thought experiment that has been known ever since as "Schrödinger's cat." An unfortunate cat is placed in a sealed box with a quantum device that has a 50-50 chance of going into a particular state within, let us say, one minute -  for example the box might contain a Geiger counter, and a quantity of radioactive substance that has exactly a 50-50 of emitting a particle in one minute. If no radioactive particle is emitted, nothing happens. If a radioactive particle is emitted, and detected by the Geiger counter, the apparatus explodes a cyanide capsule and kills the cat. What has happened at the end of the minute, before we have opened the box? If we accept the Copenhagen assertion that the system has no state until it is observed, we have to believe that the cat, until observed, remains in a "superposed" state of both dead and alive. According to the Copenhagen interpretation, as we stand outside the closed lab door just before opening it, the cyanide has been neither released nor unreleased - the conditions of its being released or not being released are "superposed." Similarly, the cat's being dead or alive exist as superposed states. The conditions of the cyanide being released and not being released, and so of the cat's being dead or alive, are not established until the observer opens the box. Our observation, not the unobserved state of the cyanide canister, decides whether the cat lives or dies. These claims seem repugnant to our sense of reality - to our sense of what an object is: the cat is either dead or alive, we are wont to insist, and there is just no two ways about it.       Albert Einstein, for one, was horrified by the Copenhagen Interpretation, and spent many of the later years combating it. To highlight the weirdness of the Copenhagen view, Einstein and two of his Princeton colleagues constructed the E.P.R. (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) thought experiment. Let an atom spit out a pair of objects, which fly apart for an enormous distance - say one stays here on earth, conveniently in our physics lab, while the other travels beyond the Andromeda galaxy. The mathematical apparatus of quantum theory tells us that the two particles must have opposite states of what the mathematical calls "spin": if one is "spin up," the other must be "spin down." But according to the Copenhagenians, the particles have no spin state at all until observed. Suppose we observe one of the entities and find that its spin is "up." We have thus resolved the spin state of a particle that purportedly had no such state until we made the observation. But if we have, by that observation, resolved the spin state of the first particle to "up," then we have also resolved the spin of the other objects, to state "down."

         Recall that according to Copenhagen Interpretation, neither of the objects possessed either the attribute up or the attribute down until its spin was measured. But as soon as the one entity was probed, and acquired a spin state of up, the other entity, millions of miles away, suddenly acquired spin state down. How could this happen? How could the first entity instantaneously communicate its state to the second entity, millions of miles away? It would demand communication between the two particles at speeds faster than that of light - in fact, at infinite speeds!  It defies our beliefs concerning the nature of an entity is to assert that the quantum entities actually did not have spin states all along. Einstein took exactly that position, postulating that some underlying causal agency must determine the spin of quantum entities. In other words, according to Einstein, the spin state is not set at the moment of observation after all, as the Copenhagen Interpretation asserts, but was an attribute of the objects ab initio. But there is no evidence that any such underlying causal agency exists. Accordingly, theories like Einstein's are therefore known as "hidden variables" interpretations, since they propose that the observer's ignorance regarding the attributes of quantum objects results from the effect of factors that quantum systems conceal. Those who espouse "hidden variable" interpretations generally maintain that once that the values of these hidden variables are known, the weirdness of quantum reality will fade from view.

         The strangeness of quantum reality, and the difficulty of elabourating any picture of the quantum domain that did not seem counterintuitive, produced many competing interpretations of the quantum model. One prominent model was produced by the famous Hungarian mathematician, John von Neumann, in his 1932 treatise, Die Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik. While the Copenhagen interpretation conceived of the measuring device as essentially a classical device, von Neumann insisted on the importance of thinking of the measured object and the measuring device as being on the same footing, of thinking of them both as quantum objects. When the two, the measured object and the measuring device, are both treated as quantum objects, then the collapse of the wave function can occur anywhere in the neighbourhood around their interaction, either in the object or in the measuring device - the "cut," representing the point of collapse, could be placed anywhere in a neighbourhood. This led von Neumann to focus on a particular link in the measurement chain, the subject doing the measurement, and to formulate the idea that even he admitted was speculative, that the human mind is the ultimately responsible for the collapse of the wave function. John A. Wheeler, in Austin Texas, championed an interpretation that maintained that reality is created by the observer through exercising the option of measuring it. Thus if at a specific time we measure the position of an electron, but not its velocity, then at that time it has a position, but no a velocity. Observation, on Wheeler's view, is an elementary act of creation. Another picture was offered by Werner Heisenberg - he proposed that reality consists of two distinct realms, the world of potential and the world of actuality, with the two joined by act of measurement. The wave function represents the potential of the system, and observation causes the collapse of the wave function, i.e., causes one of the potentials to be actualized. Hugh Everett III offered the "Many Worlds" interpretation, on which measurement splits a quantum system (comprising both the quantum object and the measuring device) into as many copies as there are possible outcomes. If there are M possible outcomes, the system splits into M copies, M possible worlds, with World I exhibiting possible outcome 1, World 2 exhibiting possible outcome 2, etc. The wave function doesn't really collapse, for the quantum system realizes all of the possible outcomes, each of them in its own separate world. But note that the idea that being exists in numerous copies again defies the concept of identity in traditional ontology -  we encounter a similar multiplication of representations as we noted arising from Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Uniqueness, as I have pointed out, is a benchmark of self-identity and self-identity is a benchmark of reality in traditional ontology; and self-identity in that ontology demands unique location in a span of spacetime.

         It would be premature to pursue the analogy at this point, but it is timely to point that this multiplication of realities that we have discerned in contemporary science is also a basic feature of post-modern thought. Gianni Vatimo writes of the supposed discrediting of the Hegelian conception of history which occurred with the emergence of a number of incommensurate, and equally plausible "maps" of reality.

The mass media which in theory offer information in 'real time' about everything happening in the world, could in effect be seen as a kind of concrete realization of Hegel's Absolute Spirit: the perfect self-consciousness of the whole of humanity, the co-incidence between what happens, history and human knowledge. On close inspection, Hegelian and Marxist critics such as Adorno work with this model in mind, and their pessimism is based on the fact that it is not realized as it might have been (owing to the market, ultimately), or is realized only in a perverse and caricatural form (as in the sanctioned world of 'Big Brother', which may even be 'happy' thanks to the manipulation of desires). But the freedom given by the mass media to so many cultures and Weltanschauungen has belied the ideal of the transparent society. What could freedom of information, or even the existence of more than one radio or TV channel, mean in a world where the norm is the exact reproduction of reality, perfect objectivity, the complete identity of map and territory? In actual fact, the increase in possible information on the myriad forms of reality makes it increasingly difficult to conceive of a single reality. It may be that in the world of the mass media a 'prophecy' of Nietzsche's is fulfilled: in the end the true world becomes a fable. If we, in late modernity, have an idea of reality, it cannot be understood as the objective given lying beneath, or beyond, the images we receive from the media. How and where could we arrive at such a reality 'in itself'? For us reality is rather the result of the intersection and 'contamination' (in the Latin sense) of a multiplicity of images, interpretations, and reconstructions circulated by the media in competition with one another and without any 'central' coordination.[i][1]

         There is a striking parallel between the interpretations of reality that scientists have been driven to in response to the discoveries of quantum science and the theories about reality that post-modern thinkers have advanced. Furthermore, the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics parallels another interpretative model that has exerted a massive influence on intellectual life for nearly three decades, that proposed by Nelson Goodman. Goodman has argued that that the uniqueness and hence identity of the world had been rendered unintelligible: there must be as many worlds as there are right world-descriptions.[ii][2]

          The reason for the overlap, I believe, is simple: we live in era whose models of thinking still derive from the Jena Romantics, and both quantum scientists and post-modern cultural theorists frame their models within a general Weltanschauung that derives for decisive era. And contrary to Vattimo, I do not believe that this post-modern cultural theory represents a decisive rift with the Hegelian theses on history. A more deconstructive reading of that history would reveal that post-modern cultural theory is basically a reformulation of the ideas of the Hegel and the Romantic philosophers of Jena. That is what I hope to establish in this essay.

         The Copenhagen view rejects hidden variables, while the proponents of hidden variable interpretations reject the assertion that there are features of quantum systems that are set only when they are observed. Each of the two views had strong supporters, and the issue of actual nature of quantum reality has remained an open question for several decades. Which interpretation a given physicist accepts is principally an issue of which seems less repugnant, the Copenhagen interpretation with its peculiar notion that quantum entities have no properties until observed, or the action at a distance theory with its seemingly uncanny hypothesis of instantaneous communication. A decisive experiment that established for once and all that physicists really are caught in this dilemma grew out of the work of the Irish physicist John Stewart Bell. Bell conceived of an experiment that would decide whether hidden variables exist, as Einstein believed. The experiment required scientists to observe a large numbers of photon interactions and to analyze statistics concerning the errors in the detection of the spin of two different quantum objects with two identical devices. Suppose the error in measuring one of the objects, under one quantifiable error-producing condition A is E(A). Suppose further that we subject each of the quantum objects to the same mensuration protocol. Under these conditions, if the two quantum objects are completely independent, the upper bound for the collective error in the two measurements would be the sum of each of the errors taken separately (since each of the quantum entities would contribute, separately, its own share of error), i.e., it would equal 2E(A) and that error would be the same as if the error generating condition were at twice as high a setting; that is, the error of either would equal E(2A). However, that would be the upper bound of the joint error, since the error in the set of measurements for one of two objects could conceivably cancel out the error in the  set of measurements for the other object; so 2E(A) could conceivably be less than, but never greater than E(2A). We can state his prediction in an inequality, that E(2A) # 2E(A), an inequality that has become known as Bell's Inequality, one of the key achievements in physics in the 1960s:

         Though there was no viable mans to test Bell's Inequality in the 1964, when he formulated it, in the 1970's Bell's experiment was performed, first by Johns Clauser and Stuart J. Freedman at Berkeley and later by Alan Aspect and his colleagues at the University of Paris. What they found was that Bell's Inequality does not hold. How can we account for that finding? Recall that we mentioned that Bell's Inequality would hold if two conditions were met: first, that of objectivity, that the electrons or quantum particles, actually possess a measurable spin; and second, that of locality, that the errors in measuring the spin of the one of the particles are independent of the errors in measuring the spin of the other particle. Clauser and Freedman found was that Bell's Inequality turned out to be false, so they came to the obvious conclusion, that either the assumption of objectivity must be rejected or the assumption of locality must be rejected. If you want to maintain some hidden variable version of quantum mechanics (as Einstein did), then you have to reject the presumption of locality (as Einstein was reluctant to do), or, if you want to maintain the presumption of locality (as quantum scientists of the Copenhagen stripe wish to do), then you have to reject claims for hidden variables, that is, claims that the attributes of quantum objects pre-exist their being measured, and accept that the process of measuring actually plays a role in resolving quantum states. So either you accept the weirdness of non-locality - that in the quantum domain, objects interact of with each over huge distances, and do so instantaneously - or you accept the weirdness that quantum attributes are not resolved until they are measured, the weirdness that Schrödinger's thought experiment was originally contrived to expose.

         Either conclusion troubled traditional ontology. There is something weird about quantum reality. But what, after all is it? Its weirdness is that it dismisses our concept of what an object is. Cutting through the technical details, we see that is it is the question of how anything could be real that lacks the requisite self-identity. Uniqueness, as I have pointed out, is a benchmark of self-identity and self-identity is a benchmark of reality in traditional ontology; however, self-identity in that ontology demands unique location in a continuous span of spacetime.

         We turn now to genealogy of this dissolution of the concept of an object.

Part II Paideuma, or the Grisly Roots: The Breaking of the Ground.

[i][1] Gianni Vattimo, "The Postmodern: A Transparent Society," in The Transparent Society. Translated by David Webb. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992)., pp. 6-7.

[ii][2] Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1978), especially chapters 1, 6 and 7. Let me make clear that I am not asserting that Goodman is advancing the same theory as Hugh Everett III or Gianni Vatimo. The only claim I wish to stake is that all three thinkers arrive at believe that a variety of models can equally well claim to true, and that what  warrants the claim that different, and conflicting, models can claim equal truth status is that the concept of identity as gone into crisis.

[iii][3] Immanual Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft, English trans:The Critique of Judgement. Translated by J.C. Meredith. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), §104.

[iv][4] This text can be found in Rudolf Steiner's compendium of Goethe's scientific texts: Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, Naturwissenshaftliche Schriften. Ed. Rudolf Steiner. (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag), B. 2, 5-7. We shall have much to say about the theme of remoteness and intimacy that we can discern in this text.

[v][5] Denis Diderot, Salon de 1765. Edited by Marie Bukdahl and Annette Lorenceau. (Paris: 1984), p. 47.

[vi][6] Recall that Kant was fierce critic of the Romantic tendencies that were becoming evident in his time, including the passionate effusions of Johann Georg Hamman and Johann Gottfried Herder.  The central point of Kant's ethical theories is the autonomy of moral action - that for any action to have moral value, it must be freely chosen by the autonomous will, and not determined by anything beyond it. Any suggestion that genius is the result of the will's being taken over by some outside agency would be repellant to anyone committed to such a position.

[vii][7] Raoul Vaneigem, Basic Banalities Part I, p. 13.

[viii][8] In Basic Banalities, Part 2, page 9,  Raoul Vaneigem reworked that section of the Phenomenology of Spirit, that most beloved of Hegel's texts by French intellectuals ever since the famous seminars of Kojčve.

                In the mystical realm where the contradictions of the slave and feudal systems are resolved, the nonowner, excluded as a particular individual from the right of possession, strives to ensure his survival through his labor: the more he identifies with the interests of the master, the more successful he is. He knows the other nonowners only through their common plight: the compulsory surrender of their labor power (Christianity recommended voluntary surrender: once the slave "willingly" offered his labor power, he ceased to be a slave), the search for the optimum conditions of survival, and mystical identification. Struggle, though born of a universal will to survive, takes place on the level of appearance where it brings into play identification with the desires of the master and thus introduces a certain individual rivalry that reflects the rivalry between the masters. Competition develops on this plane as long as the relations of exploitation remain dissimulated behind a mystical opacity and as long as the conditions producing this opacity continue to exist; as long as the degree of slavery determines the slave's consciousness of the degree of lived reality. (We are still at the stage of calling "objective consciousness" what is in reality the consciousness of being an object.) The owner, for his part, depends on the general acknowledgment of a right from which he alone is not excluded, but which is seen on the plane of appearance as a right accessible to each of the excluded taken individually. His privileged position depends on such a belief, and this belief is also the basis for the strength that is essential if he is to hold his own among the other owners; it is his strength. If, in his turn, he seems to renounce exclusive appropriation of everything and everybody, if he poses less as a master than as a servant of public good and defender of collective security, then his power is crowned with glory and to his other privileges he adds that of denying, on the level of appearance (which is the only level of reference in unilateral communication), the very notion of personal appropriation; he denies that anyone has this right, he repudiates the other owners. In the feudal perspective the owner is not integrated into appearance in the same way as the nonowners, slaves, soldiers, functionaries, servants of all kinds. The lives of the latter are so squalid that the majority can live only as a caricature of the Master (the feudal lord, the prince, the major_domo, the taskmaster, the high priest, God, Satan  . . . ). But the master himself is also forced to play one of these caricatural roles. He can do so without much effort since his pretension to total life is already so caricatural, isolated as he is among those who can only survive. He is already one of our own kind (with the added grandeur of a past epoch, which adds an exquisite savor to his sadness); he, like each of us, was anxiously seeking the adventure where he could find himself on the road to his total perdition. Could the master, at the very moment he alienates the others, see that he reduces them to dispossessed and excluded beings, and thus realize that he is only an exploiter, a purely negative being? Such an awareness is unlikely and would be dangerous. By extending his dominion over the greatest possible number of subjects, isn't he enabling them to survive, giving them their only chance of salvation? ("Whatever would happen to the workers if the capitalists weren't kind enough to employ them?" the high_minded souls of the nineteenth century liked to ask.) In fact, the owner officially excludes himself from all claim to privative appropriation. To the sacrifice of the non_ owner, who through his labor exchanges his real life for an apparent one (thus avoiding immediate death by allowing the master to determine his variety of living death), the owner replies by appearing to sacrifice his nature as owner and exploiter; he excludes himself mythically, he puts himself at the service of everyone and of myth (at the service of God and his people, for example). With an additional gesture with an act whose gratuitousness bathes him in an otherworldly radiance, he gives renunciation its pure form of mythical reality renouncing common life, he is the poor man amidst illusory wealth, he who sacrifices himself for everyone while all the other people only sacrifice themselves for their own sake, for the sake of their survival. He turns his predicament into prestige. The more powerful he is the greater his sacrifice. He becomes the living reference point of the whole illusory life, the highest attainable point in the scale of mythical values. "Voluntarily" withdrawn from common mortals, he is drawn toward the world of the gods, and his more or less established participation in divinity, on the level of appearance (the only generally acknowledged frame of reference), consecrates his rank in the hierarchy of the other owners. In the organization of transcendence the feudal lord -  and, through osmosis, the owners of some power or production materials, in varying degrees -  is led to play the principal role the role that he really does play in the economic organization of the group's survival. As a result, the existence of the group is bound on every level to the existence of the owners as such, to those who, owning everything because they own everybody, also force everyone to renounce their lives on the pretext of the owners' unique absolute and divine renunciation. (From the god Prometheus punished by the gods to the god Christ punished by men, the sacrifice of the Owner becomes vulgarized, it loses its sacred aura, is humanized.) Myth thus unites owner and nonowne r, it envelops them in a common form in which the necessity of survival, whether merely physical or as a privileged being forces them to live on the level of appearance and of the inversion of'  real life, the inversion of the life of everyday praxis. We are still there waiting to live a life less than or beyond a mystique against which our gesture protests while submitting to it.

[ix][9] Subsequently, Marx was to argue that the human being (labour power) discovers itself in the mirror of its products. This is a core idea of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.

[x][10] Recently, many thinkers have discussed the idea that (sexual) desire is the desire of the other - that in sexual relations, one's own being is dependent on one sense that one is seen by the other as being desirable - leaves us vulnerable to the other is now much discussed. The particular form that is most often put forward, the Lacanian version, has its provenance in German Romantic thought, and specifically in Hegel's analysis of the Master-Slave relationship. Lacan, in fact, was amongst those who attended Kojčve's famous seminars on Hegel, which were largely devoted to that passage of the Phenomenology of Spirit.

                This legacy of German Romantic thought has had prodigious effects. The idea that sexual passion leaves our own being vulnerable to the Other, and that this Other absorbs split off parts of the self, is the core of Maya Deren's renown film, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) - a film which makes extensive use of the German Romantic dopplegänger, that is, the idea of the self coming forth as the other - and even of an alien form of the self, a projected persona, being repossesed by the self. It is also evident in Kenneth Rexroth "Yagao":

               I seem to stand in the midst

               Of an incomprehensible

               Tragedy; as though a world

               Doubled against this were tearing

               Through the thin shell of night;

               As though something earth bound with its

               Own glamorous violence

               Struggled beside me in the night.

[xi][11] Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement. Translated by J.C. Meredith. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), § 27.

[xii][12] Among all Kant's writings, it was the third Critique that the Jena Romantics found most appealing and that his ideas about the sublime were massively influential.

[xiii][13] Stan Brakhage's great epic film, Dog Star Man (1964) is the paradigmatic instance of this trope that Romantic writers of drama and dramatic verse so often used. The film is a giant paeon to the imagination, which is depicted as a cosmogenic faculty. The eponymous epic hero of the film, the Dog Star Man, struggles against nature as he tries to climb a mountain, likely, I believe, to cut down the world tree (Brakhage claims that the woodsman is not cutting down a tree, but simply getting wood to heat the family home, and that that narrative conceit is one of the motivations for the DSM's thinking of home while he attempts to climb the mountain); yet nature is also depicted as the product of the DSM's imagination. To make evident that the creator's imagination is engendering the dramatic struggle, Brakhage makes very evident that he is tilting the camera to create the incline that he tries to climb, only to be hurled back again and again - and all the while DSM's dog frolicks and leaps about in the snow.

[xiv][14] Consider, e.g., Keats's "Ode to a Nightengale."

[xv][15] But there is something else going on here as well. As soon as he suggested that the Ego posits the Non-Ego, Fichte begins to discuss the relation between them as symmetrical. Both the Ego and Its Object are accorded the same reality value, since reality in the era of the forgetfulness of Be-ing, is simply presence.) Since both come forth as presence, both have the same reality.

                But the idea that there is a symmetry between Be-ing and beings results in treating the transcendent pole of experience as though it were like the beings that make up the immanent pole. This hypostatization of Be-ing results in the reduction of the status of Be-ing to the be-ing of beings. But Be-ing is the ground of the be-ing of beings, and reducing Be-ing to the equivalent of the be-ing of beings results in the all be-ing losing its ontological justification. Another way of saying this is to state that beings absorb Be-ing, a proposition that sounds suspiciously like ideas that Jean Baudrillard has advanced.

[xvi][16] Compare this with the device known as Romantic irony.

[xvii][17] How very much this resembles Jean Baudrillard on hyperreality: Jean Baudrillard shares in this devaluation of subjectivity, and yet, like Fichte, Baudrillard considers the hyperreal to be ideal.

[xviii][18] That is, the transcendent pole is treated as something that could be known from without. But the truth is that the Transcendent is known only though that experience which fuses love, faith, hope and trust. That mysterious line of the bible, that if you love God, you already know conveys that wisdom that what is Beyond, that which is beyond conceptual experience, is already within experience, that what lies in the Beyond is that of which our understanding is most intimate..

[xix][19] The greatness of Eric Voegelin's philosophy of history is precisely that he attempts to acknowledge that existence is dual, having both transcendent and immanent dimensions and that this duality creates a tension of existence, but to do so in a manner that does not deny the consubstantiality of be-ing and the Transcendent.

[xx][20] Note that this already suggests an influence of some sort of Other on consciousness. It is that penetration of the other into the self that German Romantic thinkers so often experienced as a dire, sacrificial act (and the Master and Slave section of the Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind makes clear). In fact, one of the reasons for Schelling's dissatisfaction with Fichte's philosophy - and these reasons applied as well to the philosophy of Kant - was Kant and Fichte's tendency to deal with all philosophical issues in subjective and psychological terms, and to interpret the empirical world as a realm that resists efforts towards realizing principles of duty and morality. What Schelling found worse was Fichte's proposal that there is an insuperable opposition between the realms of morality and actuality, between necessary and free activity, between the phenomenal world and the essence of humanity. Shelling - and in fact most Jena Romantics -  were troubled by the way the external realm constrains the higher goals of human being, by the way that external reality penetrates the recesses of the self.

[xxi][21] Nonetheless, much of what he has to say about Be-ing has the character of the pronouncements of a negative theology: Be-ing is not conscious, nor is it material; Be-ing is not spirit, nor is it substance; Be-ing is not real, nor is ideal. Hence Heine's witty comment: "Herr Schelling has now left the philosophical path and is seeking, through an act of mystical intuition, to contemplate the Absolute itself; he is seeking to intuit it at its centre, in its essence, where there is nothing ideal and nothing real, neither idea nor extension, neither subject nor object, neither mind nor matter, but there is who knows what!"

[xxii][22] Werner Heisenberg showed almost 70 years ago that the mechanics of the subatomic world entail that an uncertainty is attached to any measurement of any physical properties such as energy. This uncertainty manifests itself in random, causeless fluctuations in energy: the larger the fluctuation, the shorter the time it survives.

                The interchangeability of mass and energy stated by Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2, also entails that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle can also be read as stating that particles can, and do, flit into and out of existence, their duration dictated only by their mass. All around us "virtual" subatomic particles are perpetually popping up out of nothing, and then disappearing again, within about 10-23 seconds. "Empty space" is a non-zero point source of energy in the universe; it is thus not really empty at all, but a matrix of activity that pervades the entire Universe.

                Quantum theory applies Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to electromagnetic waves. At every possible frequency there will always be a small degree of electromagnetic fluctuation - a tiny bit of electromagnetic jiggling. By summing the ceaseless fluctuations, you get a background "sea" of light whose total energy is enormous - physicists refer to this background as the zero_point field ("zero-point" because, although in fact huge, it represents the lowest possible energy state). Take any volume of space and take away everything else - in other words, create a vacuum - and you are left with the zero_point field. Empty space is thus not a true vacuum, devoid of everything; the real_world quantum vacuum is permeated by the zero_point field with its ceaseless electromagnetic waves.

[xxiii][23] I'm sure that all readers will have noted that this is very Bergsonian; and it is the case that there is little in Bergson's philosophy that cannot be found in Schelling's. But that simply establishes the enduring influence of German Romantic thought.

[xxiv][24]  Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, "Darlegung des wahren Verhältnisses der Naturphilosophie zu der verbesserten Fichteschen Lehre" ("Setting out of the true relation of the philosophy of nature to the improved Fichtean doctrine") in Sämmtliche Werke. (Stuttgart and Augsburg: J.G. Cotta'scher Verlag, 1856-61), Erste Abtheilung, B. 7, p 53. Cited in a slightly different form in Andrew Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy: An Introduction. (London: Routledge, 1993), pp. 65. Emphasis in original.

[xxv][25] F.W.J. Schelling, "Abhandlungen zur Erläuterung des Idealismus der Wissenshaftslehre" ("Treatises Explicating Idealism of the Doctrine of Science") in S.W. 1/1, p. 367. Cited in Allan White, Schelling: An Introduction to the Science of Freedom. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983)., p. 39

[xxvi][26] Schelling believed in a universal duality of force or activity, a law of bifurcation: in mechanics there are the forces of attraction and repulsion; in magnetism, north and south poles (this was Schelling's favorite example); in electricity, positive and negative changes; in chemistry, acids and alkalines. Schelling took this to show that every monadic being exits through a sort of dynamism and that every dynamic process engenders mutually opposing determinations. Thus, out of an initial, self-identical absolute state develops a polarisation, that generates a dualism of the natural whole, the Self and the Non-Self, the free creative activity of the subject and the fossilized, congealed creative activity that objects represented. Thus what was originally an identity generates an antinomic bifurcation.

[xxvii][27] F.W.J. Schelling, Von der Weltseele. (On the World Soul) in S.W. 1/3, p. 390. In Allan White, Schelling: An Introduction to the Science of Freedom., p. 60.

[xxviii][28] F.W.J Schelling, System der gesammten Philosophie und der Natur-philosophie insbesondere (System of all Philosophy and of the Philosophy of Nature in Particular). In S.W. I/6, pp. 197-8. Cited in Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy., p. 65.

[xxix][29] F. W. J. Schelling. Sämmtliche Werke. (Stuttgart and Augsburg: J.G. Cotta'scher Verlag, 1856-61), Erste Abtheilung, B. 6, p 38. Cited in Andrew Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy., pp. 89-90. Emphases in original.

[xxx][30] F.W.J. Schelling S.W. 1/6, p. 41. Cited in Andrew Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy., p. 88. In must be said that Schelling strived to avoid the conclusion that the finitude issues from the Absolute as though by a leap. In his Naturphilosophie, he wrote:

Everything that also seems to develop via freedom in the ideal world is already potentially in matter; matter can therefore not be the dead purely real essence that it is taken for [in materialism]; it is, as real substance, at the same time ideal and comprehends what that latter comprehends. Extended and thinking substance, as Spinoza puts, are not two different substances, rather the extended substance is also itself the thinking substance, as the thinking is extended. Whatever can develop out of the abyss of matter and nature is therefore just as indeterminably infinite as what can develop out of the soul. For every evolution of the soul is necessarily paralleled by an evolution of matter . . . . the action of our soul is not our action, but the action of substance. (S.W. 1/6, p. 549-50; cited in Bowie, p. 81.

[xxxi][31] F.W.J. Schelling S.W. 1/6, p. 41. Cited in Andrew Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy., p. 72.

[xxxii][32] Recall Sartre's discussions of the freedom of consciousness (the pour-soi).

[xxxiii][33] Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Propaedeutic of Philosophy, in S.W. 1/6 p. 124. Cited in Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy., p. 59. Recall that in Philosophie und Religion, Schelling characterized the descent of finite things from the Absolute as the Urzufall (originary accident).

[xxxiv][34] Of course, Schelling wanted readers to believe that he worked out his ideas about the coming forth of particulars by deduction. The argument runs something like this: Finitude comes from the infinite by limitation; limitation is negation (all determination is negation); negation is privation, i.e., separation from the ground of being. The errors are too evident to require commentary.

[xxxv][35] This in his 1892 essay, "The Law of Mind," C.S. Pierce maintains that the Schelling's philosophy depicts "matter to be mere specialized and partially deadened mind" (v. CP 6.102). Pierce also saw the connection this view has to emanationism, for he notes that "I was born and reared in the neighborhood of Concord, ". . . at the time when Emerson, Hedge, and their friends were disseminating the ideas that they had caught from Schelling, and Schelling from Plotinus, from Boehme." (loc.cit.)

[xxxvi][36] Nor is it, despite Schelling claims to offer a Spinozistic physics, really like Spinoza's substance, for the attributes of substances include consciousness.

[xxxvii][37] F.W.J. Schelling, Die Weltalter. Erstes Book. In S.W. 1/8, p. 262. Cited in Andrew Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy., p. 123.

[xxxviii][38]Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, (Oxford: Clarendon Press,1967), pp.  215 and 217.

[xxxix][39]Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Vol 1.(New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1969). p.  5.

[xl][40]Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 2. Trans. E.F.J.Payne, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), pp.  95-96.

[xli][41] George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, from Open Address at his Lectures in Berlin, October 22, 1818.

[xlii][42] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy. Translated by Francis Golffing. (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1956) pp.  20-21.

[xliii][43] Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project. Translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Prepared on the basis of the German volume edited by Rolf Tiedemann. (Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), p. 392.

[xliv][44] F.W.J. Schelling, Erster Entwurf seines Systems der Naturphilosphie. (First Outline of a System of Natural Philosophy). S.W. 1/3, p. 182. Cited in David Farell Krell, Contagion: Sexuality, Disease and Death in German Idealism and Romanticism. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), p. 107.

[xlv][45] Notice in this passage how Benjamin's views morph from a dialectical conception to an eristic one. The idea that the mirror world, the world of the double, inevitably turns against the original and volatizes it, was a theme of German Romantic thought. Moreover, the course of German Romanticism, eventuating in the ideas of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Benjamin, exhibits the same pattern (suggesting that this thought structure steered that movement towards its destiny) - what began with ideas about the emergence of the double ends with analyzing how the double turns against that which it mirrors.

                Baudrillard's ideas about hyperreality follow the same dynamic. Thus, Baudrillard justifies his politically conservative stance with the following remarks:

Of course, today, the real terrorists are not so much us, as the events around us. Situationist modes of radicalism have passed into things and situations [to use that good Sartrian term for the facticity with which the realm of the en-soi confronts the pour-soi]. Indeed, there's no need now for Situationism, Debord and so In a sense, all that is out of date. The hyper-critical, radical, individual sensibility no longer exists. Events are the most radical thing today. Everything which happens today is radical. There's a great wealth of radical events, and all one needs to do is to enter into its interplay. Nowadays, reality is radical. Reality is Situationist, not us! (Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death. (London: Sage, 1993), p. 170.

[xlvi][46] The similarities between Lukács and Benjamin were noted by Adorno in 1932, who related Benjamin's analysis of allegory to Lukács ideas on second nature as hollowed-out literary conventions.  Out of that idea of second nature developed Lukács' idea of the commodity, a development Lukács offered in History and Class Consciousness, a development that was influence the writings of Benjamin.

[xlvii][47] The idea that consciousness, and all of its projections, have an essentially oneiric character goes a long way towards accounting for Benjamin's enthusiasm for Surrealism.

[xlviii][48] Walter Benjamin, "Paris: the Capital of the Nineteenth Century - Exposé of 1935" in The Arcades Project., p. 4.

[xlix][49]  Faced with such paradoxes, is it any surprise that Benjamin encountered difficulties when he attempted to reconcile his Messianism with Marxist materialism, and in fact could in the end bring them together?

[l][50]  Walter Benjamin, "Paris: the Capital of the Nineteenth Century - Exposé of 1935" in The Arcades Project., p. 10.

[li][51] Hence is inability to develop a truly materialist philosophy, as his political urges insisted he do.

[lii][52] The continuity between dream and the dream-like nature of waking reality were favorite theme of Surrealists, too. The Surrealists' interest in the dream-like nature of waking reality attracted Benjamin to Surrealism.

[liii][53] Chapter 15, from "The Impossibility Of Realization: Power As Sum Of Seductions," in The Revolution of Everyday Life, by Raoul Vaneigem. First published as Traité de savoir_vivre a l'usage des jeunes générations, Paris: Gallimand, 1967. Translated by John Fullerton and Paul Sieveking, London: Rising Free Collective, 1979, and Donald Nicholson_Smith, Left Bank Books/Rebel Press, 1983.

[liv][54]F.W.J. Schelling, Erster Entwurf seines Systems der Naturphilosphie. (First Outline of a System of Natural Philosophy). S.W. 1/3, p. 148. Cited in David Farell Krell, Contagion: Sexuality, Disease and Death in German Idealism and Romanticism. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), p. 106.

[lv][55]F.W.J. Schelling, System of Transcendental Idealism, translated by Peter Heath, (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginnia, 1978)

[lvi][56] Schelling attributes unconditional reality to nature: nature possess absolute independence and nature for it is not only product but also as productive -  it is not only natura naturata but also natura naturans. This conviction Schelling called his "Spinozaism of physics," "speculative physics" or "philosophy of nature."

[lvii][57] Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" in Illuminations, (New York; Schocken Books, 1978) p. 223.

[lviii][58] Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" in Illuminations, (New York: Schocken Books, 1978) p. 221.

[lix][59] I should here go to the effort of the proving this point; but I do not have space enough - and that demonstration anyway would distract us from the main point of this paper. I shall have to allow two references to substitute for the work of demonstration. On Hegel's heterodoxy there is the splendid work, Cyril O'Regan, The Heterodox Hegel. (Albany: State Ucniversity of New York Press, 1993). On Schelling's, there is Friedemann Horn, Schelling and Swedenborg: Mysticism and German Idealism. Translated George F. Dole (West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1997). Furthermore, one should remember just how common heterodox ideas were in eighteenth century. This was an era when Masonic and Rosicrucian sects proliferated, when Caligiostro mingled with the Parisian haute monde, when Mesmer taught about animal spirits, when the Kings of Sweden and Denmark engaged in occult experimentation, when the Cardinal de Rohan and the Dutchess of Devonshire succumbed to the appeal of heterodox ideas, when Swedenbourg found many follows (including Schelling).

[lx][60] F.W.J. Schelling, Stuttgart Private Lectures. In S.W. I/7 p. 425. Cited in Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy., p. 122. As testimony to the continuing effectivity of the Gnostic heritage of this idea, there are the remarks that Bowie makes following this citation: "The child that becomes aware of itself as itself by entering into the differentiated world of the symbolic order does not cease to be the same child, even though in Lacan's terms, its identity may be 'defiled' by entering into that order." (Emphasis mine.)

[lxi][61] F.W.J. Schelling, Stuttgart Private Lectures. In S.W. I/7 p. 470. Cited in Friedemann Horn, Schelling and Swedenborg., p. 63.

[lxii][62] F.W.J. Schelling, Stuttgart Private Lectures. In S.W. I/7 p. 478. Cited in Friedemann Horn, Schelling and Swedenborg., p. 69.

[lxiii][63] F.W.J. Schelling, Stuttgart Private Lectures. In S.W. I/7 p. 480. Cited in Friedemann Horn, Schelling and Swedenborg., p. 77.

[lxiv][64] Walter Benjamin, The Origin of the German Tragic Drama. Translated by John Osborne. (London: Verso Books, 1998), p. 233

[lxv][65] and, as we shall see, influenced the ideas of the Situationists with whom the young Jean Baudrillard associated and who considerably affected his ideas about simulation.

[lxvi][66] I cite one example of the influence on Debord: Debord asserted (thesis #10, La Societé du Spectacle) that the critique which reaches the truth of the spectacle exposes it as a sign of the visible negation of life, as a negation of life that has become visible. But reading this comment poetically, as one also must, one is struck by the fact that for Debord that the energeia of objects of this visible realm is exactly what Hegel and Schelling saw as the tendency of the doubles of the mirror world - that is, towards the inertial unreality of death.  The drive that produces real things real strives towards unreality.

[lxvii][67] In a fashion that proved significant for the Situationists and, ultimately, for Baudrillard (who was Lefebvre's assistant at Nanterre), Henri Lefebvre also pointed out in, in the Critique of Everyday Life, that although new forms of alienation were spreading, consciousness of this alienation was thwarted by the ideologies of consumption. Significant to the Situationists, too, were Lefebvre's claims that human being was being turned into a thing to be used by another thing, viz., money, and that the broadening of productive forces resulting in swelling needs. In the fifth part of that work he offered another point that the Situationists would have found intriguing - he asserted that the "superior moments of the festivals of ancient Greece and Roman were their purely bacchanalian revels, moments when their socially and humanly integrative powers freed themselves from the religious matrix in which they were embedded, to became the model for the creation of the full life."

                Lefebvre's influence, and that of Marx' 1844 manuscripts, on French thought in the period following the events of 1956, were amplified by reinforcing effects of George Lukács' 1923 work, History and Class Consciousness. Lukács' early magnum opus presents a humanist-romantic recasting of Marxism that seems resonant of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, even though that work was discovered a decade after Lukács' great text appeared. Especially influential on French thinkers of the Sixties and Seventies was Lukács' concept of reification, a dynamic through which the relation of the producer to the totality of their labour appears to them not as social relations existing amongst themselves, but as relations amongst the products of their labour. (It is this idea that Baudrillard later was to extend by asserting that political economy theorized by Marx was really a semiological revolution.) Through reification, therefore, the products of labour become commodities, social fabrications not all the qualities of which are perceptible by the senses. "It is only a definite  social relation between men that assume, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things."

                But Lukács' ideas on reification also drew on Marx' remarks on the fetishism of commodities, and it is that resonance that enabled them to reinforce Lefebvre's influence. Here a section from the famous section of Das Kapital, on the fetishism of commodities.

               From where, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? Clearly from this form itself. The equality of all sorts of human labour is expressed objectively by their products all being equally values; the measure of the expenditure of labour power by the duration of that expenditure, takes the form of the quantity of value of the products of labour; and finally, the mutual relations of the producers within which the social character of their labour affirms itself, take the form of a social relation between the products. A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men's labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour. This is the reason why the products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses. In the same way the light from an object is perceived by us not as the subjective excitation of our optic nerve, but as the objective form of something outside the eye itself. But, in the act of seeing, there is at all events an actual passage of light from one thing to another, from the external object to the eye. There is a physical relation between physical things. But it is different with commodities. There, the existence of the things qua commodities, and the value relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men's hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities. (Capital, Volume 1, Part 1, Section 4)

 Baudrillard's theory of simulation is a transformation of Lukács' notion of reification and Marx famous thesis about the fetishism of commodities.

[lxviii][68] Benjamin was aware of the fateful implications of the self's coming forth as the other. Of a session at a photographer's studio, the produced an image of the young Walter Benjamin as a rustic mountain boy, Benjamin commented, "I grew totally perplexed when people demanded that I should look like myself. This is how it was at the photographer's. Wherever I looked, I was surrounded by canvas screens, cushions, dados, which hungered for my image as the shades of Hades lusted after the blood of a sacrificial beast. Finally, a crudely daubed backdrop of the Alps was brought for me. I stand there, bare headed, with a tortuous smile on lips, my right hand clasping a walking stick." ("A Berlin Chronicle, One-Way Street, and Other Writings. Introduced by Susan Sontag. Translated by Edmund Jephcott and Kingsley Shorter. (London: New Left Books, 1979) , p. 327.)  

                The theme and style of description of this incident from Benjamin's childhood relate this passage to a description in "Short History of Photography" of a portrait of the young Franz Kafka, a description that develops the themes of identification and (through the bizarre juxtaposition of the customes and props) of fragmentation, and death which results from identification with those fragments - indeed, the similarities of the two passages even suggest Benjamin's (perhaps unconscious) identification with the novelist.

This was the period of those studios which, with their draperies and palm trees, their tapestries and easels, occupied so ambiguous a place between execution and representation, between torture chamber and throne room, and to which an early portrait of Kafka bears distressing witness. There the boy stands, perhaps six years old, dressed up in a tight, almost humiliating child's suit overloaded with trimmings, in a kind of winter garden landscape. Palm fronds stand staring in the background. And as if to make these upholstered tropics still more sultry and oppressive, the subject holds in his left hand an oversized, broad-brimmed hat, such as Spaniards wear. He would surely be lost in this setting were it not for the immensely sad eyes, which the dominate the landscape predetermined for them. (One-Way Street, and Other Writings., p. 247)

[lxix][69] I appropriate Foucault's term "emplacement," but I do not mean by it exactly what he intended. Nevertheless, I use the term in a sense related to that in which he used it. In "Of Other Spaces," Foucault described ways that space has been understood in the West. The earliest of the spaces he discussed is "medieval space" or "the space of emplacement." Such a space incorporates the history of "a hierarchic ensemble of places." A space of emplacement conveys simple binary relationships between the sacred and the profane, between the protected and the exposed, and between the country and the city.

[lxx][70] Martin Heidegger, "The Thing" in Poetry, Language, Thought. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), p. 165.

[lxxi][71] The Jena Romantics were constrained to conceive of the relation between subject and object as an internal relation (in the sense of "internal relation" in which Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore used it). The requirement follows from the fact that both terms are derived from a division that sundered an originary plenitude and unity. This division left each term incomplete; the consequence of that division for the subject is that what is most near, the subject's inner being, depends upon what remote - remote inasmuch as it is other than subjectivity and outside subjectivity (even though it operates the subject).

[lxxii][72] Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" in Illuminations, p. 243.

[lxxiii][73] See Paul Virilio, Open Sky. (London and New York: Verso, 1997) p. 5f, p 14.f.

[lxxiv][74] Charles Baudelaire, Baudelaire, Charles. Le peintre de la vie moderne. Ecrits Esthéétiques. (Paris: UGE 10/18, 1986)., p. 364.

[lxxv][75] Regarding Benjamin's reservations: Consider that Benjamin considers the destruction of the aura to be a salutary phenomenon. Moreover, Benjamin also wrote of distance as a sign of alienation.

The deadening of the emotions, and ebbing away of the waves of life which are the sources of these emotions in the body, can increase the distance between the self and the surrounding world to the point of alienation from the body.As soon as this symptom of depersonalization was seen as an intense degree of mournfulness, the concept of the pathological state, in which the most simple object appears to be a symbol of some enigmatic wisdom because it lacks any natural, creative relationship to us, was set in an incomparably productive context. It accords with this that in the proximity of Albrecht Dürer's "Melancholia," the utensils of everyday life lie on the ground unused, as objects of contemplation. This engraving anticipates the Baroque in many ways. (Benjamin, The Origin of the German Tragic Drama. Translated by John Osborne., p. 140)

[lxxvi][76] The parallels between Virilio and Benjamin are instructive. Another similarity is that as manner of presenting his ideas in works like Open Sky follows Benjamin's method of illuminatory fragments. He offers constellations of images to illuminate specific phenomena and events. Like Benjamin, Virilio he develops his ideas by offering  images, quotations, often of startling originality, and then moves on to his next topic. Like Benjamin, Virilio writings give evidence of values  of breaks and interruptions, of gaps and absences, and like Benjamin, Virilio foregoes systematic theorizing.

[lxxvii][77] That is one of the reasons I have called for a cinema of contemplation and of duration.

[lxxviii][78] Chapter 15, from "The Impossibility Of Realization: Power As The Sum Of Seductions," in The Revolution of Everyday Life, by Raoul Vaneigem. First published as Traité de savoir_vivre a l'usage des jeunes générations, Paris: Gallimand, 1967. Translated by John Fullerton and Paul Sieveking, London: Rising Free Collective, 1979, and Donald Nicholson_Smith, Left Bank Books/Rebel Press, 1983.

[lxxix][79] The context of the labour process (the form it has assumed at any given time, the actual implements used, etc.) has many of the same roles in Marx' philosophy that the Subject does in Absolute Idealism philosophies.

[lxxx][80] Baudrillard's description of simulation as a self-organizing system raises an interesting point, an association that few might be inclined to make: there is a startling overlap between the theories of the chemists Ilya Prigogine and Isabella Steger and those of Guy Debord.

[lxxxi][81] Jean Baudrillard, "Symbolic Exchange and Death" from Selected Writings, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), pp. 144-5. But we should  ask, "what exactly is hyperreality?"  Hyperreality is the terminus ad quem of historical simulation, the phase in which natural world referents have been rendered obsolete - replaced by signs that refer to other signs, in an endless chain. It is the product of the world in which the reproduction is ontologically identical with that of it is a copy. It is the regime (and Baudrillard does seem to believe that the era of hyperreality will be massively administered)  in which the independent object world is replaced by the simulation. It is the regime in which "what is" can be multiplied endlessly, through the technology of reproduction. Since (as I have already pointed out) uniqueness is a benchmark of self-identity, and self-identity is a benchmark of reality in traditional ontology, that ontological system obtains in the regime of hyperreality.

                Given this, it is important to stress that the idea of the doubled world, or the mirror world, was especially troubling to German Romantic thought, and led in the end to the claims that the dreamworld had overtaken "the real world." The theme of the ghost that haunts the real world so prevalent in Benjamin's writing exemplifies the troubling impact that the idea of the doubled world had on German thought.

[lxxxii][82] The idea that in history nature is transformed into nature's other is one of the themes of Marx' Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. There Marx pointed out that the human senses in their "anthropological" (i.e., social) nature are "nature as it comes to be through industry" and that the human eye (i.e., socialized eye) sees differently than the "crude, non-human" eye.

[lxxxiii][83] Eric Voegelin opines that use of symbols of transcendence in speculation on immanent problems results in a peculiar style of thinking "that permits men who are not philosophers in the existential sense to express their opinions on problems involving the experience of transcendence with the usurped authority of the existential philosopher. This is the style of the sophistic intellectual." Order and History, Volume II: The World of the Polis. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1956).  p. 294)  Hmmmm, interesting.

[lxxxiv][84]  Jean Baudrillard, "The Evil Demon of Images," (The First Mari Kuttna Memorial Lecture, 1984), in The Evil Demon of Images. (Sydney: The Power Institute of Fine Arts, 1984), pp. 13-14.

[lxxxv][85] With this very important difference: each of the possible worlds in a "Many Worlds interpretation" must be consistent with a set of observations. The construals that can be put on any given set of observations are constrained. Baudrillardian interpretations can proliferate without constraint, because Baudrillard's theory offers no protocols for assessing and ranking the importance of primary observations. For, according to the theory, observations, too, are simply interpretations - that aspect of the theory seems to me to be unassailable - interpretations that have no different status than other interpretation.  That last claim, concerning the identical status of observational interpretations and higher level interpretations, seems to me the fundamental failing of Baudrillard's system. He does not take into account what the American pragmatist C.S. Pierce refers to as the "outward clash." For Baudrillard to take into account "the direct hitting and being hit" involved in perception would require introducing protocols concerning the priority to be given to observational interpretations (Carnap's Protokolsätzen), and the introduction of those protocols would utterly transform his "system," eliminating its deleriousness.

[lxxxvi][86]Jean Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations" from Selected Writings, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), p. 170.

[lxxxvii][87]  Jean Baudrillard, "The Evil Demon of Images," (The First Mari Kuttna Memorial Lecture, 1984), in The Evil Demon of Images. (Sydney: The Power Institute of Fine Arts, 1984), p 16.

[lxxxviii][88]Jean Baudrillard, "La Pensee Radicale", published in French in an edition edited by Sens & Tonka, Paris: Collection Morsure, 1994.

[lxxxix][89] Jean Baudrillard, "Interview with Jean Baudrillard," in The Evil Demon of Images., pp. 40-41.

[xc][90] Jean Baudrillard, "Interview with Jean Baudrillard," in The Evil Demon of Images., p. 41.

[xci][91] Suspicion that the double possesses a lethal character figures prominently among the motivations for restoring the condition in which the labour product possesses a single sort of value, viz., use value.

[xcii][92] Of course, Marx himself, without any Nietzschean influence, anticipated that crossing in the famous section on the fetishism of commodities - that indeed is what has given that section such importance in the last several decades. Benjamin was one of the first thinkers in which that crossing becomes evident. Some of Lukács' writing shows a similar combination of ideas. This common thread helps explain the enduring importance of both thinkers.

[xciii][93] It would be reasonable to introduce here some comments on the theories of ideology proposed first by members of the Frankfurt school (whose debts to German Romanticism were enormous) and the influence of the Frankfurt School on Louis Althusser, whose Marxism certainly exhibits a Hegelianizing proclivity. One could well point out how ideology constitutes a mirror world that one mistakenly takes to be an accurate reflection of the material world - and so mistakes the ideal for the actual. One could show, too, how the Frankfurt School, in emphasizing the effectivity of ideology, somewhat blurred Marx' distinction between the base and the superstructure; in particular, one can easily extend their theory of ideology into an explication of how semiotic exchange comes to take priority over material exchange.

                In fact this is just what Baudrillard does. Baudrillard extends the Frankfurt School's ideas about the hegemony of administrative society, generalizing it so it becomes a theory about the hegemony of sign value. He shows how sign value has become divorced from the material economy of the object and divorced from physical needs - transformed into something utterly abstract. The signifier (or signifier-image) becomes autonomous - what is more, it becomes subsumed in a signifying system, though establishing connections with signifiers in associative chains. In a Derridean turn, Baudrillard asserts that this entails that the signifier (or signifier image) becomes its own referent; the signifier becomes detached from any referent, so nothing remains beyond the signifying system (or system of image display) -  il n'y a pas d'hors de signifcation. This is the basis of Baudrillard claims concerning semiological domination.

                While Debord had seen the society of the spectacle as an intensification of social order built upon commodity fetishism, Baudrillard sees this new system built upon semiotic value as a new social order, that follows a different logic that order built upon exchange. Radical semiurgy constitutes a new power that does not lie in the commodity.

[xciv][94] Though we should be careful to recognize that already with Schelling's conception of a fused subject-object (in his Philosophy of Identity), and Hegel's conception of the Absolute which is prior to the Division of the Subject and Object, the foundational role the Subject is already in the process of being repudiated.

[xcv][95] That, of course, was the point of Heidegger's "Brief über den Humanismus," his famous response to Sartre's "Existentialism is a Humanism."

[xcvi][96] Gianni Vattimo, "The Crisis of Humanism," in The End of Modernity. Translated and with an Introduction by Jon. R. Snyder. (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1991), p. 33

[xcvii][97] Gianni Vattimo, "Hermeneutics and Nihilism," in Gianni Vattimo, The End of Modernity. Translated and with an Introduction by Jon R. Snyder. (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1991), p. 117.

[xcviii][98] Gianni Vattimo, "Hermeneutics and Nihilism," in The End of Modernity., p. 120.

[xcix][99] Gianni Vattimo, "Hermeneutics and Nihilism," in The End of Modernity., p. 120.

[c][100] Gianni Vattimo, "Nihilism and the Post-modern in Philosophy," The End of Modernity., p. 168.

[ci][101] Gianni Vattimo, "Nihilism and the Post-modern in Philosophy," The End of Modernity., p. 168.

[cii][102] On Baudrillard's debt to Prigogone: in his lecture on "The Evil Demon of Images" Baudrillard refers to Prigogone's concept of negentropy. (v. The Evil Demon of Images., pp. 18-19).

[ciii][103] Time and again, philosophers leap from the assertion that representations are interpretations that themselves create the interpretant model to the conclusion that there is no reality underlying them to interpretation. This is an egegrious error - akin to arguing that because a world map is a projective system itself teaches us the rules for interpretation (creates the interpretant), that there is no reality which the map depicts.

[civ][104] We should never forget the simple fact that the Internet is a creation of human labour and that someone had to do the work of laying the fibre-optic cables, of working on the production line building the computer circuit boards and assembling the computers, of designing the hardware enable data to course through networks, of writing the software that allow users to connect to the network.

                 To be sure, Baudrillard saw the possibility of this very criticism, and offered proleptic remarks against it. "If being nihilist is to be obsessed with the mode of disappearance, and no longer with the mode of production, then I am nihilist. Disappearance, aphansis, implosion, Fury of the Verschwindens. (In Jean Baudrillard, "On Nihilism," On the Beach, 6 (Spring, 1984), p. 39.) That lecture is a dismissal of the hermeneutics of suspicion (and one should never forget that Debord's project was exactly a hermeneutic project the purpose of which was expose the logic by which the spectacle to dominate the individual) because the hermeneutics of suspicion employed depth models to unmask the reality underlying the phenomena that dominate us. The Mirror of Production offers an argument that we have entered a stage in history beyond the productivist society, a new stage organized around symbolic exchange (the Dionysian activities of gift-giving, festivals, religious rituals, etc.)  In this new social organization, the Marxist philosophy of history, which accords primacy to the means of production, no longer obtains.

                Needless to say, I am extremely skeptical of these claims: it is one thing to say that signs have become massively self-referential; but it is another thing to conclude that thereby signs are transparent, that their meaning can be grasped without employing any hermeneutic protocols, or that they possess no depth - a claim that their having an historical point of origin simply refutes. I even find it something of a pity that while Baudrillard's work has made such contributions to discrediting certain realist views of representation - including the view that language is the mirror of nature - that his views on hyperreality seem to presume that the realist map is the only cognitive map that presumes the viability of some form of representation, and that the only alternative to representation is the free-floating, non-referential signifier. 

[cv][105]"Melancholy is the quality inherent in the mode of disappearance of meaning, in the mode of volatisation of meaning in operational systems." Jean Baudrillard, "On Nihilism" On the Beach, 6, p. 39.

[cvi][106] For a shocking statement of these beliefs, v. Jean Baudrillard, "The Year 2000 Has Already Happened" in Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, eds., Body Invaders: Panic Sex in America. Montréal: New World Perspectives, 1988), pp. 37ff.

[cvii][107] From chapter fifteen of The Revolution of Everyday Life, by Raoul Vaneigem. First published as Traité de savoir_vivre a l'usage des jeunes générations, Paris: Gallimand, 1967. Translated by John Fullerton and Paul Sieveking, London: Rising Free Collective, 1979, and Donald Nicholson_Smith, Left Bank Books/Rebel Press, 1983.

[cviii][108] However our immediatism forces us to disagree with him on one crucial point concerning dialectical images. In Passagen-Werk Benjamin writes "It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present or what is present its lights on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation" ( The Arcades Project, translation by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, appears in Convolute N, "On the theory of knowledge, Theory of Progress", (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 462.). But we do not see that the coming together of past and present is required to form that immediately significant form, the constellation, that Benjamin called a "dialectical image." Nor, apparently, did Adorno, who referred to the constellation as "exacte Phantasie."

[cix][109] For Benjamin, these connections included those between the erstwhile and current; Benjamin's messianic proclivities convinced each element of the past is recoverable. Immediatist convictions compel us to reject these claims that past is recoverable in the present (for they allow themselves all too readily to be used in a justification of narrative form).

[cx][110] Benjamin interest in the constellation as a special type of unified form had two bases: first, his belief that a constellation is composed exclusively of concrete entities; and second, the conviction  that a constellation is wholly material and supposes no higher spiritual being as a requirement. My interest in more in the first aspect than the second; but even more I am interested in it as a form of the unity that outstrips conceptualization.

[cxi][111] Nonetheless, we acknowledge that Benjamin's conviction about the conjoint legibility of past and present is the foundation of  a Surrealist-inspired genealogy that investigates how the irrational pervades existing society, a genealogy that exposes what lies hidden in the seemingly rational daylight business of production and allows the seemingly irrational to be thought about, sparing it from being automatically repressed or relegated to the realm of silence. Thus he dreamt of using this genealogy to effect social change.

[cxii][112] Walter Benjamin, The Origins of German Tragic Drama. (London: Verso, 1998), pg. 34

[cxiii][113] Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic. (London: Blackwell Publishers, 1990), pg. 328.

[cxiv][114] There is another reason why Benjamin refused to subsume the particular under the universal: he recognized the relation between the two was not an analytical one (as Plato would have us believe). Thus he wrote in early study, "The time of history is infinite in every direction and unfulfilled in every moment. This means that no single empirical event is thinkable that would stand in a necessary relationship to the particular historical situation in which it occurs." Benjamin Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991) vol. II, p 134.

[cxv][115] Baudrillard acknowledges that importance of this new, non-perspectival space.

We are witnessing the end of perspective and panoptic space (which remains a moral hypothesis bound up with every classical analysis of the "objective" analysis of power) and hence [in an inference I found very open to question] the very abolition of the spectacle. . . . We are no longer in the society of the spectacle which the Situationist talked about, nor in the specific types of alienation and representation which this implied [this last comment probably a reference to the theories of Lefebvre]. (Baudrillard, Simulations. (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), p.56.

[cxvi][116] Of course, philosophers, such as G.W.F. Hegel proclaimed that human's coming to understand the rational constitution of nature was simply a realization of a larger process by which Reason comes to self-understanding. And it is well known that Hegel's Reason possessed attributes of the Christian Deity as well as attributes of the heterodox Absolute. Thus, in describing the process by which Reason evolves towards self-understanding, Hegel is describing the process by which the divine principle comes into coincidence with its own be-ing.

                Viewed in this way, Hegel's philosophy was a massive effort to reconcile the Enlightenment's valorization of Reason with the Christian (including heterodox Christian) belief that the Divine is the beginning and the end of knowledge.

         Nature had become the issue. A common belief about the Romantics is that their art suggests they prized especially highly those moments when they were suffused with enthusiasm at Nature's goodness, and that these moments shaped their general view of nature. We commonly think of Romanticism as the moment of the immanentization of the Divine, the historical moment when the Divine descends from His transcendental status and enters the realm of nature. There is, of course, something to this: Romantic poets from Wordsworth to Leopardi promulgated exactly such ideas. But a closer examination reveals that the belief system that characterized the Romantic era was much more various and capacious than our common picture of it suggests. Romanticism might have celebrated our oneness with the great 'I am,' it might have hymned the harmony of the natural order, it might have extolled the richness and fullness of life (our sense of the Fülle des Lebens), it might have offered a pastoral idyll of blissful innocence and happy ignorance, but it is also concerned with disease, fever, death, pallour, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the powers of darkness, melancholy, solitude, exile, alienation, self-torture, self-annihilation, suicide, l'homme fatal, and damnation. The image of nature as a realm whose dire forces demand sacrifice is not one that we ordinarily associate with the Romantics; yet Romantic writings on the Sublime express the view that Nature is baleful domain. The Romantics did extol Nature as a realm interfused with divine presence; however, they also understood nature as being permeated by dire forces that demand sacrifice. The root of that understanding is that Be-ing and dying are inseparable.

         The ideas about the sublime that Kant put forward in Kritik der Urteilskraft was the inspiration:

Bold, overhanging, and as it were threatening rocks; clouds piled up in the sky, moving with lightning flashes and thunder peals; volcanoes in all their violence of destruction; hurricanes with their track of devastation; the boundless ocean in a state of tumult; the lofty waterfall of a mighty river, and such like - these exhibit our faculty of resistance as insignificantly small in comparison with their might. But the sight of them is the more attractive, the more fearful it is, provided only that we are in security; and we willingly call these objects sublime, because they raise the energies of the soul above their accustomed height and discover in us a faculty of resistance of a quite different kind, which gives us courage to measure ourselves against the apparent almightiness of nature.[iii][3]

Once ensconced in a safe haven, we take pleasure in nature's terrifying majesty, because we feel that sights invested with such power augment our own psychic strength. Who can read this without detecting a desperation to deny a sense of nature as dangerous realm, permeated by dire forces? In the end, Kant suggested, nature's omnipotence is only illusory (the "seeming omnipotence of nature," Kant writes), but humans are possessed of an even stronger capacity to resist the appeal of nature's terrifying majesty than to succumb to it. Kant's ideas were influential - he affected many of the Romantics, including Hegel. Hegel adopted and reformulated this Kantian view by radicalizing it; Hegel's philosophy, too, proposes that nature's power is only illusory.

          Novalis, Schelling, and Hegel all gave voice to the belief that Nature harbours dire forces, but so did Goethe. Here is a passage that Goethe copied into a notebook:

Nature! We are surrounded and embraced by her - without being able to exit from her or to enter into her more deeply. Unasked and unwarned, we are taken up into the circuitry of her dance; she has her way with us, until we grow weary and sink from arms. . . .

We live in the midst of her and are foreign to her. She speaks to us ceaselessly and does not betray her secret to us. We work our endless effects on her, yet have no dominion over her.

She seems to have invested all her hopes in individuality, and she cares nothing for individuals. Always she builds, always she destroys, and we have no access to her workshop.

She lives in a profusion of children, and their mother, where is she? -

She squirts her creatures out of nothingness, and does not tell them where they came from and where they are going. Their task is to run; hers is to know the orbit.[iv][4]

         As this passage suggests, the Romantics believed that being owned be nature - being operated by its tumultuous, ceaselessly striving force - is the sign of a great soul; however, as sexuality experience testifies, being owned by any other is also an experience of terror. That is what the passage that Goethe transcribed into his notebook highlights. One does not ordinarily think of  the philosophe Diderot as a proto-Romantic, but his writings on art show him to be more inclined in this direction than we might want to acknowledge. The following passage, which appears among his earlier writings on art, the Salon of 1765, treats those Romantic themes concerning inspiration and the difference between talent and genius.

Beware of those whose pockets are full of esprit - of wit - and who scatter this wit at every opportunity, everywhere. They have no demon within them, they are not gloomy, or sombre, or melancholy, or silent. They are are neither awkward or foolish. The lark, the chaffinch, the linnet, the canary, they chirp and twitter all the livelong day, at sunset they fold their head under their wing, and lo! They are asleep. It is then that genius takes his lamp and lights it. And this dark, solitary, savage bird, this untamable creature, with its gloomy melancholy plumage, opens its throat and begins its song, makes the groves resound and breaks the silence and darkness of the night.[v][5]

Here even the Encylopaediast Diderot testifies to the solitary, melancholy, savage character of the creature who is the instrument of nature; he acknowledges, too, the savage creator dwells in night and darkness. But who could interpret this passage as a literary construction without acknowledging these two features of it: first, that Diderot uses the contrast between the day birds and the solitary night bird to exemplify the difference between two types of human beings, one sort the artificial person who seeks to please, and because he or she fits in well with others, is content, and the other sort, the violent, bold genius; and, second, that Diderot uses this contrast between two types of persons to suggests the contrast between the false self and the authentic self. In other words, Diderot speaks of the division that cleaves both nature and the self in two - with the more profound and more authentic being on the side of darkness and death. The moi profond, astonishingly, is the self that is operated by the other.[vi][6]

         Throughout Romantic literature these dire forces are depicted as directed towards death. Nature produces life, but it also destroys it. Nature is directed as much towards death as towards life. We cannot speak of a life force in nature, but only of a force that strives towards both life and death, a lifedeath force. The passion that drives that Werther in that Sturm und Drang masterpiece, Die Leiden des junges Werthers, is a passion for life and love the culminates in death. Werther's suicide  is unavoidable: Werther is driven by life - seized by a life force that is the essence of nature - and this love, because its object is a married woman, turns Werther against himself in a fashion that is unquestionably enobling.

         This Romantic view has persisted remarkably: as evidence of its persistence, here is a passage from the 1960s French Situationist Raoul Vaneigem, in which he rhapsodizes about death-haunted life as the appropriation of the life by the baneful forces of our reified projections of the re-externalized imagos (which he typically calls "roles" or "stereotypes").

In the totalizing perspective in which it conditions the whole of everyone's life, and in which its real and its mythic power can no longer be distinguished (both being both real and mythical), the process of privative appropriation has made it impossible to express life any way except negatively. Life in its entirety is suspended in a negativity that corrodes it and formally defines it. To talk of life today is like talking of rope in the house of a hanged man. Since the key of will_to_live has been lost, we have been wandering in the corridors of an endless mausoleum. The dialogue of chance and the throw of the dice no longer suffices to justify our lassitude; those who still accept living in well_furnished weariness picture themselves as leading an indolent existence while failing to notice in each of their daily gestures a living denial of their despair, a denial that should rather make them despair only of the poverty of their imagination. Forgetting life, one can identify with a range of images, from the brutish conqueror and brutish slave at one pole to the saint and the pure hero at the other. The air in this shithouse has been unbreathable for a long time. The world and man as representation stink like carrion and there's no longer any god around to turn the charnel houses into beds of lilies. After all the ages men have died while accepting without notable change the explanations of gods, of nature and of biological laws, it wouldn't seem unreasonable to ask if we don't die because so much death enters - and for very specific reasons - into every moment of our lives.[vii][7]

         Our problematic is that of tracing the filiation between the Romantic view of nature and the conception of the spectacle that Raoul Vaneigem and his cohort, Guy Debord, sketched and, more recently, Jean Baudrilland has developed.

         Nature then is the concern. But "nature" in what sense? The answer is more than obvious: nature as the realm of competition between the an sich and the für sich. The Romantic philosophers agreed that the division of being, and the consequent competition between the an sich and the für sich, is the source of all that is dire. That, after all, is the story that Hegel recounts in the famous "Master and Slave" section of the Phenomenology of Spirit.[viii][8]Notice again the role that eristic model of the relation between different aspects of reality plays in this passage.

         All of the usual suspects as the source of the baneful in nature depend upon this division. "What about sexuality as the domain where dire forces prevail?" you might well ask. This effort at rebuttal is without merit. For  isn't it evident that sexuality assigns us positions based on a  polarity between male and female? And, even more tellingly, that sexuality ensures that the position of the other becomes a determinant of one's inmost strategies for attaining satisfaction. Indeed the very relevance of the concept of "strategy" to our achieving identity brings home the truth that this relation between self and other really is a game in which one's interests and desires possibly will be denied , and that for desire to be satisfied, (even  temporarily) it is necessary to subjected itself to the desire of the other?

          "And what about  death as the home of nature's baneful forces?," you ask. The response, as Schelling's philosophy highlights, is obvious. The Romantics considered nature to be productivity - to be active, to be the teeming fullness of life (the Fülle des Lesbens alluded to above), for it is an inexhaustible multiplicity and unremitting turbulence. It produces life, and in doing so produces multiplicity, that is to say, division. So there we are: nature is conflicted, divided. Moreover, for the Romantics, death, more than being a boundary to life, is, in fact, its other. Death haunts nature - inhabits it, even, - yet since nature, as Schelling pointed out, is pure productivity,  death can inhabit nature only by haunting it, as a ghostly other. These are sentiments that the late (and somewhat uncomprehending) Romantic Barrčs often referred to by the express "la terre et les morts."That this feeling was widespread among Romantics is clear from the Romantics' almost pathological interest in ruins.

         We begin our etiology of the dire by considering the division of the Absolute into the an sich and the für sich, for this division, I believe, is the sacrificial dynamic at the origin of the baneful. The most renown text discussing this division of the One is Hegel's Encyclopedia of Philosophical Science, especially sections 244 to 248. In section 244, Hegel proposed, in a passage that wants somewhat for clarity, that the Idea allows Nature to go forth freely from itself. In section 247, he described Nature as "the Idea in the form of Otherness." Yet he also characterized the relationship between Nature and the Concept in a manner that hinted at the potentially mischievous character of the duality, for he noted that, while "Life is the Concept . . . come to its manifestation," life is difficult for the intellect to grasp, for intellect has an affinity with "the abstract and the dead."

         Kant had drawn a radical distinction between two orders of thinking: one concerns phenomena (the contents of consciousness itself), and that form of thinking, he stated, operates under the regulation of the principles of Aristotelian logic. The other form of thinking, which he termed "practical reason" concerns actions, and operates on different protocols, protocols which he supposed were capable of carrying us into the heart of the noumenal. Hegel tried to overcome this duality at the heart of the Kantian system, by identifying what the two forms of thinking have in common -  a key principle of Hegel's philosophy is that thought is realized first as activity, for thinking first finds expression in outward form, in the actions that human perform and the objects that they make. Thus, Hegel noted, before thought turned self-reflexive and became thinking about thinking, humans had already begun to think. However the form of their thought was embedded in particulars, either in actual things they created or in concrete thoughts (i.e., sensory images). Because the form of our thinking is embedded in objects, we can as well discover a logical structure in objects as we can in concepts themselves. Consequently, thinking can discover itself in the mirror of its products.[ix][9] Nature issues from the Idea and the Idea discovers itself in Nature. Each is the Other for the other. The each is for the other is a fundamental source of strife.

          As the Absolute brings forth the Subject and Nature, the two become each other's others, are  intimately tied to the other, insofar as the inner being of each is dependent on its outward relation to the other. This first division establishes the course through which the Absolute will attempt to take Nature back into itself through discovering its rational being. Hegel generally held a rather sanguine assessment of the role of division (it allows for self-knowledge), but at times he allowed darker ideas to emerge. As the Master-Slave passage in The Phenomenology of Spirit makes evident, the dependence of the Master's inner being on his outward relations makes him vulnerable on the other, and so exposes him to death. Thus, in section 375, Hegel allowed that every individual animal has "an original sickness" and "an innate germ of death."[x][10]  

         The vicissitudes of the being whose inner character is decided by its relationships with others is the central topic of German Romantic thought, the topic that became its principal legacy. Consider how Kant transformed the British idea of the sublime. Burke's commentary in his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, rested on the distinction between the experience of the beauty and that particular form of 'delight' that he attributes to the experience of the sublime. While the source of the former lies in the 'social passions' (predominantly sexual, but including as well those concerned with friendship and sympathy with others), the later originates with our instinctual drives for self-preservation and turn mostly on pain and danger. To experience the sublime requires that the object of experience be apprehended as 'terrible' and therefore to be capable of instilling awe and fear.

         It might seem odd to assert that something that apprehended as 'terrible' can provoke 'delight,' but to those who stricken by this apparent anomaly, Burke offered this rejoinder: we experience such delight in situations that do not really threaten our well-being, in which we are not truly exposed to dangers, and we only have an idea of these. As Kant was to offer later, Burke proposed that once we are ensconced in a safe haven, we can take pleasure in nature's terrifying majesty. When we are at a safe remove from danger, the idea of danger itself can set in play mental activities that invigorate us.

         That Kant drew much from Burke's Enquiry is obvious. But it is a particular emphasis he gave to one aspect of Burke's ideas on aesthetics that is especially important for our purposes. The sublime, Kant stated, serves to remind us of something about ourselves. A storm is a mere tumult in nature; what moves us is that the storm serves us as a reminder of something in ourselves - our status as moral (free) agents in the noumenal world. The grandeur of nature arouses in us the idea of infinity;  we try to think about infinity, to formulate a precise concept of it, but we necessarily fail. "Still," Kant wrote

the mere ability to even think the given infinite without contradiction is something that requires the presence in the human mind of a faculty that is itself supersensible.. . . Therefore, the feeling of the sublime in nature is respect for our own vocation which we attribute to an Object of nature by a certain subreption (substitution of a respect for the Object in place of one for the idea of humanity in our self - the Subject); and this feeling renders, as it were, intuitable, the supremacy of our cognitive faculties on  the rational side over the greatest faculty of sensibility.[xi][11]

The notion of subreption that Kant offered exerted a decisive influence on the fate of German Romanticism[xii][12]. Subreption, as Kant conceived it, involves a double moment: in the first, the subject comes to understand the noblest aspects of itself through apprehending an object; in the second, the object absorbs the subject higher be-ing in consequence of the subject's projection - "substitution of a respect for the Object in place of one for the idea of humanity in our self." The double movement comprised in Kant's concept of subreption established the fateful course of German Romanticism. The principle at the heart of the idea, that we learn about that which in us is highest - that which is most inward and closest to the moi profond -  through our relation to something beyond us, we shall see became a cardinal element of German Romantic thought. In fact, the principle established the destiny of thinking in the Nineteenth Century.

         It also constituted a key item in the German Romantic's legacy. The Romantic irony so crucial to the English Romantic movement is a device for revealing that the opposition that confronts the protagonist - or, since the protagonist is a stand-in for the self, that confronts the self - arises from the self.[xiii][13] The English Romantic lyric also demonstrates the subject and the object share a single be-ing; yet it often depicts nature as self's adversary, as a menacing realm that turns against the self and destroys it.[xiv][14]

         An anxiety about division and duality also pervades that heir to German Romanticism, German Expressionism. That anxiety has its roots in the Romantic belief that beings that are mutually dependent on one another cannot be fully real -  that beings must have an ontological basis in something higher if their be-ing is to be ensured. That Kant's epistemology drew a sharp distinction between the realms of noumena and phenomena is generally well known; but there is another duality in Kant's system that is commonly recognized today, although Romantic thinkers were very concerned with it. So unfamiliar is this division that we must work at grasping it - and the most effective way to do so is to consider how the philosophers who succeeded Kant regarded his legacy.

         That duality arises from the duality between noumenon and phenomenon. Post-Kantian thinkers were critical of Kant's extended commentary of the thing-in-itself, because it says so much about something that exists outside any possible experience. The Romantics honed this anomaly into an especially destructive attack on the Kantian system; they pointed out that in order for Kant, or anyone, to say anything about the thing-in-itself, then what he or she states must be known by some Ego. And that implies that at some time some Ego was conscious of a thing outside of consciousness. German Romantics thinkers took that claim to be a simple contradiction.

         Fichte formulated the problem thus: Was the science of logic obliged to follow that same principles which, it insisted, applied to all thinking whatsoever; or was it, alone among all the sciences, able to ignore them? It seems patently obviously that the former must be the case. Kant however, had argued that second alternative was true. Kant believed that all people thought of what is given in the deliberations of the special sciences (Kant's term for these is "phenomena" ) by one set of rules (those of Aristotelian logic), and of what is given in pure thought (i.e., noumenal) by another (those rules that are formed in the spirit of transcendental dialectics).

         So, according to Kant's philosophy, not only is reality fissured but the "I" itself is split apart; every thinking person is inhabited by two I's  - one of which deliberates on the world, the other of which deliberates on that which is given in thinking. Kant's onetime follower, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, argued this duality posed special difficulties. Fichte realized that Kant thought of the "I," (i.e., the subject of thinking), as a thing-in-itself. In Fichte's time it was thought that the rules of logic could be derived from the determinations of the intellect (i.e., the faculty of reason). Kant's treating the "I" as a thing-in-itself, however, made it impossible to derive the system of logic from the systems of determinations of the intellect because, according to the Kantian system, the "I" as a thing-in-itself is unknowable. This left logic itself lacking any ontological justification and therefore, though Kant would not have admitted it, any ontological relevance. What is worse, it made it impossible to suppose, as Kant had, that propositions of logic - which are really propositions that arise from thinking about thinking - also apply to thinking about things.

         Fichte set about the task of remedying these deficiencies in Kant's system by laying out principles that were applicable to all thinking, whether thinking about the world or thinking about thinking - principles that would remain applicable whether thinking about colliding balls or thinking about concepts. For the concept, Fichte announced can as well be the subject of scientific or philosophical study as any other entity. That proposition would have momentous effects in subsequent philosophy.

         Fichte's goal for his science of science (his Wissenshaftslehre) was to develop a  science that would be unitary. It would not begin with the opposition between the subjects and objects (i.e., between concepts and objects). For if one starts out with two separated parts that have no connection between one another, one cannot subsequently put them back together in an integral system.[xv][15]        This is a topic we shall comment on in relation to Schelling, and then again, in connection with that of Baudrillard. For now, it will suffice to have pointed out that German Romanticism is the source of eristic model out of which Baudrillard's idea of the precession of simulacra arises. In fact the propositions that the sign has risen to ascendency over the signifier is essentially an assertion that the be-ing of beings has come to be identified with Be-ing itself - an assertion that results from the forgetfulness of ontological difference. So Fichte's system begins with the "I," the Ego, and attempts to show that what we understand to be an object is the product of an unconscious and unreflective activity of the Ego, which produces the sensuously contemplated image in the imagination, while that which we understand to be a concept is the product of conscious activities of the ego. Reflective thought, therefore, is simply thought that understands its active role in creating representations.[xvi][16]

         Though Fichte began with the "I," he attempted to preserve the mirror world of the not-I from unreality. His means of doing so was essentially to fold the world that the 'I' knows back into the circle of the self. The strategy is telling: Fichte's use of the tactic of encompassing the domain of objective representation within the more certain realm of the self gives evidence how troubling nineteenth century German philosophers found the idea of a mirror world of representation. So troubled was Fichte by the idea that he ultimately failed to exorcise the spectre of the double from his philosophy, and in the end he reproduced in his philosophy the dualism of the Kantian system. Thus, in Fichte's system, one can discern the same opposition that exists in Kant's between two halves of one and the same Ego, one of which unconsciously produces the world of objective representations in conformity with the laws of causality, space, and time while the other consciously produces images of the world in conformity with the requirements of morality. On Fichte's description, as on Kant's, the Ego is split into separate parts that act in conformity to separate principles; like Kant's, Fichte's philosophy suggested, essentially, that there are two separate egos within each person. And it could not explain, really, how the two parts are connected.

         Fichte considered an object and its concept as two different forms of existence of the same Ego - the two beings were the result of the Ego's self-differentiation into a subjective form and an objective form. Through the work of imagination, the Ego created a product which it began to look upon as being separate from itself. Furthermore, the Ego came to understand its activity of creating a concept of an object as simply that of consciously re-producing what had earlier been produced unconsciously. Indeed Fichte's philosophy cast our consciousness of logical thinking as nothing more the schemas of intuitive thinking come into awareness. In this way, the separation of the Non-Ego from the Ego devalued the world of conception/representation, turning it into a mere mirror world whose population is, in a certain sense, supernumerary, redundant, excessive.[xvii][17] But excess invites damnation. A pattern was established here: the division of the Ego sets in a motion a process through which the Non-Ego turns against the Ego; consequently, the Non-Ego is experienced as the habitation of all that is dire

         In fact, German Romantic philosophy suggest this struggle between the different parts that come from the Absolute assumes two forms. In one form, the divided parts of nature struggle with one another. The self, or consciousness, is dependent on an object (all consciousness is consciousness of something), while the object of consciousness, to be recognized, is dependent on the consciousness. Each is dependent on the other; but to be dependent on the other is to be vulnerable to it, and vulnerability breeds strife. The second form of the struggle is the struggle of what comes from the Absolute against the Absolute itself; there is something offensive to infinite Be-ing about its assuming the form of finitude -  proponents of the view asserted that the finitude, even of its products, is an insult to the Infinite, that finitude wounds the Infinite. But the struggle between the finite and the Infinite is not entirely one-sided: the Infinite turns against the finite even as the finite rages against the Infinite.

         The latter form of the struggle of existence, between what the Absolute produces and the Absolute itself, is evident in Schopenhauer's gloomy views about the way the Will has with  finite beings and in Hegel's idea of the Cunning of Reason, the idea that the Spirit deceives us, and cheats us and triumphs over all finite beings in the end. But throughout German Romantic philosophy, we find intimations of a dark force underlying particulars that frustrates our efforts, that resists our efforts to come to terms with it. This dark force, this dynamism, this forward-thrusting activity of relentless self-creation will overwhelm all human efforts to contain it, to bridle it, or to fathom it. Sometimes, as in Schopenhauer's writings and Wagner's operas, the fear of source of this darkness rises almost to the level of paranoia.

         Schelling goes even farther than Fichte or Hegel in his commentary on the precession of the inverted world of representations. In his system, the realm of the for-itself becomes a realm of dire forces that compel sacrifice. But Schelling did not begin working out his system with this goal in mind; rather he started by rejecting Fichte's symmetrical conception which cast Subject and Nature as each other's other. That rejection was signal: had Schelling worked out its consequences more fully (something he might have achieved but for the pressures that certain theological conceptions exerted on his philosophy), the evolution of Western thought would have followed a different course. For the notion that there is a symmetry between Be-ing and beings results in treating the transcendent pole of experience as though it were like the entities that make up the immanent pole.[xviii][18] The hypostatization of Be-ing results in the reduction of the status of Be-ing to the be-ing of beings; another way of saying this - a way of expressing the idea that adumbrates what Baudrillard has drawn from German Romanticism - is to say that beings have absorbed Be-ing. But Be-ing is the ground of the be-ing of beings, and reducing the idea of Be-ing to the conceptual equivalent of the be-ing of beings eventuates in the proposition that be-ing has lost its ontological justification. It was onto this fateful course that the German Romantics set Western thought.[xix][19]

         Schelling's philosophy was partly an attempt to remedy the deficiencies of the Fichtean system, even while preserving Fichte's emphasis on activity. Like Fichte, he treated the opposition between Subject and Object as an opposition within consciousness, between the representations of a world (whether real or unreal) that the mind produces freely and those images of the world that the mind produces under constraints.[xx][20] Fichte had relied on the notion of action to reconcile the divided parts of the Ego. The manoeuver was not successful, however, for in the end he described the two parts of the Ego as operating according to different sets of protocols. What is worse, he proved unable to demonstrate that the activities of the two halves of the Ego share a common origin or energeia.

         These difficulties forced Schelling to reconsider the basis of Fichte's philosophy, Fichte's notions of Absolute and of activity. Since Fichte had been unable to show that the subject and the object share a common origin, the means Schelling proposed to overcome the deficiencies of Fichte's system was to understand more adequately the character of that originary Be-ing.[xxi][21] He set out to show that both the subjective world and the objective world emerged from a common origin, from an Absolute that was neither subject nor object, but prior to both. Thus Schelling formulated his philosophy of identity - a philosophy that proclaimed that the subject and object originally existed together in a fused state of  indistinguishability, a fused "subject-object"; only in a secondary moment did the subject and object emerge as distinct (even if dependent) entities from that single fused Be-ing which he termed the Absolute.

          The Absolute in the Schellingian system is pure productivity, the urge for disclosure. It is, in another revelatory convergence, very much what quantum theorists discuss as the quantum vacuum. Fluctuations roil the quantum vacuum to create quantum particles; quantum particles continually are being discharged from a void and continually return to a void. The void in this conception is not exactly nothing, though it does not contain entities - it is a state of minimum energy in which quantum fluctuations lead to the temporary formation of particle-antiparticle pairs in a manner that the uncertainty principle of the German physicist Werner Heisenberg describes.[xxii][22]  Because the zero_point field is the lowest energy state, it is unobservable (another feature of the quantum vacuum that resembles the Absolute as Be-ing-in-itself). That it is everywhere, inside and outside of us, that it permeates every atom in our bodies, makes us effectively blind to it. We see only light the intensity of which is greater than the energy of the zero_point field. Like Schelling's Absolute, it a state pregnant with potentiality, even if it contains nothing actual, a impetus to produce entities with opposite valencies. Physicists see the beginning of the universe quantum vacuum possessing infinite possibility, and out of these infinite possibility, the Universe was realized, rather as in Schelling's system finitude issues from infinitude.

         Schelling's description of this primal productivity emphasized such terms as turbulence, conflict, and struggle. It is a living force (and, we shall see, like all life, is directed towards death). Human be-ing is simply the most self-conscious representative of this primally unconscious drive; the role of artists, accordingly, is to delve within themselves, into the dark forces that stir them, and to bring the most violent internal struggles to recognition. Schelling believed that there are violent clashes throughout nature: Volcanic eruptions, metallic objects turning under the influence of magnetism, electric sparks leaping from pole to pole are all evidence of the drive of  blind, mysterious forces to assert themselves. Every natural phenomenon is the outcome of a struggle for self-assertion. So is every piece of human behaviour - the only feature that distinguishes human behaviour from other natural phenomenon is that in humans this struggle can be raised to self-consciousness. This self-consciousness finds its highest development in art, and the greatest works of art are those that pulsate with the unconscious strivings of nature - for that endows them with energy, power, vitality, force. The pulsations which the work manifests are also pulsations of nature and their effect on the viewer or listener is vitalizing.

         The great artist is not fully conscious of what he or she does. In fact, what distinguishes great art from merely conventional art in Schelling's view (and it was a view that was to exert great influence on Coleridge and through Coleridge on the entire Romantic movement) is that the greater spirits of the stronger artists are more in tune with, and open to being influenced by, forces of which they are unconscious; poorer artists resist such impulses, and instead produce work that is the result of scrupulous observation, of carefully noting down what they saw in an accurate, lucid, almost scientific manner.

         But suppose that the universe is constantly in movement, that there is never any stasis, suppose that the universe, at heart, is activity, not a lump of inert matter, suppose it is infinite, suppose it is constantly changing, never the same, not even at two successive instants. How then could we describe the universe? Under those conditions, any descriptive proposition we might offer  would represent a state of affairs that existed for one brief moment - it would be like a snapshot (we could as well use the term "map") that, so as soon as it is made, no longer represents any existing reality. Our tendency, however is when thinking about reality is to think about the snapshot (or map) and not the ever changing flowing, and in consequence, out thinking misrepresents reality - it concerns nothing that has any reality[xxiii][23].

         A world-altering assertion the Romantics promulgated was the assertion that reality is fundamentally without structure, because it is basically something dynamic - it is a force, a flow, a pressure, a field of action, a productivity. Anything that has been brought into being (to say noting of what has been brought into consciousness or put into language) is already on the way to being dead, if not already dead. We cannot therefore know this underlying dynamic reality through particulars, for they offer us only glimpses, fragments of larger truth that is always in process, always evolving; any attempt to grasp reality through this fragments produces a caricature of reality, as absurb and grotesque a representation as trying to capture the essence of the flowing stream in a single snapshot. No account of this dynamism can be given, for it possess no stages -  no beginning, no middle, no end (inasmuch the very notion sof beginning, middle and end are really products of that way of thinking that freezes processes into a series of states). The universe is not a set of facts with stable relations to one another, nor is it a pattern of events, nor is it a collection of entities bound together by iron laws. It is simply a perpetual activity of self-creation, perhaps more like a flow than anything else. We cannot map this flow, for to make a map is arrest - to destroy - what is the essence of reality. According to this world-altering proposition, then, reality always eludes us, always escapes us, always makes a mockery of our attempts to grasp it.

         But if the Absolute is, as Schelling claimed, the urge for disclosure, then Be-ing, at the same time as it is Being-in-itself, is always already Being-for-itself - Be-ing comes forth as Being-for-itself in the same moment, and through the same process, as it emerges as Being-in-itself.

for being, actual real being, is precisely self-disclosure. If it is to be as One then it must reveal itself in itself; but it does not reveal itself if it is just itself, if it is not an other in itself, and is in this other the One for itself.[xxiv][24]

That is, the Absolute is always already a divided being ("it does not reveal itself if it is just itself, if it is not another in itself."). The infinite Absolute must show itself within the realm of finitude, for it would not be spirit if it did not reveal itself. Spirit, Schelling wrote

is only through itself, through its own action.

Now, that which is (originally) object is as such necessarily also finite. Because spirit is not originally object, it cannot be originally finite, not according to its own nature. - Infinite then? But it is spirit only insofar as it is object itself, that is, insofar as it becomes finite. Thus, it is not infinite without becoming finite, nor can it become finite (for itself) without becoming infinite[xxv][25].

Even self-consciousness involves limitation, and hence division[xxvi][26]    But polarity tends towards opposition, and opposition tends towards strife, and strife tends towards death, and death vaporizes all that is real. This is a story we shall trace in Baudrillard..

Only that of me which is limited, so to speak, comes into consciousness; the limiting activity falls outside of all consciousness, precisely because it is the cause of all limitedness. The limitedness must appear to be independent of me because I can only see only my limitedness, and not the activity through which it is posited.[xxvii][27]

         Schelling endeavoured to explain through analogy how the Absolute, even while it is divided, remains nevertheless One.

As the eye, when it sees itself in the reflection, e.g., in the mirror, posits itself, intuits itself, only to the extent that it posits what reflects - the mirror - as nothing for itself, and as it is, so to speak, One act of the eye, by which it posits itself, sees itself, and does not see what reflects, does not posit it; in this way does totality posit or intuit itself, by not-positing, not-intuiting the particular; both are One act in the totality.[xxviii][28]

Elsewhere the conflict  revealed in the stressed syntax of this passage splits the tenuously reconciled object and its double apart, and Schelling then expounded a darker view of nature. In Philosophie und Religion (1804) the balefulness of nature has its origin in a prior moment, an earlier breaking with the ground of being.

there is no constant transition from the Absolute to the real, the origin of the world of the senses can only be thought as a complete breaking off from absoluteness, by a leap. If philosophy is to deduce the origin of real things in a positive manner from the Absolute, then there would have to be a positive ground in the Absolute.. . . Philosophy has only a negative relation to things that appear, it rather proves that they are not rather than that they are. . . . The Absolute is all that is real: finite things, on the other hand, are not real; their ground cannot lie in a communication of reality to them or to their substrate, which would have emanated from the Absolute, it can only lie in a move  away, in a fall (Abfall) from the Absolute.[xxix][29]

Here Schelling described the finite's coming forth from the Absolute as an Abfall (a fall) - in Philosophie und Religion he went even farther, and referred to the descent of the finite things from the Absolute the "Urzufall" ("primal accident").

         That claim carries us to the very core of the Romantic's sense of nature as baneful character. The idea that the "origin of the world of the senses" represents "a complete breaking off from absoluteness, by a leap" carries with it the conviction that whatever inhabits the realm of finitude is marked for destruction, since it possesses no ontological warrant. The thinking that produced this view is clear: the Absolute cannot be responsible for this limitation, for it cannot be the Absolute that pronounces the sentence of death on all that comes forth into finitude. Therefore the destructive element must belong to matter.

         Schelling reiterated his convictions about disconnection of beings from Be-ing in his1809 text, On the Essence of Human Freedom:

the origin of no finite thing leads immediately back to the infinite, it can instead only be grasped via the sequence of causes and effects, which is, though itself endless, whose law has, therefore, no positive but a merely negative meaning, that namely, nothing finite can arise immediately out of the Absolute and be deduced from it. Whence already in this law the ground of the being of finite things is expressed as an absolute breaking off from the infinite.[xxx][30]But try as he might to deny that matter was an inertial principle, and that material things had broken off from the Absolute, he was not able to sustain these claims.

The ground of the be-ing of finite things expresses itself as an absolute rupture with the Infinite. Division is privative - its effect is to render what it divides unreal. For what belongs to the realm of finitude exists in space, and space is a grid that separates point from point, and its measure is the very index of separation and division. Because space itself is a matrix of individuated positions, it renders all spatial being unreal.

As opposed to life in the totality, particular life can only appear as an endless disintegration into difference - without identity - as endless non-identity, pure extension. For the inner identity is negated by the relation of the positions to each other. But this is the affirmative [i.e., the link that transmits be-ing]. Accordingly, the particular life of things, as opposed to life in the infinite substance, i.e., the being-affirmed of things separated from infinite affirmation, from identity, can only appear as endless difference, as completely privation of identity, accordingly as a powerless disintegration, as pure extension.[xxxi][31]

As dire as division is, however, consciousness requires it. For consciousness is consciousness of something viz., and the objects of consciousness we call "phenomena," that is, "that which appears." If there are appearances, there must be that which appears, and in addition there must that to which it appears. So consciousness demands division, and that implies that the absolutely identical already separates itself in the first act of consciousness. Schelling explains this by referring to the freedom that consciousness requires - the conscious subject separates itself from the Absolute, and, even, from the all other finite objects, by its freedom.[xxxii][32]

By positing myself as myself I oppose myself to everything else, consequently to the entire universe. Egoity (Ichheit) is therefore the universal expression of isolation, of separation from the totality (All), and as noting can be separated from totality, given its infinity, except by its being finitely posited, i.e., with negation, then egoity is the general expression and highest principle of all finitude, i.e., of everything which is not absolute totality, absolute reality. How the infinite, in which there is no negation, could possibly be the cause of privations, of limitations is absolutely incomprehensible.[xxxiii][33]

         We might well share Schelling's puzzlement. The effort to free ourselves from this puzzlement could begin with asking ourselves, "Whence arises this idea that the world of the senses arises from a breaking-off from the Absolute, by a leap?" "Or for that matter, whence arises this notion of the illusory character of the realm of particulars." We know that the transition from infinitude to finitude does not by itself entail the separation of beings from Be-ing. The doctrine that objects issue out of Infinite Be-ing as an act of love, and that Infinite Be-ing bestows infinite worth on all that is and holds them all within its embrace, is one that religious thinkers have propounded time and again: it grounded a very different metaphysics of nature than that of Schelling or the other Jena Romantics. The coherence of the older metaphysic establishes.that is not with the help of logic that we will discern the motivation for Schelling's ideas about the transition from infinitude to finitude.[xxxiv][34] As we shall see, we have turn to theological ideas to explain the conclusion. Schelling's thought was deeply influenced by emanationism, and it was likely emantionist/gnostic convictions about the inertness/negativity of matter that led Schelling to attribute a low-grade reality to matter.[xxxv][35]

         The pressures that Schelling's heterodox beliefs exerted on his system resulted in his formulating an unusual conception of spirit in nature. Like the Ego, the general "I," in Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, the Absolute in Schelling's philosophy is "the basic force" to which the universe owes its original cause; however, unlike Fichte's Ego, Schelling's Absolute lacks consciousness. In sum, the Absolute in Schelling's system is much like Fichte's absolute 'I,' projected into nature and robbed of its consciousness.[xxxvi][36] What it is, is activity -- it is dynamism, pure and simple. It is the Creator, made immanent, and assuming some of the attributes of the be-ing of beings. But we must examine other implications of the division of nature before we are in a position to consider those theological determinants.

         Schelling's belief that reality is bifurcated was associated with the idea that consciousness itself is divided. His division of reality into the realms of the infinitude and the finite is paralleled by a division in subject and object.

There is no consciousness without something which is both excluded and attracted. That which is conscious of itself excludes what it is conscious of as not itself, and yet must also attract it as, precisely, that of which it is conscious, thus as itself, only in another form.[xxxvii][37]

         Self and Non-Self are locked togethr in a circle that inevitably will spawn conflict. For the be_ing of the subject is dependent on the be_ing of the object (there is no awareness that is not an awareness of something) and the be_ing of the object is dependent on the be_ing of subject (they are phenomena for a subject). The inner be_ing of each is dependent on its external relations; this relationship of mutual dependency that leads them to turn both against one another and against the source of their be-ing. Such was the ontology of the Jena Romantics. Thus, a view of nature as a realm of division, in which the encounter of each element with every other is of the nature of limitation and opposition (and is experienced by consciousness as restriction and strife), appears in Friedrich Schiller's Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. There Schiller, taking a Kantian turn, argues that it is the sundered condition in which humans live that  makes art necessary:

If in the dynamic State of rights it is as force that one man encounters another, and imposes limits upon his activities; if in the ethical State of duties Man sets himself over against man with all the majesty of the law, and puts a curb upon his desires: in those circles where conduct is governed by beauty, in the aesthetic State, none may appear to the other except as form, or confront him except as an object of free play. To bestow freedom by means of freedom is the fundamental law of this kingdom.

The dynamic State can merely make society possible, by letting one nature be curbed by another; the ethical State can merely make it (morally) necessary, by subjecting the individual will to the general; the aesthetic State alone can make it real, because it consummates the will of the whole through the nature of the individual . . . Taste alone brings harmony into society, because it fosters harmony into society, because it fosters harmony in the individual. All other forms of perception divide man, because they are founded exclusively either upon the sensuous or upon the spiritual part of his being; only the aesthetic mode of perception makes of him a whole, because both his natures must be in harmony if he is to achieve it. All other forms of communication divide society, because they relate exclusively either to the private receptivity or to the private proficiency of its individual members, hence to that which distinguishes man from man; only the aesthetic mode of communication unites society, because it relates to that which is common to all. The pleasures of the senses we enjoy merely as individuals, without the genus which is immanent within us having any share of them at all; hence we cannot make the pleasures of the senses universal, because we are unable to universalize our own individuality. The pleasures of knowledge we enjoy merely as genus, and by carefully removing from our judgement all trace of individuality; hence we cannot make the pleasures of reason universal, because we cannot eliminate traces of individuality from the judgements of others as we can from our own. Beauty alone do we enjoy at once as individual and genus, i.e., as representatives of the human genus.[xxxviii][38]

Beauty alone overcomes division without thwarting individuality.

         Schiller proclaimed the re-integrative powers of art. So did Schopenhauer, but with this difference: for Schopenhauer aesthetic experience offered only temporary respite from the brutal way that the Will has with us. For the most part, we know only the realm of division, plurality - we know the realm through which the Will works, but do not know the inward workings of the Will itself. Schopenhauer extended Kant's distinction between the phenomenal and noumenal realms by connecting the Kantian notion of the phenomenal world, the realm of appearance, with the Vendantic notion of maya, the realm of illusion. Many other thinkers made that same connection, not in the least because of Schopenhauer's formidable reputation, and increasingly saw the world dissolve into phantasms.

         Schopenhauer named the agent of this erosion - it was division, specifically the division between the subject and the object.

Therefore the world as representation, in which aspect alone we are here considering it, has two essential, necessary, and inseparable halves. The one half is the object, whose forms are space and time, and through these plurality. [Note that Schopenhauer that the forms of space and time are matrices of division.]  But the other half, the subject, does not lie in space and time, for it is whole and undivided in every representing being. Hence a single one of these beings with the object completes the world as representation just as fully as do the millions that exist. And if that single one were to disappear, then the world of representation would cease to exist. [What a remarkable assertion of the radical contingency of beings!] Therefore these halves are inseparable even in thought, for each of the two has meaning and existence only through the other; each exists with the other and vanishes. [We remarked that Hegel and Schelling both held a similar notion, that the inner being of each term in a relation depends on its external relation, and that dependency leaves being vulnerable. The division between the subject and the object makes each dependent on the other - this mutuality is the reason for the contingency of the being of each term in the relation.] They limit each other immediately; where the object begins, the subject ceases. [Here Schopenhauer reiterates that Spinozistic theme of German Romanticism, that every determination is a negation.] The common or reciprocal nature of this limitation is seen in the very fact that the essential, and hence universal, forms of every object, namely space, time and causality, can be found and fully known, starting from the subject, even without the knowledge of the object itself, that is to day, in Kant's language, they reside a priori in our consciousness. [xxxix][39]

For Schopenhauer finite objects they are merely the reflections of a mirror world, ghostly doubles to the operations of Will, and no more than phantasmal.Schopenhauer elaborates his thesis on the unreality of finite particulars in Parerga and Paralimpomena, a collection of "aphorisms written from a popular viewpoint." There he repeats again the idea that material reality is nothing more than phantasmagoria.

         In the end, however, Schopenhauer rejected that thesis, arguing that the belief that there is no ultimate reality derives from the failure to fathom the inner essence of things. In the course of his critique of the thesis of universal unreality, he provided a telling analysis of the dynamic that generates that mistaken thesis (an analysis that is germane to more recent commentaries on "the spectacle," "simulation" and "simulacra").

The fundamental character of all things is their fleeting nature and transitoriness. In nature we see everything, from metal to organism corroded and consumed partly by its own existence, partly through conflict with something else.. . .

We complain of the obscurity in which we pass our lives without understanding the connection of existence as a whole, but in particular that between ourselves and the whole. . . . it really looks as if a demon had mischievously obstructed from us all further knowledge in order to gloat over our embarrassment.

But this complaint is not really justified, for it springs from an illusion, the result of the false fundamental view that the totality of things came from an intellect and consequently existed as mere mental picture or representation before it became actual [consider the etiology of this conception, in Plato's philosophy, to discern what set us on the path to the theory of simulation] and that accordingly as it had sprung from knowledge, it was bound to be wholly accessible thereto and thus capable of being fathomed and exhaustively treated. [We might here comment, were there space enough, on the arrogance that impels reason to deny the mystery of Be-ing.] But in truth the case might rather be that all we complain of not knowing is not known by anyone, indeed is in itself not even knowable at all, in other words, is not capable of being represented in anyone's head. For the representation, in whose domain all knowing is to be found and to which all knowledge therefore refers, is only the external side of existence, something secondary and additional, hence something that was not necessary for the maintenance of things generally and thus of the world as a whole, but merely for the maintenance of individual animal beings. [What phantasms there are in animal brains are fitted only to ensure the animal survives, and do not accurately picture reality as such.] Therefore the existence of things in general and as a whole enters knowledge only per accidens and consequently to a very limited extent. It forms only the background of the picture in animal consciousness where objects of the will are the essential thing and occupy first place. Now it is true that, by means of this accident, the entire world arises in space and time, that is, the world as representation which has no existence at all outside of knowledge. On the other hand, the innermost essence of this world, that which exists in itself, is quite independent of such and existence. [xl][40]

Schopenhauer, then, discerned that what we have taken to be our idea of the real is "only the external side of existence, something secondary and additional." These ideas about the real do not represent reality as it is - they serve only the interest of survival. Schopenhauer, though he considered it to be mistaken, recognized that the belief that these representations (the für sich to the Will's an sich) are all that there is - and that they are as nothing -  menaced post-Kantian philosophy.

         Schopenhauer may not have embraced the idea there nothing underlies phenomenal appearances, but he did acknowledge its presence. Indeed, even Schopenhauer's bęte noir, Hegel, recognized the uncanny stranger that stood at the threshold, about to ente.

. . . people claimed to have discovered and proved there is no knowledge of truth. It was said the God, the essence of the world and of the spirit, is incomprehensible and unintelligible; that the spirit had to stand by religion, and religion itself by believing, feeling, and intimations, without any knowledge based on reason. It was said that knowledge was concerned not with the nature of the absolute, of God, and of what is true and absolute in nature and in spirit, but rather partly with either the negative principle that nothing true is known (only what is untrue, temporal, and ephemeral enjoys the privilege of being known); or - and this actually should be subsumed under the negative - that knowledge is concerned with externalities, i.e., merely historical and contingent circumstances under which the ostensible knowledge itself belonged. Such knowledge was to be taken merely as an historical fact and investigated critically and learnedly from all those external perspectives - its content could yield nothing serious. These people went as far as Pilate, the Roman proconsul. When Pilate heard Christ use the word "truth," he replied with the question "What is truth?" like one who was through with the word and knew that there was no knowledge of truth. Thus what always had been considered the most disgraceful and unworthy thing, to renounce knowledge of truth, was exalted by our age as the highest triumph of the spirit.. . .

Not to know what is true but to recognize only temporal and contingent appearances - only vanities - it was this conceit which spread in philosophy and is still spreading in our time and loudly proclaiming itself.[xli][41]

In the end, as everyone knows, Schopenhauer and Hegel, turned the uncanny stranger away; but the stranger persisted, and a short time later, Friedrich Nietzsche would usher him in.

Part III: Implosion

Soon signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. . ..Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book. 'No one sees the barn,' he said finally. A long silence followed. "Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn. . . . We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."

    __Don DeLillo, White Noise. (New York: Viking Penguin, 1985): p 12.

         The judgement of the universal unreality of things is pronounced first by Friedrich Nietzsche, who arrived at this idea as consequence of the death of God, i.e., of the truth of being.

Men of philosophical disposition are known for their constant premonition that our everyday reality, too, is an illusion, hiding another, totally different kind of reality. It was Schopenhauer who considered the ability to view at certain times all men and things as mere phantoms or dream images to be the true mark of philosophic talent. The person who is responsive to the stimuli of art behaves toward the reality of dream much the way the philosopher behaves toward the reality of existence: he observes exactly and enjoys his observations, for it is by these images that he interprets life, by these processes that he rehearses it. Nor is it by pleasant images only that such plausible connections are made: the whole divine comedy of life, including its somber aspects, its sudden balkings, impish accidents, anxious expectations, moves past him, not quite like a shadow play - for it is he himself, after all, who lives and suffers through these scenes - yet never without giving a fleeting sense of illusion; and I imagine that many persons have reassured themselves amidst the perils of dream by calling out "It is a dream! I want it to go on." I have even heard of people spinning out the causality of one and the same dream over three or more successive nights. All these facts clearly bear witness that our innermost being, the common substratum of humanity, experiences dreams with deep delight and a sense of real necessity.[xlii][42]

Walter Benjamin exfoliated the epistemological implications of this implosion his great, uncompleted text that he took to calling the "Arcades Project."

On the doctrine of the ideological superstructure. It seems, at first sight, that Marx wanted to establish here only a causal relation between the superstructure and infrastructure. But already the observation that ideologies of the superstructure reflect conditions falsely and invidiously go beyond this. The question, in effect, is the following: if the infrastructure in a certain way (in the materials of thought and experience) determines the superstructure, but if the determination is not reducible to simple determination, how is it then - entirely apart from any question about the originating cause - to be characterized? As its expression. The superstructure is the expression of the infrastructure. The economic conditions under which society exists are expressed in the superstructure - precisely as, with the sleeper, an overfull stomach finds not its reflection but its expression in the content of dreams, which, from a casual point of view, it may be said to "condition." The collective, from the first, expresses the condition of its life. These find their expression in the dream and their interpretation in the awakening.[xliii][43]

What the passage fails to acknowledge are the new ontological theories that were the companion pieces of this epistemology that casts knowledge as fantastical.

         Benjamin's ontology has its roots in the ontology of the German Romantics. For, Benjamin, as for the Schelling and Hegel, Being is divided, between Being-for-itself and Being-in-itself. For Benjamin, as for Fichte, Schelling, Hegel and Schopenhauer, Being-for-itself represents the double world that reflects Be-ing back to itself - though in a reflection that does not depict it as it is in itself, but transforms. One might say these reflections are maps that represent the terrain they refer to only imperfectly, except that these maps are the only means through the terrain can be cognized. But Benjamin also extended the Romantics' description of Being-for-itself by formulating a rather Schopenhauerian analysis of the illusory character of the object world. Though he did not adopt exactly a Schopenhauerian position on the evolutionary function of these illusory appearances, he did argue, as Schopenhauer had, that the object world has only a delirious relation to the subject -  the same relation that the dream has to the "overfull stomach." And Benjamin goes even farther than Schopenhauer in stating that Vorstellungen are merely mental effects of causes whose character is hardly registers in the content of the mental representation; thus, analyzing the passage just cited from a literary point of view, one is struck by the suggestion of the realm of objective representations is, strictly, excessive, and unnecessary.

         Benjamin's belief that objective appearances are, strictly, de trop has a striking parallel in Schelling's system.

It was surely a meaningful dream that dead matter be the sleep of the forces of representation, that animal life be a dream of the monads, that the life of reason finally be a state of universal vigilance. For what is matter than extinguished spirit? In matter, all duplicity is canceled, its state is a state of absolute identity and calm.

We might recall that Freud described all life as tending toward that inertia - that the goal of all be-ing is unicity of death. That parallel tells us much about how German thought of the nineteenth (and early twentieth century) was in thrall to the idea of a doubled world of consciousness, of representations, of Spirit. Accord that world primacy, in the fashion of the Gnostics, and one has Baudrillard's ontology.

         But that is getting ahead of story. Schelling continued the passage we have just cited:

In the transition from homogeneity to duplicity, one world slips into twilight; with the restitution of duplicity, the world itself arises.[xliv][44]

One might conjecture that if the world of objective representations is de trop, its bonds to the absolute would be tenuous. Benjamin drew exactly that conclusion. But however tenuous objective representations may be, and however phantasmal by consequence, Benjamin nonetheless acknowledged what Schelling and Hegel had, that the division between of Be-ing and beings turns the one against the other - and in this struggle, as in all struggles, the identity of the victory is never certain. The belief that there is a eristic relationship between beings and Be-ing, that objective representations (Vorstellungen) have turned against Be-ing, a belief Benjamin drew from the German Romantics, is a part of legacy that Benjamin bequeathed to Raoul Vaneigem, Guy Debord, and, Jean Baudrillard, each of whom develop that heritage in a characteristic fashion.

         Benjamin proclaimed film to the paradigmatic medium of the world of objective representations. But if the division between Be-ing and beings has turned the realm of Vorstellungen against  Be-ing, than that oppositional dynamic must be evident in film, the paradigmatic medium of objective representation. Benjamin reasoned exactly so. He stated

One can characterize the problem of the form of the new art straight on: When and how will the worlds of form which, without our assistance, have arisen, for example, in mechanics, in film, in the new physics, and which have subjugated us, makes it clear for us what manner of nature they contain? When will we reach a state of society in which these forms, or those arising from them, reveal themselves to us a natural forms? Of course, this brings to light only one moment in the dialectical essence of technology. (Which moment, is hard to say: antithesis if not synthesis.) In any case, there lives in technology another impulse as well: to bring about objectives strange to nature, along with means that are alien and inimical to nature - measures that emancipate themselves from nature and master it.[xlv][45] [The Arcades Project, K3a,2]

The remark, of course, reflects the views of his colleague, Max Horkheimer, on technology; it is also reminiscent of George Lukács ideas about reification.[xlvi][46] It was, one must assume, an element of the Zeitgeist. This fragment of the Zeitgeist proved to be an augur of the future, for, in coupling the idea that consciousness (ideology) is a dream released from the belly of reality with the notion that to which nature has given rise will "emancipate themselves from nature and master it", Benjamin lays the groundwork for the thought of Raoul Vaneigem and Guy Debord.

         Another association went into the making of the legacy that Benjamin bequeathed to Baudrillard. Benjamin's idea that consciousness (ideology) is a dream released from the belly of reality led him into seeing all artifacts, all built reality, all human transformations of nature, as projections of dreams.[xlvii][47] Fashion, advertising, building and politics are all outcomes of dream vision. [The Arcades Project, K1, 4] The historian, Benjamin proposed, must become practiced in the analysis of dreams.

         Another idea that formed part of Benjamin's legacy to social theory of erosion was that of the dialectical image. Benjamin's expositions of his conception of the dialectical image closely parallel Lukács' ideas on reification. How closely can be discerned from the following passage:

Corresponding to the form of the new means of production, which in the beginning is still ruled by the form of the old (Marx), are images in the collective consciousness in which the old and the new interpenetrate. These images are wish images; in them the collective seeks both to overcome and to transfigure the immaturity of the social product and the inadequacies in the social organization of production. At the same time, what emerges in these wish images is the resolute effort to distance oneself from all that is antiquated - which includes, however, the recent past. These tendencies deflect the imagination (which is given impetus by the new) back upon the primal past. In the dream in which each epoch entertains images of its successor, the later appears wedded to elements of primal history - that is, to elements of a classless society. And the experiences of such a society - as stored in the unconscious of the collective - engender, through interpenetration with what is new, the utopia that has left its trace in a thousand configurations of life, from enduring edifices to passing fashions.[xlviii][48]

The reified relations between commodities in Lukács, the delusory world of the chthonic in Benjamin - both are ghostly doublings of the actual world of objects that end by attacking what they were first set over against. More striking is that in both Benjamin's and Lukács' writing we can discern a similar eristic model to that which Fichte, Schelling and Hegel's philosophy presuppose, on which the relation of separate dimensions of reality must be one of strife.

         What is different in Benjamin, of course, in the emphasis of the delirious character of the reified representation of social relations. Contemporary reality, Benjamin argued, has a paradoxical constitution - contemporary be-ing combines, intimacy and distance, proximity and distance, in a fused attribute. That strange, and ontologically destabilizing, notion of the essential togetherness of proximity in contemporary reality has more far reaching implications. Benjamin was required to accord that sort of reality value to his dialectical images, to be sure, for in order to combine past and future, then they can't have the reality value of something that exists as a singular being with definite and unique spatial-temporal co-ordinates. That is, the same pressure that led quantum physicists to ontological quandaries over the quark that finally brought physicists to argue that quantum entities cannot be objects in the sense that we commonly mean by "object" required Benjamin to adopt the position that the mirror world of production must have something of an ideal character - that is to say, they must be in some degree unreal, even though, to add paradox to paradox, they exert effects on material reality, producing everything from enduring edifices to passing fashion trends.[xlix][49]

         But the issue is more general: It is not only the dialectic between the past and the present, or between the near and the far that wreaks havoc for the materialist ontology - it is more generally the dialectic itself - the dialectic set in motion by the division of Being. For the dialectic assigns to objects paradoxical qualities, and the logic of material reality proscribes an object from possessing simultaneously, incompatible properties. Thus Benjamin:

It is the unique provision of Baudelaire's poetry that the image of the woman and the image of death intermingle in a third: that of Paris. The Paris of poems is a sunken city, and more submarine than subterranean. The chthonic elements of the city - its topological formations, the old abandoned bed of the Seine - have evidently found in him a mold. Decisive for Baudelaire in the "death-fraught idyll" of the city, however, is a social, a modern substrate. The modern is a principal accent of his poetry. As spleen, it fractures the ideal ("Spleen et idéal"). But precisely the modern, modernité, is always citing primal history. Here, this occurs through the ambiguity peculiar to the social relations and products of this epoch. Ambiguity is the manifest imaging of the dialectic, the law of dialects at a standstill. The standstill is utopia and the dialectical image, therefore a dream image. Such an image is afforded by the commodity per se: as fetish. Such an image is presented by the arcades, which are house no less than street. Such an image is the prostitute - seller and sold in one.[l][50]

Opposition - between self and other (nature), between male and female, between past and present,  between life and death - the dialectical terms of Hegel's philosophy: these, for Benjamin, give evidence of ideality. After all, had not that been the conclusion of those who had thought most deeply the coincidental oppositorum? Since objective beings give evidence that they harbour such oppositions - such duality - does not that entail that they are, at least in some measure, unreal.[li][51]

         Thus we discover whence exactly the idea that reality has dissolved into the phantasmagoria of the dream world has arisen. It has arisen from the curious conclusion regarding the status that must be accorded to what is Other for Being-in-itself - the inference that what is Other than Being-in-itself must Other-than-Be-ing.[lii][52] This was the belief that lead thinkers to see reality dissolving into phantasms.

         Benjamin's identification of what is Other for Be-ing with what is Other-than-be-ing was a fateful legacy. The late Situationist Raoul Vaneigem , in his book The Revolution of Everyday Life, makes explicit that the division of being is the condition that is responsible for the sense that reality has vaporized into the unreality of the spectacle.

Our efforts, our boredom, our defeats, the absurdity of our actions - all stem most of the time from the imperious necessity in our present situation of playing hybrid parts, parts which appear to answer our desires, but which are really antagonistic to them. "We would live," says Pascal, "according to the ideas of others; we would live an imaginary life, and to this end we cultivate appearances. Yet in striving to beautify and preserve this imaginary being we neglect everything authentic." This was an original thought in the seventeenth century; at a time when the system of appearances was still hale, its coming crisis was apprehended only in the inhibitive flashes of the most lucid. Today, amidst the decomposition of all values, Pascal's observation states only what is obvious to everyone. By what magic do we attribute the liveliness of human passions to lifeless forms? Why do we succumb to the seduction of borrowed attitudes? What are roles?[liii][53]         

Projected desires are reified, and in the end come to control us. Their effectivity is real, but their status as projections ensures that they present themselves as having a phantasmal character. The structure of the process Vaneigem described is similar to that which Herder, Schelling and Hegel all discussed: it began with consigning objects to a lowly status and ended with depicting the discredited realm as one of dire forces that extract the tribute of sacrifice.

         What pressures impelled the progression from the view that the realm of objects has a low-grade status to the view that it harbours dire forces? Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling's deliberations on Be-ing produced a fateful conclusion: whatever Be-ing engenders is inevitably dual: "In short: Every organization is an organization only insofar as it is turned simultaneously towards two worlds. Every organization is a Dyas."[liv][54] The notion of self-identity is key to concept of objecthood, and the Romantics put that the singularity - the self-identity - of objects into question. Because the concept of self-identity is crucial to the notion that the be-ing of beings has an ultimate ontological justification, so the rejection of the concept of identity leads to convictions of the unreality of natural objects. Thus, in the introduction to the System of Transcendental Philosophy, Schelling asserted

If all knowing has, as it were, two poles, which mutually presuppose and demand one another, they must seek each other in all the sciences; . . .

That is, proposes that the division in Be-ing leaves the divided parts in an unstable relationship. The inner being of each depends upon its relations to something other than itself. This leaves each part vulnerable, for the other can, and does, decide its fate. An eristic relation between the two parts inevitably results.

         Schelling continued:

hence there must necessarily be two basic sciences, and it must be impossible to set out from the one pole without being driven toward the other. The necessary tendency of all natural science is thus to move from nature to intelligence. This and nothing else is at the bottom of the urge to bring theory into the phenomena of nature.- The highest consummation of natural science would be the complete spiritualising of all natural laws into laws of intuition and thought. The phenomena (the matter) must wholly disappear, and only the laws (the form) remain. Hence it is, that the more lawfulness emerges in nature itself, the more the husk disappears, the phenomena themselves become more mental, and at length vanish entirely. The phenomena of optics are nothing but a geometry whose lines are drawn by light, and this light itself is already of doubtful materiality. In the phenomena of magnetism all material traces are already disappearing, and in those of gravitation, which even scientists have thought it possible to conceive of merely as an immediate spiritual influence, nothing remains but its law, whose large scale execution is the mechanism of the heavenly motions. - The completed theory of nature would be that whereby the whole of nature was resolved into an intelligence. -  The dead and unconscious products of nature are merely abortive attempts that she makes to reflect herself; inanimate nature so-called is actually as such an immature intelligence, so that in her phenomena the still unwitting character of intelligence is already peeping through. - Nature's highest goal, to become wholly an object to herself, is achieved only through the last and highest order of reflection, which is none other than man; or, more generally, it is what we call reason, whereby nature first completely returns into herself, and by which it becomes apparent that nature is identical from the first with what we recognize in ourselves as the intelligent and the conscious.

This may be sufficient to show that natural science has a necessary tendency to render nature intelligent; through this very tendency it becomes nature-philosophy, which is one of the necessary basic sciences of philosophy.[lv][55]

Light, the subject of the science of optics, the most advanced science of Schelling's time, is of doubtful materiality - something almost ideal. The completed theory of nature would be that whereby the whole of nature is resolved into mind. Inanimate nature is just immature intelligence.  Nothing is concrete. All material traces are vanishing - the passage states the theory of erosion.

         To be sure, in this section of the introduction, Schelling was merely drawing out the implications proposing that spirit and nature are disjoined, and spirit has the higher reality, a position he always rejected.[lvi][56] Still, the extreme cogency with which he could put forward the description of those consequences suggests that Schelling was keenly aware that his only own thinking was prone to run towards accepting those claims, and that that is why he went to the extremes he did to develop his philosophy of identity. In his Freiheitschrift he opined that the highest point in his whole inquiry is that there must be a Be-ing prior to any duality whatsoever. Throughout his philosophy, he insisted on the Spinozistic idea of  the identity of nature and consciousness. The insistence is an expression of his fear that nature was coming forth as unreal.

         The loss of identity that so concerned Schelling is at the core of Benjamin's commentary on the auratic quality of artworks. Even the very title of Benjamin's famous article, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility" suggests Benjamin's fundamental concerning with the self-identity of objects; but the following passages make the proposition  explicit.

To bring things spatially and humanly "closer" is a no less passionate inclination of today's masses than is their tendency to overcome the uniqueness of every given [event] through the reception of its reproduction. Every day the need grows stronger to get hold of an object as closely as possible in the image, that is, in the likeness, in the reproduction. And unmistakably the reproduction, as offered by illustrated magazines and newsreels, distinguishes itself from the image. Uniqueness and duration are as closely linked in the latter as are the transitoriness and repeatability in the former. The prying of an object from its shell, the destruction of its aura, is the signature of a perception whose "sense of the sameness in the world" has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from the unique by means of reproduction.[lvii][57]

Or, again:

One might subsume the eliminated element in the term 'aura' and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. In making reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind."[lviii][58]

Note the language:  "shattering of tradition" and "the obverse of the . . . renewal of mankind." It is evident that for Benjamin, the destruction of the auratic network marked the artwork for death - or, at least, for the termination of its objective being. As it was for Schelling, so it was for Benjamin: reproducibility, the splitting of identity into duality (indeed even into multiplicity), brings the curse of death on objects.

         Another aspect of Schelling's later philosophy anticipated ideas that later philosophers, including Benjamin and Baudrillard, would adopt. Schelling's dispute with his former disciple, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is the stuff of legends; and differences between the two are often described as reflecting the differences between Hegel's more philosophically rigorous spirit and Schelling's comparative philosophical wooliness and his frequent changes of mind. That assessment is hardly accurate. The real basis for the difference is that Schelling emphasized the finite facticity of absolute reason. Schelling rejected the Hegelian principle that identifies of the rational and the real, and even went so far as to argue that reality cannot be derived from reason. Unmoored from any connection to the Absolute (either the transcendent divine of Judaeo-Christian or the unmoved mover of classical thought), reality appeared to be a domain of chaos, lack of order, impulse and desire.

         There are, then, unreasoning or irrational powers inherent in the constitution of reality, which Schelling referred to as  "the dark will." His concept of the transience (Vergänglichkeit, "fleetingness," perhaps "precariousness") of all things is key here, for his later philosophy depicts that precariousness as ontologically intimate with evil and with the absurd; Schelling recognized, in the end, that darkness is too deeply infused in the order of reality to be considered as mere appearance or privation. Evil possesses real, positive force. We have already seen that Schelling characterized the transition from infinitude to finitude as an "Abfall" ("a fall") and an even as an "Urzufall" ("a primal accident.); we also have seen that there is no logical necessity that would compell one to conclude that finitude is privation, as Schelling had. Only by evoking the idea existence as having a dual character, some notion of existence as divided between spirit and matter, essentially between be-ing and nonbe-ing, can one account for the structure of Schelling's system. Thus, the real determinants are theological: there is to be sure, a heterodox, indeed, Gnostic provenance for the metaphysics of  Hegel and Schelling.[lix][59] The objects of nature have a material component, and matter resists all that is dynamic, all that strives for freedom. Matter is the source of privation; matter separates spirit from the origin.

         Schelling, furthermore, explicitly likened the transition from identity to difference in God to the process of becoming conscious. In doing so, he developed a conception of double existence that was to influence, inter alia, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger (especially his ideas about ontological difference), Walter Benjamin, Georg Lukács, Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard.

If we now become conscious of ourselves - if light and darkness are separate in us [note the Gnostic lexis] - then we do not go out of ourselves; the two principles remain in us as their unity. We lose nothing of our essence, but instead just possess ourselves now in a double form, namely once in unity, the other time in division. So with God.[lx][60]

As the citation suggests, Schelling strived mightily to create a strictly monistic system. Nevertheless, the consequences of his belief that "the origin of the world of the senses can only be thought as a complete breaking off from absoluteness, by a leap" continue to unfold throughout Schelling's philosophy. Indeed one could argue that the originary absolute in Schelling's metaphysics was precisely a striving towards duality. Evidence of the tendency towards dualism can be found in the widening of the gulf separating the differentiated world from the realm of identity as Schelling's system evolved. Here is one of Schelling's more extreme statements on the matter:

To the extent that this conduit [between the individual consciousness and the original identity] is broken, sickness is present. . . . Therefore (1) if the conduit is broken by mood [Gefühl] then an emotional sickness arises. (2) If the conduit is broken by intellect, stupidity.. . . (3) If the conduit is broken both by mood and by intellect, then the consequence is the most dire, namely madness. Really, I should have said "it arises," but "it  emerges" . . . [for] the deepest level of human spirit . . . when it is regarded in isolation from the soul and therefore from God, is madness.[lxi][61]

Division, even as it brings forth the world of objects, unleashes baneful forces. Nature, accordingly, is a realm permeated by dire operations that demand sacrifice. Death, non-being, unreality, is the ultimate issue of division. "Through death, the physical (to the extent that it is real) and the spiritual are made one. Unblessedness consists in the soul's inability to act as subject because of the rebellion of the spirit, which results in the separation of the soul from God."[lxii][62] Total unreality - the unreality of that which has passed away - will be the end of division, of fragmentation, of corruption. This is heritage of Schelling's of philosophy, the legacy which spawned Baudrillard's ideas about the precession of the simulacra, where non-being's triumph over being will cast out all the dire forces that result from the divide that separates beings from Be-ing - the groundless be-ing of beings, be-ing akin to non-be-ing, will absorb Be-ing itself.

         Schelling also expresses the Gnostic sentiment that human being, as spiritual reality, abides here on earth in an alien realm.

Something intermediate arises in mortals, namely a visible drama, because this presents his spiritual creations simultaneously in reality. So the story is best regarded as a tragedy acted out on the stage of the world's sorrows, to which they merely offer the planks, while the subjects of the drama, that is, the leading characters on the planks, are from a completely different world.[lxiii][63]

In Schelling's system, as so often in the Western ontotheological tradition, the division between Be-ing and beings led to conception that the Absolute, no matter how near, is utterly beyond language and sensation. The idea that the Absolute is beyond the limits of language and sensation has often led thinkers to accept a spurious and logically invalid, but nonetheless emotionally forceful, chain of inferences: If Be-ing is so different from the be-ing of beings, if it is beyond sensation, indeed beyond all knowing, if it dwells in darkness, it must be, to all intents and purposes, nothing. As Nietzsche's philosophy makes clear, the conviction that the absolute Be-ing is really Nothing (the idea that God is dead) has been responsible for the conclusion that beings themselves are unreal. Thus, the disconnection of beings from Be-ing, the ideas that beings do not make manifest the charity of Be-ing (which disconnection from Be-ing renders wholly unknowable) results in the conviction that Be-ing is Nothingness, and belief in the Nothingness of Be-ing undermines trust in the reality of beings. Thus the idea of the disconnection of beings from Be-ing, the idea that existence is bifurcated and that beings inhabit a realm cut off from Be-ing results in the slaying of Be-ing by beings - through which act through which they themselves come into the unreality of death. And everywhere that these ideas were adopted, they continued, unknowingly, to steer thinkers toward the view that objective representations are illusory.

         What the Romantics bequeathed us, finally, was a metaphysical structure the conceptual basis that has its conceptual basis in Gnosticism. This provenance of this structure soon was forgotten, but the structure itself continued to shape metaphysical thinking for the next hundred years and more. It is a key aspect of Benjamin's writing. Near the end of The Origin of the German Tragic Drama, Benjamin decries the spiritualizing, redemptionist tropes that conclude so many of the dramas of the German Barock era, that sweep away the objectivity of the real world; in doing so, Benjamin alleged, they lose everything that was most their own.

"Mit Weinen streuten wir den Samen in die Brachen / und giegen trauig aus" Allegory goes away empty handed. Evil as such, which is cherished as enduring profundity, exists only in allegory, is nothing other than allegory . . . The absolute vices, as exemplified by tyrants and intriguers, are allegories. They are not real, and that which they represent, they possess only in the subjective view of melancholy; they are this view, which is destroyed by its own offspring because they only signify its blindness. They point to the absolutely subjective pensiveness to which they own their existence. By its allegorical form, evil as such reveals itself to be a subjective phenomenon. The enormous, anti-artistic subjectivity of the baroque converges here with the theological essence of the subjective.

Benjamin then went on to acknowledges that the proposition that evil has objective reality contradicts a central principle of the First Covenant:

The Bible introduces evil in the concept of knowledge. The serpent's promise to the first men was to make them "knowing both good and evil." But it is said of God after the creation: "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold it was very good." Knowledge of evil therefore has no object. There is no evil in the world. It arises in man himself, with the desire for knowledge, or rather for judgment. Knowledge of good, as knowledge, is secondary. It ensues from practice. Knowledge of evil - as knowledge this is primary. It ensues from contemplation. Knowledge of good and evil is, then, the opposite of all factual knowledge. Related as it is to the depths of the subjective, it is basically only knowledge of evil. It is 'nonsense' in the profound sense in which Kierkegaard conceived the word. This knowledge, the triumph of subjectivity and the onset of an arbitrary rule over things, is the origin of all allegorical contemplation.[lxiv][64]

         In the form in which the German Romantics bequeathed it to us, the fateful structure has the following character. Being comes from a primal absolute whose nature is dynamism, movement, energy, productivity. That Absolute Be-ing divides and that division sets one aspect of Be-ing against the the other. The reason that division sets the divided parts against one another is that, in being divided, each part relinquishes (at least in some measure) its relation to the Absolute, so each becomes the Other for the other - in emerging as divided being, the inner nature of each distinguished part becomes dependent on its relation to something beyond itself, and this dependence on the other renders each vulnerable. A relationship of mutual dependency develops between the elements that issue from the Absolute, and that mutual dependency leads them to turn both against one one another and against the source of their be-ing In the Hegelian version of this narrative, as an example, nature is first set over against the Absolute-in-itself, as the Absolute divides itself into the an sich and the für sich. Then the für sich turns against the an sich, intrudes into its inner recesses, and operates it as though by remote control. The fateful structure arises within the dynamic that is set in motion as the Absolute becomes divided.

         The way of understanding the erosion of reality became fundamental to twentieth-century French thought: it is the core of Kojčve's reading of the Master-Slave section of Hegel's Die Phänomenologie des Geistes, the enormous influence of which on post-war French philosophy has been well noted.[lxv][65] It also provided the ground work for Jean-Paul Sartre ideas about division between the en-soi and the pour-soi and about "the situation" as "facticity," i.e., the given.[lxvi][66] Lukács wrote of the same dynamic when, attempting to renew Marxist after the events of 1956 had exposed the bankruptcy of Soviet style "Marxism," he turned to Marx' Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and mined from them the ideas of objectification and alienation. Thus, in "Dialectical Materialism" Lukács described how, through revolutionary praxis, the alienated person could overcome self-fragmentation and emerge as the "total person," reconciled with the self and with the totality of Nature and human being.[lxvii][67]      Lukács also developed  a concept of the proletariat as fused "subject-object" - as both the agent and the object of history; this concept is reminiscent of Schelling's exposition of the Absolute as the productivity of the  fused "subject-object." In arguing for a purely proletarian revolution, Lukács asserted that proletariat would become the universal subject of history; it would be seen as "the identical subject-object of the real history of mankind."

         For his part, Benjamin derived his ideas about the relative unreality of particulars in part from his studies of the Kabala's emantionist metaphysics - though, of course, he worked out his analysis of phantasmagoria by deliberating on the modern experience of urban life. His efforts to decipher of modern urban experience led him to consider the modern metropolis as the site of misrecognition and external compulsion, as demanding constant submission to technological realities; the parade of novelties, exhibitions, monuments, and commodities that constituted the modern experience of urban life was nothing less than phantasmagoric. Only the experience of shock, like that awakens the dream drom dream, could call us out of that phantasmagoria.

         Out of his deliberations on modern urban experience (and especially of the unpredictable accolation of particulars that is one's everyday experience of the metropolis), Benjamin evolved his notion of the constellation. That evolution, however, was foreshadowed in his idea of allegory, an idea he discussed in his early, important text, The Origins of German Tragic Drama. That work used the concept of allegory to provide a structure for understanding the lability of signification and  a context for deliberating on ways that the shapelessness of materials can take on an eternally mutable shape. Allegory, Benjamin pointed out, affords the possibility of endless substitution of disparate particulars; Benjamin provided a metaphysical explanation of the conditions that made possible this substitutability, an explanation that relies on that sense of the connectedness of beings whicht grounds Benjamin's entire philosophy: that things and occurrences stand next to one another is not without significance, for beings refer to one another. Benjamin recognized, surely, that that conviction has scholastic roots and was traditionally used to explain the manner in which material reality is linked to a supersensible, spiritual reality. This is the background of Benjamin's conviction that allegory is capable of providing every individual detail with symbolic properties. And the concept of allegory helped found Benjamin's ideas about language, and governed his analysis of the manner in which language presents beings while transforming their meaning. It provided the basis for understanding how novelty continually arises from the permutations of a fixed set of terms, and how new being arises from novel juxtapositions of particulars. The explanation would prove influential.

         Benjamin connected the phantasmagoric to death, just as the German Romantic philosophers associated division, opposition, and unreality with death. Benjamin's also associated these terms in his many references to ghosts, to the phenomenon of haunting and to his description of the self coming forth as another in photography.[lxviii][68]   Yet, Benjamin also pointed out in the Origin of German Tragic Drama, that be-ing is the force to imprint, and that recognition raises for him the troubling possibility that there is no self that is not exhibited. However, to exhibit the self always entails a loss, for every presentation of the self is an alienation, a determination, a restriction, a partial view (constructed to be theorized). This is the tragedy of the self's relation to the other. One can discern that association as well in Benjamin's insistence that the past constitutes the transcendental conditions for what occurs in the here and now. For, by averring that the past is alive in the present, Benjamin offered an image of the realm of contingency as a domain in which life and death are one - an image of a domain of lifedeath similar to that which Schelling's philosophy offers.

         We may well ask what phenomenological conditions led to the sense that reality had been eroded, that it had dissolved into the phantasmagoric. We have seen that German Romantic thought was struck with the fact that in the dialectic between the subject and the object, the inner being of each term is defined by its relation to the other; another way to consider this dialectical relation is to say that what is most near also belongs to - or, by extension, can be identified with - what is beyond. This identification was often made the central issue of the dialectic (as it often is the writings of Walter Benjamin and that Hegelian psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan), and when it was, the relation between the two terms was seen a relation that develops through the self's coming forth as an other. Benjamin was an heir to this idea, and so Benjamin developed similar ideas about the imbrication of proximity and distance.

         The topic of proximity became a principal issue of Benjamin's thought, and he dealt with many of its aspects. Benjamin's friends and colleagues, Berthold Brecht and Theodor Adorno, warned against the collapse of the distance between a spectator and the spectacle. Adorno pointed that the technological will to mastery plays a role in the process that collapses the distance between the spectator and spectacle. His example of the dangers of collapsing that distance was the Wagnerian idea of the Gesammtkunstwerk: Wagner, Adorno argued, used rational means to formulate effects that induce a delirious phantasmagoric state in the listener/viewer. The Gesammtkunstwerk submerges the listener/viewer in an ocean of sounds and images. Adorno denounced this effect in terms familiar from Schelling's ruminations on the phantasmagoria of particulars, for he depicted the power of the Gesammtkunstwerk as a dire force, as the dangerous other side of technological wonder, an "intoxication of technology." Technology thus becomes the enemy of consciousness. Enthusiasm for technology can be seen as product of a Faustian pact with the devil, just as Spengler had suggested.

         The distance that formerly had precluded the intoxicating effects of immersion in the phantasmagoria spanned two dimensions, one psychical and one physical. Benjamin recognized that photography and film had destroyed that distance, for the camera operator, whom Benjamin comparee to a surgeon who "penetrates deeply into its [reality's] web," zooms in so as to "pry an object from its shell." Several early film theorists, including Benjamin's colleague, Siegfried Kracauer, celebrated the ability of the camera to penetrate reality. Dziga Vertov's film, A Man with the Movie Camera, similarly celebrates the camera's capacity to penetrate reality - the film extols the camera's superiority over human vision, which results from ability to go anywhere to obtain a close-up of any object. But Benjamin did not concur - at least not wholly - with the Kracauer and Vertov in celebrating the camera's capacity to bring what is distant exceedingly close. To the contrary, he decried the potentially deleterious consequences: close-ups, he explained, satisfy the desires of the masses "to bring things 'closer' spatially and humanly," "to get hold of an object at very close range."

         The use of a close-up causes us to disregard scale and emplacement - that is, to ignore the actual physical situation to which events and objects belong and which are a part of an object's unique being.[lxix][69]         Throughout his commentary on emplacement, Foucault stressed that the system of oppositions that structured the space of emplacement constitutes a horizon of meaning for the objects that space contained. Foucault even pointed out that in the medieval period assigned anything -  an object, event, or idea - that appears out of place in an "artificial" location in order to secure its place in the medieval world and imaginary. Thus, even incongruous events are accorded a place in a system of that makes them comprehensible. I, too, am using the term to suggest the horizon of meaning which results from the place that the object occupies within a system of objects and meanings. Hence, the use of a close-up results in our discarding the unique and meaningful situation to which events and objects belong. As photographs of various events and various objects were brought together in a single picture magazine or a film newsreel, the significant differences between them, resulting from the different situations (emplacement), are levelled. Thus Benjamin concludes that the forms which comply with the demands of mass democracy engender an impression "the universal equality of things."

         The destruction of distance evokes an almost paradoxical feeling feeling that combines remoteness and detachment. That feeling is the result of the anaesthetizing effects of immersion in the phantasmagoria. The image-world so positions us that we do not feel ourselves to be agents. Rather the image-flow determines our affects, and nothing we can do can alter the course of that inevitable flow. Because we cannot change it, or the phenomena it comprises, they seem remote, even though, in fact, they have never been so near.

         This sensation which evokes a combination of proximity and distance is a characteristic sensation of the era of modernity. Heidegger too commented on the paradoxical combination of nearness and remoteness in his 1947 essay, "Das Ding" ("The Thing").

Man puts the largest expanses behind him in the shortest time. He puts the greatest distances behind himself and thereby brings everything before them at the shortest range. Yet the rushed abolition of all remoteness brings no closeness; for closeness does not consist in the reduction of distance. What is least removed from us in terms of expanse, through the image in film or though sound in radio, can still remain remote. What in terms of expanse is unimaginably far removed, can be very close to us. Reduced distance is not in itself closeness. Nor is great distance remoteness.[lxx][70]

This peculiar amalgam of distance and closeness so characteristic of photography marks the destruction of the familiar spatial coordinates. Thus, just as the speed of modern life irretrievably altered our perception of time, the invention of the photographic close-up destroyed our familiar conception of space. It brought objects close, thus obliterating space; at the same time by subjugating us to them, it elevated them to the remote domain of the beyond. This dialectic of proximity and distance has structural similarity with that relation which is a principal topic of German Romantic thought, the relation between self and other in which the inner being of each depends on its outward relation to the other - the self corresponds to proximity, the other corresponds to distance.[lxxi][71] A similar amalgam of remoteness and intimacy was the defining feature of aura for Benjamin, which at one point he defines as the "singular phenomenon of a distance however close it may be."[lxxii][72]

         Benjamin exerted a considerable influenced on Jean Baudrillard - indeed among all the descendants of German Romanticism that shaped Baudrillard's thought (among whom, of course, Friedrich Nietzsche figures prominently), it is Walter Benjamin who exerted the greatest influence. Baudrillard's ideas on hyperreality work out the implications of Benjamin's ideas on reproducibility, but omitted any sense of the ontological justification for the be-ing of beings. Benjamin's famous article, "The Work of Art in an Era of Technical Reproducibility" had analyzed the ontological consequences of the technological development that made it possible to reproduce everything mechanically. Objects lost their uniqueness, and one of the consequences of this loss of uniqueness was the elimination of the aura. Reproduction - doubling - troubled Benjamin's famous essay - evidence of this is to be seen in his remarks on ghosts and the phenomenon of haunting, on the dopplegänger, the self's coming to be for as the other (which is a theme of his writings on photographic portraiture) etc., remarks that, to be sure, relate to his ideas on the phantasmagoria. A companion concept, reproducibility, troubles Baudrillard's writings on art, and issues in his melancholy ideas on hyperreality.

         The destruction of the physical and psychical distance between the subject and the object of perception is a problematic central to Paul Virilio's writing. Virilio alleges that telecommunication that eradicates temporal extension from the transmission of messages and images and that interactive computer technologies decenter urban or lived space; these transformations of space constitute a threat as they dissolve previous configurations of experience and render space virtual. Space and time takes on new modalities as previous configurations of space and time are replaced by light-time (i.e. the time of the speed of light) and a new 'lumiocentrism' (5 f. and 14 f.), in which the instantaneous flow of information breaks up all  previous configurations of time and space.[lxxiii][73] Lumiocentrism requires new concepts to describe the processes of the emergent worlds of technological experience.

         While both natural perception and painting had maintained a distance from the represented object, Virilio suggests, the new technologies of mass reproduction do not. The effects of that destruction have become especially evident in the electronic media of telepresence. By collapsing physical distances, the technologies of mass reproducibility uproot those familiar patterns of perception which were the groundwork of our culture and politics. Virilio encapsulates the differences between the two perceptual / political regimes in his contrast between "Small Optics" and "Big Optics." Small Optics is the optics of human vision, painting and film; Big Optics is the optics of the era of real-time electronic transmission of information, "the active optics of time passing at the speed of light." The key science for Small Optics was the science of geometric optics (now by and large subsumed in the science of affine transformations); the key science for Big Optics is kinematics. The shift from Small Optics to Big Optics results from a change in nature of space. Distance, and so space, relates to the minimal time it takes for an object to traverse a given span. In the era of Small Optics the most significant bodies were actual physical bodies, so the crucial traversal times were those of real objects, but in the era of Big Optics, the most significant objects are units of information, so the crucial traversal times are those of data objects. Accordingly, in the era of Big Optics, distances, and space, have shrunk. While Small Optics involved distinctions between near and far, between an object and a horizon against which the object is set, Big Optics has erased those distinctions, since information from any point can be transmitted with the same speed.

         Virilio argues that developments in science and technology have obliterated both modern and common sense views of the world, produced new objects and created a new form of space that cannot be explained by modernity's conceptual schemes. Explorations in the 'physics of the infinitesimally small' and the cosmological speculations on outer space have created novelties and puzzles that brought the facts of perception and the realm of experience into question, even while they have discovered/made reference to novel, unperceived, and imperceptible entities, which confound common sense and the scientific schemes of modernity. Furthermore,  new technologies are producing both new objects (i.e. cyberspace, virtual reality, etc.) and new modes of perception and representation (i.e. fractal geometry, chaos and complexity theory, computer_generated representations of external and internal realities, etc.) that themselves require new modes of thought and cognition.

         These transformations of perceptual and representational modalities began with the development of microscopes and telescopes, were given added impetus by the invention of  cinematography that captured motion and phenomena not visible to the naked eye, and have been further stimulated by the technologies of virtuality. Virilio mourns the loss of the object of ocular perception that occurred as a result of the technological changes. He decries the displacement of the dimension of direct observation and common sense effected by the emergence of technological vision and representation, and laments thus the loss of the materiality and concreteness of the objects of perception, constituting the realm of appearance and lived experience. In sum, Virilio mourns the loss of the phenomenological dimension that privileged lived experience. Virilio was much influenced by phenomenology, and he roots his thought in concrete experience of objects, people, and processes in the observed and experienced worlds of everyday life and the natural and social worlds. For him, the new technological worlds break with  with ordinary experience and, in doing so, shift the locus of truth, meaning, and validity to an abstract and enigmatic virtual realm.

         Compared with Benjamin's ideas on photography, Virilio's ideas about Big Optics propound a more radical analysis of the new technologies' powers to destroy the crucial sense of emplacement. While Benjamin had analyzed how photography and film uprooted every object from its original setting, Virilio inquires into the manner in which post-industrial technologies have eliminated the dimension of space, as every point on Earth now is instantly accessible from any other point on Earth. The historical period that separates Benjamin from Virilio is characterized by a progressive diminution both of the groundedness of human being and the horizon of transcendence: In 1936, Benjamin included amongst what is natural for human perception only natural scenes and paintings, and argued that photography and film, because they had destroyed psychic distance by making it possible to bring everything equally close, had eroded the aura that once surrounded images; half a century later, Virilio charted an even more pernicious transformation in the technologies of vision. If photography and film represented, for Benjamin, an alien imposition on human vision, Virilio sees the film image as essentially continuous with our natural sight, since it is based on geometric optics. In his view, the historical break between film and telecommunication, between the Small Optics of painting, photography and film and the Big Optics of telecommunications and the electronic media, is more complete, and has more far-reaching effects, than that marked by the transformation of distance with the advent of photographic and cinematographic technologies which allowed the production of close-ups.

         The half century between Benjamin and Virilio's times also saw an increasing eradication of the traditional sense of physical space and matter. Through this, mobile signs - maps, we might call them -  acceded to priority over the actual objects and relations: as Benjamin (and Marx) foretold, capitalism volatized and rendered labile that all that is solid, all that is grounded. For capitalism strives to clear away whatever might impede circulation - and whatever is truly singular (including objects surrounded by an aura) is not really available for exchange. Electronic communications exaggerate these effects of capitalism, effects that Charles Baudelaire had described in the middle of the nineteenth century. In Le peintre de la vie moderne, he noted that "the daily metamorphosis of exterior things . . . demands from the artist an equal velocity of execution."[lxxiv][74] Thus, electronic communication makes instantaneous the process by which objects are turned into signs. Furthermore, in contrast to photography, whose products remain fixed once they are printed, digital representation makes every image inherently mutable and forever modifiable. Because it can in effect transport the viewer to any location that can be represented on the electronic screen, and because it allows one to alter in real time the material reality that one sees via "tele-vision," telepresence volatizes physical objects themselves, by eradicating the space of action.

         However, action-at-distance, and action through tele-vision, defies traditional ontology's conception of identity - inasmuch as such action-at-a distance seemingly demands that the object be both proximate and distant, both "here" and "there." Thus tele-action upsets our assumption about the nature of event, specifically our assumption that an event must occupy a restricted patch of spacetime. Telemedia exacerbate the effects of capitalist economics, by contributing to the forces that elevates the sign over the object since it allows for the manipulation of objects through these signs.

         All in all, the electronic media have expanded the effect of photograph that Benjamin had observed, that of destroying the sense of objects' emplacement. This destruction of environing space has deleterious consequences. We have been locked up in a flattened out world, for objects have become bereft of a horizon that might endow objects with a depth, with a richness of meaning. The Earth has become a prison: witness "the progressive derealization of the terrestrial horizon, . . . resulting in an impending primacy of real time  perspective of undulatory optics over real space of the linear geometrical optics of the Quattrocento." Virilio states.

         Virilio also laments the destruction of distance and the vastness of natural space which guaranteed a delay between events and our reactions, a delay that gives us time for reflection. The advent, first, of film, then of telecommunication, and finally of telepresence mark the progressive diminution  -  and, in the end, the complete elimination  -  of one of fundamental conditions of human perception, viz, the distance between the subject who is seeing and the object being seen. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hélčne Cixous and Luce Irigaray represent a recent tendency that has denigrated the role of psychical distance, arguing that distance becomes responsible for creating the gap between the spectator and spectacle - a gap that separates subject from object, that raises the subject above the object and installs the subject in the position of mastery. Against all that led to the contemporary celebration of touch as involving a chiasmatic relation between the toucher and the touched, Benjamin (though with significantly more reservations) and Virilio extol the salutary effects of distance.[lxxv][75]But notice, too, that utensils exhibit that strange amalgam of proximity and distance that is one of Benjamin's favorite themes. For Benjamin and Virilio, distance preserves the aura of an object, its position in the world, while the capacity to bring all things close utterly destroys the material order by  rendering our notions about space meaningless.[lxxvi][76]

         Virilio is, famously, a theorist of speed, and his notions about speed relate to his ideas about Big Optics. Speed, like Big Optics, has threatened our sense of reality. For it is clear to Virilio that a certain measure of slowness or deliberation, as well as a certain quantum of distance are necessary for us to sense the coherence of real. That sense of deliberation, and its correlative, a sense of (extended) duration has salutary effects in the overcoming the feeling that reality has volatilized.[lxxvii][77] The inauguration of the regime of Big Optics marked the beginning of real time politics, the politics of instant reactions to the events transmitted with the speed of light. Such a regime requires instantaneous response, response at a speed that can only be efficiently handled by computers; thus, person-to-person exchanges are replaced with exchanges between machines.

         Of course, speed and aggression are intimately related - and not the least among the reasons for that association is speed's hostility to contemplation. Virilio's analysis of aggression arises from the tension of dialectical relation between the an sich and the für sich, between self and the alienated self, which, having been reified, is experienced as the other. The French Situationist, Raoul Vaneigem, earlier offered similar ideas, in his commentary on what, astonishingly, he calls "free play":

At the opposite extreme from absolute identification is a particular way of putting a distance between the role and one's self, a way of establishing a zone of free play. This zone is a breeding place of attitudes disruptive of the spectacular order. Nobody is ever completely swallowed up by a role. Even turned on its head, the will to live retains a potential for violence always capable of carrying the individual away from the path laid down for him. One fine morning, the faithful lackey, who has hitherto identified completely with his master, leaps on his oppressor and slits his throat. For he has reached that point where his right to bite like a dog has finally aroused his desire to strike back like a human being. Diderot has described this moment well in Rameau's Nephew _ and the case of the Papin sisters illustrates it even better.[lxxviii][78]

         One again, we discern in this passage that peculiar dialectic by which the mirror world turns against that which it mirrors; and we could find passages in the writings in Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard that make the same point. In this passage, too, that dialectic sets in motion the process we observed in the writings of German Romantics. But the similarities only go so far - what distinguishes the views of such post-Nietzscheans as Vaneigem, Debord and Baudrillard from Schelling and Hegel's ideas on the topic of the revenge of the alienated realm is that for the Post-Nietzscheans, the projections which constitute the für sich are acknowledged as appearing groundless, empty, phantasmal. Here is Vaneigem again, pronouncing on the madness of these delusory projections/representations.

There is no such thing as mental illness. It is merely a convenient label for grouping and isolating cases where identification has not occurred properly. Those whom Power can neither govern nor kill, it taxes with madness. The category includes extremists and megalomaniacs of the role, as well as those who deride roles or refuse them. It is only the isolation of such individuals which condemns them, however. Let a General identify with France, with the support of millions of voters, and an opposition immediately springs up which seriously seeks to rival him in his lunacy. Horbiger's attempt to invent a Nazi physics met with a similar kind of success. General Walker was taken seriously when he drew a distinction between superior, white, divine and capitalist man on the one hand, and black, demoniacal, communist man on the other. Franco would meditate devoutly and beg God for guidance in oppressing Spain. Everywhere in the world are leaders whose cold frenzy lends substance to the thesis that man is a machine for ruling. True madness is a function not of isolation but of identification.

Reality has become simply a social consensus. De Gaulle claims to be France, and millions agree - so that becomes a reality of Power. Another person makes a similar claim, but is greeted with nothing but disbelief, and is condemned to the asylum. Not only that, but the one who succeeds in convincing people that he is their leader provokes opposition within the same register as his power exists, that is the register of delusion, of madness. So it is a no-win game - go along with it, and one is mad, oppose it, and one is still made.

         What accounts for this transformation, by which the für sich comes to seem illusory, phantasmal, dreamlike, even the stuff of madness? We have already gone a distance in formulating an explanation. In the writings of Benjamin, Debord, Vaneigem and (mutatis mutandis) Baudrillard  productive forces have a status similar in some respects to that which the Absolute has in Schelling's thought: like Schelling's Absolute, they are accorded primacy; and like Schelling's Absolute their essence is that of a productivity. And what is most important in this comparison, these forces, like Schelling's Absolute produce elements that have a relationship of mutual dependency on one another (recall Schelling's assertion, in Philosophie und Religion, that "the origin of no finite things leads immediately back to the infinite, it can instead only be grasped via the sequence of causes and which, which is, though itself endless, whose law has therefore not a positive but merely a negative meaning"). And that mutual dependency leads them to turn both against one another and against the source of their be-ing. It is the primacy of the productive energy that here is at issue: and thinking about that primacy carries us back to him who staked the original claim that material forces of production are responsible for shaping historical realities, that is to Karl Marx.

         Marx's philosophical system was an inversion of Hegel's - where Hegel had put Concept, Marx would put matter. Like Schelling and Hegel's philosophy, Marx's writings describe the productive forces as the primary reality, and that which they produce as a secondary reality. But there is a more important similarity: as Schelling and Hegel did, Marx came to the conclusion that there is a symmetrical relation between the two elements that issue from the productivity that is the ontological basis of their be-ing - between, that is, the subject/producer and the object. Indeed Marx' materialism ensures that the relation between the producer and the object would have be symmetrical.[lxxix][79] Furthermore, because, like the relation between Subject and Object in Fichte, Schelling and Hegel's philosophies, the relation between producer and object is one of mutual dependency, that relation has an eristic character - its Hegelian basis required Marx' philosophy to assert that labour must struggle to extract from matter what it requires and the exchange value that commodities take on will turn against the labourer and eventually even against the labour process itself.

         We have seen this dynamic before: A primal productivity brings forth elements that enter into a relationship of mutual dependency, and that lead them to turn both against one another and against the source of their being. A hypostatization of Be-ing results, through which the status of Be-ing is reduced to that of the be-ing of beings. To state the point in a more Baudrillardian fashion. A hypostatization occurs which results in beings absorbing Be-ing. The consequences of this for any philosophy that moves within the orbit of ontotheology (and almost all Western philosophy does) is the loss of reality, for in ontotheology, Be-ing is the ontological basis of the be-ing of beings, and reducing Be-ing to the equivalent of the be-ing of beings results in the all be-ing losing its ground.

         We can discern the consequences of onto-theology in Debord's writings just as clearly as in Marx'. Debord described the spectacle as the constantly changing, self_organizing and self_sustaining expression of the modern form of production (a form of production quite different from the capitalist form), a massive and complex apparatus which serves to perpetuate that false consciousness which necessary to make the modern (capitalist) form of social organization palatable to the general population.[lxxx][80] All readers will know the impasse to which such ideas have led: here, as an example of the legacy of onto-theology, is Baudrillard on "hyperreality"

From medium to medium, the real is volatilized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object: no longer the object of representation, but the ecstasy of denial and of its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal. . . . The hyperreal  . . . manages to efface even this contradiction between the real and the imaginary. Unreality no longer resides in the dream or fantasy, or in the beyond, but in the real's hallucinatory resemblance to itself.[lxxxi][81]

Baudrillard gives voice to the same feeling that Schelling had expressed more than a century earlier, the sense that nature (in Baudrillard's system, implosion already has converted that realm into that is "no longer nature") is haunted by dire forces, that it is the realm of death.[lxxxii][82] Similarly Baudrillard's "principle of Evil . . . expressed in the cunning genius of the object, . . . its victorious strategy over the subject" is the same principle of evil implicit in German Romantic philosophy (in, for example, Hegel's principle of the cunning genius of history), a principle that German Romantic derived from Gnosticism: the origin of all that is baneful is the division that sets nature over against the subject, for that division establishes the condition for nature to turn against the subject  - and what is worse, since the primal productivity and its products all have the similar ontological status (Be-ing has been brought within the realm of beings), it sets the stage, for the divided elements to turn not only against one another but also against that which produced them..[lxxxiii][83]

Baudrillard makes explicit the role that the double plays in his theories regarding hyperreality explicit - he points out that in his thinking, as in German Romantic thought, the double is the source of malfeasance.

It is precisely when it appears most truthful, most faithful and most in conformity to reality that the image is most diabolical . . .. It is in its resemblance, not only analogical but technological, that the image is most immoral and most perverse.

The appearance of the mirror introduced into the world of perception an ironical effect of trompe-l'oeil, and we know what malefice was attached to the appearance of doubles. But this is also true of all the images which surround us: in general they are analysed according to their value as representations, as media of presence and meaning. The immense majority of present day photographic, cinematic and television images are thought to bear witness to the world with a naive resembance and touching fidelity. We have spontaneous confidence in their realism. We are wrong. They only seem to resemble reality, events, faces. Or rather, they really do conform, but their conformity itself is diabolical.[lxxxiv][84]  

         This is the dynamic that produces Baudrillard's analysis of the conversion of nature into "no longer nature." What caused it this conversion, Baudrillard suggests, was that the Transcendental Signifier lost its depth of reference and so could no longer guarantee the referential depth of any sign. Thus, the entire semiotic system became ungrounded - meaning no longer entailed reference to an extra-systematic element, for there was no point de capiton to tack the signifier to extra-systematic reality; the map represents a purely imaginary terrain, without reality, and all interpretations of anything (distance, height, speed, etc) that are arrived at on the basis of information the map provides are simply additional imaginary constructs erected on the back of an already imaginary construct. Meaning has been converted to endless deferral of reference from sign to sign, without purchase on anything non-semantic element. In the absence of any point de capiton to tack the interpretation (the sign) to reality, each interpretation is as good as any other. Possible realities proliferate, just as they do in the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics.[lxxxv][85]

         One could put the idea in another way, and point out that the fatal step is taken when the transcendent pole of experience was conceived as being like the beings that make up the immanent pole. This hypostatization of Be-ing results in the reduction of the status of Be-ing to the be-ing of beings; that is to say, beings absorb Be-ing. Be-ing becomes for understanding simply one more being amongst others, one whose existence is contingent and open to questions concerning its nature and value, if it is acknowledged at all. But in theological systems (and Western philosophy from the time of Plato has been an onto-theology) Be-ing provides the ontological justification of the be-ing of beings, and reducing Be-ing first to the equivalent of the be-ing of beings, and then to the equivalent, quite simply, of beings themselves, results in the all be-ing losing its ground. Baudrillard recognizes the consequences for ontotheological system entailed in likening Be-ing to the be-ing of beings, or even to beings themselves..


Thus perhaps at stake has always been the murderous capacity of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model, as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity. To this murderous capacity is opposed the dialectical capacity of representations as a visible and intelligible mediation of the Real. All of Western faith and good faith was engaged in this wager on representation: That a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could exchange for meaning, and that something could guarantee this exchange - God, of course. But what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say, reduced to the signs which attest his existence? Then the whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum - not unreal, but a simulacrum, never again exchanging for what is real, but exchanging in itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference.[lxxxvi][86]

The tendency ultimately to conceive Be-ing as having the same status as the be-ing of beings was the fatal step that the German Romantics took and the reason they took it was they first conceived of Be-ing as bringing forth ontologically differentiated elements, and then (difference's coming out of unity being difficult to fathom) diverted their attention away from the difference between Be-ing and be-ing of beings. That diversion allowed them to depict the opposition between beings and Be-ing as being like the opposition between the differentiated parts  that came forth from Be-ing, as having a symmetrical  form (for it commits that crucial error which leads to the erosion of reality, viz., the reduction of be-ing to presence). Baudrillard followed in the footsteps of Jena Romantics, developing ideas about the erosion of reality that have surprising similarity to ideas first expounded by German Romantic thinkers (and especially to ideas that Schelling expounded). In fact, the basics of his thought follow a pattern theirs established.

         Baudrillard describes the very same dynamic that the German Romantics did, of the population of the double world of the mirror turning against and destroying that from which it arises:

More generally, the image is interesting not only in its role as reflection, mirror, representation of, and counterpart to, the real, but also when it begins to contaminate reality and to model it, when it only conforms to reality the better to distort it, or better still: when it appropriates reality for its own ends, when it anticipates it to the point that the real no longer has time to be produced as such. [lxxxvii][87]

The double first mirrors, then attacks, and ends by taking over and absorbing that which it doubles: this Baudrillardian story is familiar from Jena Romanticism. The other tale about the double that Jena Romanticism tells is the tale of how twins emerged from an common source, then became locked in struggle with one another which eventually spread, as the twins, who were once sworn enemies, began to collude as, together, they  turned against that one who gave birth to them. Baudrillard recounts that tale as well.         l


         But the core ideas of his thought resemble even more the key ideas of that crucial modern thinker, Friedrich Nietzsche. For Baudrillard, as for Nietzsche, the semiotic relation between the signifier and its reference that obtained in the era before God himself was simulated is that of representation; the semiotic relation between signifier and signified in the present era, in which the signifier constitutes/substitutes for the signifier, Baudrillard terms "simulation." Like Nietzsche, Baudrillard proposes that simulation pronounced a death sentence on reference, since the terms of the system of simulation cannot represent anything outside the system - any "hors texte." Lacking any extra-systematic reference, the signifier "lacks value," Baudrillard states. In the absence of any extra-systematic reference, nothing distinguishes signifiers from any other entities - the distinction between the domains of the signifier and the signified collapses. There being no ontological distinction between the two domains, the signified implodes into the signifier.

         The fundamental Nietzschianism of Baudrillard's thinking is evident too in his remarks about truth.

The belief in truth is part of the elementary forms of religious life. It is a weakness of understanding, of common-sense. At the same time, it is the last stronghold for the supporters of morality, for the apostles of the legality of the real and the rational, according to whom the reality principle cannot be questioned. Fortunately, nobody, not even those who teach it, lives according to this principle, and for a good reason: nobody really believes in the real. Nor do they believe in the evidence of real life. This would be too sad.

But the good apostles come back and ask: how can you take away the real from those who already find it hard to live and who, just like you and me, have a right to claim the real and the rational? The same insidious objection is proclaimed in the name of the Third World: How can you take away abundance when some people are starving to death? Or perhaps: How can you take away the class struggle from all the peoples that never got to enjoy their Bourgeois revolution? Or again: How can you take away the feminist and egalitarian aspirations from all the women that have never heard of women's rights? If you don't like reality, please do not make everybody else disgusted with it! This is a question of democratic morality: Do not let Billancourt despair! [Billancourt is a French automobile production plant famous for being repeatedly struck; Baudrillard uses it as metaphor for the proletarian efforts.] You can never let people despair.

There is a profound disdain behind these charitable intentions. This disdain first lies in the fact that reality is instituted as a sort of life-saving insurance, or as a perpetual concession, as if it were the last of human rights or the first of everyday consumer products. But, above all, by acknowledging that people place their hope in reality only, and in the visible proof of their existence, by giving them a realism reminiscent of St. Sulpice, they are depicted as naive and idiotic. This disdain, let us acknowledge it, is first imposed on themselves by these defenders of realism, who reduce their own life to an accumulation of facts and proofs, of causes and effects. After all, a well-structured resentment always stems from one's own experience. [lxxxviii][88]

         Simulation is the effect of the ensemble of techniques that define the present. It is a metaphysic of the presence - but not "presence" in the form that the orthodox metaphysics of  presence understands it but rather as the metaphysic of an always already absent world, which technique produces simply as an image that is always fleeing and always fragmentary. It is proper to call it "presence" only because it is what seems to be. It is, however, only seeming, and lacks depth. Such a presence is released into being as already imaginary, its material form is that of phantasmal entities that are always already replicated, always already simulated. There is nothing beyond the reach of its imminent power.

         But what has brought thinkers to this impasse. The German Romantic philosophers set the initial course that would issue in current claims that reality has volatized into simulacra. In Philosophie und Religion, Schelling proposed that "the origin of the world of the senses can only be thought as a complete breaking-off from absoluteness, by a leap" and since it is through their relation to the Absolute that beings are real, finite things are not real. Their ground "can only lie in a move away, in a fall (Abfall) from the Absolute." For the most part, Schelling tries to avoid the claim, but time and again in his writings we find expressions the idea that the doubled world, the only world were are aware of, is an unreal realm, a sacrificial realm a realm of death and dire forces. The idea of the unreality - and even of the banefulness - of the only world we are acquainted with was a principal item in Schelling's legacy to German Romantic thought. The very fact that the world of particulars is realm that is doubled by the mirror of Vorstellunen, guaranteed there would be measure of strife between the Absolute and the realm of particulars; the fact that it is a world in which the inner being of each elements depended on external relations ensured that it would be a realm fraught with conflict within itself.

         Schopenhauer, drawing on Schelling's thought (as well as Vedantic ideas) developed a more extreme, and more poetically compelling, version of the idea that the world of finite beings, the world of our acquaintance, is a mirror world, without reality. "The world as representation," he wrote,"has two essential, necessary, and inseparable halves." One half is the world of objects, the other the world of the subject. In a trope characteristic of German Romanticism, Schopenhauer argued that the be-ing of appearances depends upon the subject, and that if the subject were to disappear, then the world of representation would cease to exist. Phenomena ("what appears") depend not upon the Absolute, but upon the subject. The world of appearance, Schopenhauer claimed, is only the external side of existence, something secondary and additional. Thus, "the existence of things in general and as whole enters knowledge only per accidens and consequently to a very limited extent." Accordingly the world we know has no existence at all apart from mental activities. Schopenhauer's entire philosophy is the story of how unreal the objects of our acquaintance are, how baleful the realm they constitute.

         I have already pointed out that the provenance of the Schellingian claim, which Nietzsche reiterates that finite particulars are severed from the Absolute is the heterodox tradition. Baudrillard makes that provenance explicit in an interview with his Australian hosts. Alluding to the Cartesian evil demon that engenders corrosive doubt, Baudrillard states

For me the question is entirely different. When I evoke the principle of evil, of an evil demon etc., my aim is more closely related to a certain kind of Manichaesim. Is it therefore anterior to Descartes and fundamentally it is irrational. There are two principles at stake: on the one hand there is the (Descartes') rational principle of principle of rationality - the fundamental attempt, through doubt or anything else, to rationalise the world - and the other hand there is the inverse principle, which was for example, adopted by the 'heretics' all the way throughout the history of Christianity. This is the principle of evil itself. What the heretics posited was that the very creation of the world, was the result of the existence of the evil demon. The function of God, then, was really to try to repudiate this evil phantom - that was the real reason why God had to exist at all.. . . [Again it is] the principle of seduction that needs to be invoked in this situation: according to Manichaeism, the reality of the world is total illusion; it is something which has been tainted from the very beginning; it is something which has been seduced by a sort of irreal principle since time immemorial. In this case what one has to invoke is precisely this absolute power of illusion - and this is exactly what the heretics did. They based their theologies on the very negation of the real. Their principal and primary convention was that of the non-reality, hence the non-rationality, of the world. They believed that the world, its reality, is made up only of signs - and that it was governed solely through the power of mind.[lxxxix][89]

So Baudrillard's idea of the precession of the simulacral really is a version of semiotic idealism. He then acknowledges the ideological thrust of his position.

This idea of the world as being constituted only by signs is, if you like, some sort of magic thinking - and it was indeed condemned as such. For it does entail that the 'real' - and a sort of 'reality' - that one sees in the world is quite simply an absolute utopia.[xc][90]

It is really a thesis that the be-ing of groundless beings has become the universal condition of be-ing and (and the still more radical proposition), that beings have absorbed even Be-ing itself.

         Baudrillard's are among a host of claims that the mirror world of representations has supplanted the world of beings  - claims that have provenance Nietzsche's version of Gnosticism. Another set have their basis in Marx' sociology. Marx, drawing on Schelling, analyzed how a fantastic double world of representation arose from the world of labour products, in the famous third chapter of Das Kapital. There Marx analyzed what he called "the fetishism of commodities," and showed exchange value, the double of use value, creates a peculiar mirror world, of fetishized commodities by separating itself from use value.[xci][91] This story, of how one of the products of the primal productive force (in this case, exchange value) separates itself from that which it doubles (in this case, use value) and turns against it is a narrative that by now is familiar - it is a central structure of German Romantic thought. Here is an excerpt from the famous third chapter of Das Kapital:

This Fetishism of commodities has its origin, as the foregoing analysis has already shown, in the peculiar social character of the labour that produces them. As a general rule articles of utility become commodities, only because they are products of the labour of private individuals or groups of individuals who carry on their work independently of each other. The sum total of the labour of all these private individuals forms the aggregate labour of society. Since the producers do not come into social contact with each other until their exchange their products, the specific social character of each producer-laborer does not show itself except in the act of exchange. In other words the labour of the individual asserts itself as a part of the labour of society, only by means of the relations which the act of exchange establishes directly between the products, and indirectly, through them, between the producers. To the latter, therefore, the relations connecting the labour of one individual with that of the rest appear, not as direct social relations between individuals at work, but as what they really are, material relations between persons and social relations between things.

"Commodities," Marx asserted, "assume . . . the fantastic form of a relation between things" the like of which we can discover only in  "the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world." He further asserted that this mirror world had come to seem real: "in that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race." To put it otherwise, Be-ing - not just use-value, but Be-ing itself - it is consumed by exchange value.

         Both Nietzsche's commentary on the death of God and Marx' analysis of the fetishism of commodities were key texts for Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem. A fascinating crossing of the ideas of Nietzsche and Marx helped form Baudrillard's thought as well. Baudrillard's nihilism has never been under dispute. But such texts as The Mirror of Production and his proposal that the ascendency of sign value has rendered obsolete traditional analysis that are based strictly on the relation between exchange value and use value, and his rejection of the usefulness of ameliorist proposals to make use value the criterion of economic worth, have somewhat obscured the extent to which Baudrillard's thought remains with the orbit first described by the German Romantic thinkers, including that arch-Romantic, Karl Marx. The parallel between Marx's claims about social relations being converted into relations between things and Baudrillard's claims about the simulation as the regime in which relations between images have taken place of relations between people (and in which value is determined by the direct relation between persons and things, and not measures of the usefulness of things to people) are clear. In the realm of commodities, the relations between the values of labour products have no connection with their physical properties. Without such a connection, they are left free-floating, and fantastic - imaginary maps that describe no terrain within the domain of use value. In fact, Baudrillard's ideas can be generated out of crossing of two streams that develop the German Romantic theme of the inverted world - that stream that flowed from Hegel, that saw Nature as the mirror of the Idea and was transformed by Marx into the view that labour products are the mirror of the producer, and the stream that flows from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, that saw the world has particulars as groundless, without warrant, and phantasmagoric, the stream that eventually lead Nietzsche to proclaim the triumph of the mirror world over what orthodox ontology judges to be the real world[xcii][92].

          Not long after Marx, Benjamin began to write about buildings, objects, decoration, as materialized phantasies, and about the past's capacity to haunt the present with a doubled be-ing. A principal topic of his Passagen-Werk was the commodity-phantasmagoria of the spectacle mounted in the 19th century Paris arcades. Lukács began writing about reification, a process through which the relation of the producer to the totality of their labour appears to them not as social relations existing among humans, but relations amongst the products of their labour. "It is only a definite social relation between men that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things." Henri Lefebvre developed these Lukácsian ideas.[xciii][93] Unfortunately, I do not have the space here inquire into the ties that connect the Frankfurt School's views on ideology to German Romantic thought. But on the matter of the lack of interest in social relations of capitalism among post-modern thinkers, I do want to stress that Henri Lefebvre pointed out that structuralist concepts were often deployed by intellectuals to avoid thinking about the real social relations of capitalism. He might have made the same assertion about the concepts of, the simulacrum, etc.  Marx's ideas about fetishism of commities, Benjamin's description of commodities as phantasmagoria, and Lefebvre's development of Lukácsian ideas about reification laid the ground for Baudrillard's idea of the precession of simulacra.

         But another important influence was Guy Debord. Guy Debord proclaimed (in thesis #17 of Le Societé du Spectacle) that the material object had given way to its semiotic representation and draws its prestige and function (cf. Marx on exchange value) from the image, and (in thesis #15) that the production of objects simpliciter had given way the production of image-objects (thus reformulating Schelling's idea of the fused being, that combines ideal and real aspects) and Lukács' idea that proletariat constitutes the universal subject-object of history. Debord, too, formulated the idea that there had occurred an the inversion of the real and the ideal (Society of the Spectacle, thesis #34) -  that the world of the spectacle has become the "real" world of excitement, of pleasure and meaning that rendered the everyday world insignificant by comparison. Raoul Vaneigem developed similar ideas in his books, Basic Banalities and The Revolution o Everyday Life.         

         Baudrillard was massively influenced by German Romantic thinkers and the heirs to their legacy. What then, if anything, sets Baudrillard's views apart from this lineage of German Romantics which is the provenance of so many of his ideas? There is not much, primarily the value accorded the unreality. All previous thinkers, with the exception of Nietzsche (and even his views on the topic are conflicted enough) had seen the mirror world as sacrificial world of dire forces. The reason why Baudrillard came to different conclusions regarding the reality of the subject than the earlier German thinkers (with the key exceptions of Nietzsche and Heidegger) did is that the subject, for Baudrillard, is not foundational - it cannot serve as the ground for reality as it had served philosophers from the time of Descartes to the time of Fichte.[xciv][94] We saw that Schopenhauer described the subject as the only support for Vorstellungen, and asserted that without the subject the world of appearances would pass into unreality. The conception that subject is  the product of a nexus of social relations established the conditions for that etherealization to occur. This is just the step that Baudrillard took. But what allowed this development what that thinkers first saw the subject as separated from Be-ing; it then could be assimilated to the condition of beings. As beings ephemeralized, so did the subject, which, having been characterized as the product of relations amongst particulars, could no longer serve as their support. Thus, the subject can be absorbed into the unreality of the spectacle, as a dematerialized relatum in a system of semiotic exchange.

         However, even this aspect of Baudrillard's thought owes a double debt to Heidegger, another of the heirs to the German Romantic tradition, and to Heidegger's German Romantic mentors. One debt is owed for his ideas on the subject. Heidegger was a strong reader of Nietzsche, and in his later writings, Nietzsche displaces human being from the centre of things - "Man rolls from the centre towards X," he suggested in a note that the compilers of the 1906 edition of Der Wille als Macht appended to it. The Kehre in Heidegger's writings is the point at which Heidegger makes central to his thinking the proposition that Being, not Dasein (the human subject) is primary, and that Being has intimate relations with Das Nichts (nothingness).[xcv][95] Gianni Vattimo stresses, that the human subject could maintain its centrality only by reference to a Grund that justifies that position, and Heidegger denies that Being can serve as that ground.[xcvi][96] The second debt is owed for the idea of the interreferentiality involved in beings' coming forth as appearances. As early as Sein und Zeit, Heidegger argued that each being comes forth as what it is it only insofar as it "dissolves into circular reference to all other things," as Vattimo nicely puts it.[xcvii][97] In later writings (after the Kehre), in "Das Ding" (amongst other writings) Heidegger explained that a thing can be given as something only insofar as it is taken up into 'the mirror-play of the world', the 'round dance' (Ring). The reason this is so is, as Vattimo is so fond of pointing out, is that for Heidegger Being is not - cannot be - foundational - it does not serve as the ontological justification for their being. It is, rather, an opening - it is precisely that ensemble of interreferentiality, which makes it possible for anything to appear as it is. Heidegger's crucial role, according to Vattimo, is that Being must not be thought of as presence - the thought that does not forget Being still thinks of Being as something that is absent, vanished, departed.[xcviii][98] For tradition is only the transmitting (Überlieferung) of linguistic messages that constitute the horizon within which thinking brings beings to presence. Vattimo notes, "[T]radition derives its importance from the fact that Being, as a horizon of disclosure in which things appear, can arise only as a trace of past words or as an announcement that has been handed down to us."[xcix][99] This handing down is fateful, inasmuch as the historicity of this transmission entails that it is linked with the non-presence of Being, with the debilitation of Being that reveals itself only through fading and disappearance, a Being that consorts with Nothingness (Das Nichts). Thus the dispatch (Geschick) through which Being brings beings to presence is fateful (it sends object to their fate (Schicksal).

         Baudrillard also claims that in addition to use value and exchange value, there is another type of value, sign value, through which a system of meaning organizes images, objects and activities into a hierarchy of prestige. Baudrillard, then, sees the process of commodification as creating a system that accords some objects higher value (greater prestige) than others - it is a differential system, whose elements are assigned value according to the relations one to another. It a system which does not bring forth anything new, but simply presents the same elements in new relationships, a system that operates according to a logic of permutability. For this idea, too, Baudrillard owes a debt to Heidegger and to Nietzsche. Nietzsche, a crucial modern thinker in so many ways, presented somewhat similar ideas under the rubric of the myth of the eternal return. Heidegger recognized rather that Nietzsche did not intend that theory to be what it easily seems, a metaphysical theory of what must be the case if a finite number of elements are to fill an infinite temporal span. Heidegger recognized that Nietzsche's ideas mark the end of "the epoch of Being conceived under the sign of the novum," to adopt Vattimo's felicitous phrase.[c][100] It marks the end of the concept of history as Aufklärung, that is, the idea that history of the progressive unfolding of the force of the foundation. The repudiation of this conception of history as Aufklärung denies all meaning to historical change.[ci][101] History can no longer be, as it is in Hegel's philosophy, the rediscovery/unfolding of meaning and value.

         Baudrillard's manner of transforming Lukács' notion of reification omits from discussion the fact that the fantastic form of relation between things (in his case images, simulacra), are really the product of labour; and he omits that factor from discussion exactly so that he can describe them, in terms that Baudrillard draws from Prigogone's chemistry, but applies in a fantastic manner (that Prigogone's chemistry does warrant), as a self-organizing, self-generating system. Baudrillard uses the concept of self-organization to suggest the way that exchange values seem to feed off one another - one fantastic commodity to engender the desire for another, as when, for example, the portrayal of "the good" life in advertising pictures produces the desire for an expensive car, then the designer suit to go with it, and visit to the luxury restaurant with valet parking, just to show it off.[cii][102] Each new desire can appear to be manufactured by the commodity system itself, and to have no reality outside of it. Anyone who follows changes in fashion might be inclined to agree with the proposition that the history of exchange value does follow a logic of permutability, and thus that exchange value does constitute a self-organizing system. For we live in an era in which there is massive novelty, but no real change. Nonetheless, that conclusion would be false. Every desire, no matter how artificially elicited or how grotesque its transformations through the workings of the commodity system, has a ground in the body, just as prestige, for example, always refers to back the body. The simply do not float free of any reference to nature.

         Baudrillard's Mirror of Production rejects claims that the simulacrum borrows from reality, is modelled on reality, or has any other derivative relation to reality -  that repudiation is one of the functions of his theory of simulation, which claims that the model has taken priority over reality and has come to determine it. For Baudrillard, representations are like magical maps that do not depict (or otherwise refer to) any domain external to them.[ciii][103] In rejecting them his writing is truly emblematic of the conditions of moderns, for moderns lack any sensation/intuition of Be-ing. And that is so because, as Benjamin pointed out, moderns' capacity for experience has been severely truncated. Furthermore, the ideological functions of these claims are clear: it is deeply conservative thought, dressed in fashionable, up-to-the-minute garb. Consider Baudrillard's appalling book, America, which describes the United States as a "realized utopia!" He speeds through America and sees advertising signs, but not homelessness, not racism, not sexism, not even the poverty of the inner city. Worse yet, his identification with the imaginary order leads him to ignore the reality of social relations. Baudrillard's "anti-system" is simply semiological idealism. As a result he cannot provide an adequate account of the real processes that lead to the reification of the image (which, of course, in the era of simulation has become the real commodity), and so reverts to celebrating the ephemeralization of reality into the commodity-image. Heidegger's thought has imparted a depth to Baudrillard's. Still, critical thinking reveals that, contrary to Baudrillard, signs are not self-generating -  they have a point of historical origin, and they are historically contextualized (an issue of which every strong reader is keenly aware).[civ][104] What is evident is that the fatuous cyber-Drawinistic claims that Baudrillard has bought into, that a new stage of evolution has been reached, in which a cyberbody supplants old, bloody, messy natural body conceals the key to understanding the transformations that are occurring with such evident rapidity, for such fatuous claims cause us to ignore the powers we possess to transform the conditions of existence.

Part IV: What is to be done?

         In the absence of the sense of the One that binds pages of the universe into a single volume, phenomena have become impoverished, eroded by desacralization. We live in a realm where nothing is higher and nothing is lower. Exchange value has all but consumed Be-ing, and without a summit of Be-ing, there is no hierarchy of value: changes in fashion decide what has value, so what has value today will become worthless tomorrow, and what was worthless yesterday has great value today. Nothing is more authentic than anything else and every being, even Being itself, is subject to re-evaluation - indeed everything is now available for infinite reinterpretation. In an era of infinite reinterpretability, everything is finally of equal value, and everything is interchangeable and exchangeable. There is no centre. We are left with an eroded consciousness that has lost its metaphysical bearings.

         The Logos was the common framework that integrated all, that all brought all beings together. Now we find ourselves enclosed within a fractured space in which beings lack transcendence. Only the brutality of Power can accomplish anything in the way of organizing the fragments. Nothing from above brings order; and lacking any reference what is above, we cannot even make contact with our deeper selves.

         The Logos, in encompassing all, gave all meaning. The spectacle has reduced this unity to a series of fragments which it interrelates through the pseudo-connections of a thinned-out rationality whose characteristic form, as Bergson pointed out, is the series of linear succession. Thus this denatured reason constructs a life-world that depends upon an abstract temporality that assigns us positions according to the co-ordinates of power. Such a thinned-out, eroded rationality is what puts the spectacle, a feeble organization of appearance, on display. At the same time, the spectacle has colonized every area of modern experiences, and has subjected all phenomena to the iron law that no real change is possible - that only insignificant changes to fragmentary aspects of the system will be allowed. All we are left with is an enfeebled, eroded awareness of our role the spectacle.

         Immersion in the phantasmagoria of a delirium-inducing ocean of sights and sounds is the condition that the culture industry has imposed upon; they have even established that state of semi-consciousness as normative. A most dire facet of this new regime is that the very ontology of our image culture increasingly includes its participant and incorporates their perspectives within the constitutive mechanism of representation. Subjects, therefore, are no longer the absolute centre of seeing - the illusion of the panopticon (Foucault's fruitful reworking of Merleau-Ponty's notion of the "outside observer") is dispelled; subjects, we are now convinced, are simply nodes of network of vision/visuality that operates beyond their control as phantasmic centres, by facilitating currents that course through the network, affecting the peripheral nodes by engendering a distorted replica of desire. This view entails that vision has its blindspots.

         But even if vision includes blindspots, and even if the delirium induced by the image culture lures us into the other world of visual representations, these facts would not imply that the subjects' relations to social realities have been dissolved and the real has been replaced by simulation, or that representations have been deprived of reference to the Real and so have acceded to their death. Only the delirium induced by immersion in the phantasmagoria of sights and sounds is responsible for the impression that reality has ephermalized into simulation.

         Reality has not vanished - nor will it. It simply mutates, and this process of mutation is incessant. Reality is ever re-produced, for reality is never anything more than the product of the technique of a given epoch (remembering, of course, that technique is form in which the dispensations of Be-ing occur). Be-ing arises only within the whole that is the form of the dispatch (the Geschick, as Heidegger puts it); and the dispatch is historical (the Geschick is always geschichtlich). Be-ing appears only through the activity of transmission (Überlieferung). Reality is always being re-invented: humans transform themselves and nature through activity -  this is something that always has been, is, and always will be. What Baudrillard believes to be the substitution of a signifying system for reality is not that at all - it is merely the replacement of the reality that is the product of one system of technique with another reality that is the product of another system of technique. There is no loss of reality; reality and virtual reality are still locked in an eristic relationship.

         Subtending the belief in the precession of the simulacrum is the tendency to regard information as an autonomous form from Beyond, a magic form of being without roots in the realm of concrete particulars, and therefore beyond our control. Is it really surprising if that which we exempt from the condition of being a product of labour, and from being subject to transformation by labour, should be accorded a spiritualized form of existence? Yet, in reality, both the realm of the simulacral and the technology which is used to produce it are expressions of the social relationships between real humans. It is human activity which is objectified in machines and information. And remembering that fact should remind us of the importance of the now unfashionable questions about how are the rewards of this labour should be allocated to the different groups involved in the production of machines and information.

         It is true: Only the delirium induced by immersion in the phantasmagoria of sights and sounds is responsible for the sense that reality has transformed itself into a spectacle. Only the delirium induced by immersion in the phantasmagoria of sights and sounds is responsible for the impression that reality has been volatized. So we must ask how to counter the effects of the delirium that the culture industries have induced, and how to rediscover our groundedness.

         At the most profound level, Heidegger was right to have asserted that carrying out the task is not within our powers, that "only a god can save us now." But the gods have flown. Still, we must do what we can to recall the gods from their flight. And we must do what we can to prepare ourselves for their return.

         The Renaissance fostered the impulses that drained the arts of their integrative function. The bardic function of the artist, no longer possible in an all-too-rational society, was abandoned. The frustrations of being refused this crucial role drove the artist first into open rebellion, and then into silence and exile. What is needed is to re-enfranchise art's power to create an integral order of intimacy, and this can be accomplished only through the combined power of art and magic. Art does have the means to effect moral and spiritual change in the real world.

         How can we rescue ourselves from immersion in the phantasmagoric? The phantasmagoric operates by creating the impression that its realm is a seamless unity. Our art must overcome that impression. This demands that art become physical - that we acknowledge that artworks are machines for affecting the bodies of those whom they address. Immersion in the phantasmagoria of sounds and images has reduced our capacity for direct sensory  - and sensuous - experience. To counter that effect, we must emphasize the physicality of the making and the reception of artwork. That is to say, we must emphasize the body's role in making and experiencing art. Art - ars, making - should teach us about the body's way of knowing. The body learns first through activity, not through concepts. Recall that the unity of thought and practice that was central to the concept of techne - acknowledging the unity of thought and practice is a key to countering the pernicious notion that human beings are information processing systems, an error that traced back to the Platonic form of idealism (which also disparaged the senses and maintained the unreality of the physical world and the superiority of a "hyperreality"). Our art must distort and fragment all with which it comes into contact: it must do all that it can to damage the wholeness of a work of art, to tear apart the seamless unity that is that staple form of the entertainment "arts," that seamless form that absorbs our be-ing and leaves it inert and unproductive. Further, it must make the mediation of the apparatus explicit, for the occultation of the apparatus figures among the phenomena that has led to erroneous thinking about the disappearance of reality.

         More, we must use every extreme means for restoring our connection to our bodies. The first step towards this is end is to make the body palpable. Artworks must be physical, and intense beyond all measure. Arabic and Sanskrit poetry often was set to music and chanted, to alter consciousness through its corporeal effects. A combination of melos, opsis and lexis can engender a state of consciousness intermediate between aesthetic intensity and the  hyperawareness of trance. The drumming and dance of the Ewe and Yoruba peoples of West Africa, the Santeria drumming and dancing of Cuba, Voudun drumming and dancing of Haiti can engender weeping, dancing, and fits. These are all intense, physical response to art. "Re-connect poetry to the body" - that must be our slogan.

         To prepare ourselves for the return of the gods, we must reawaken a paradoxical sense that holds together the experience of the reality of our intimate connection with things with that necessary psychical distance that affords consciousness that necessary degree of freedom and transcendence. What this requires is the capacity for understanding the reality of action-at-a-distance, that is, the truth of magic. The spectacle depends upon a certain torpor of the subject, which is countered by confronting the spectator's passivity with intensity. Action-at-a-distance, magic's way, is required to restore art to the register of intimacy without succumbing to the delirium-inducing effects of immersion in the phantasmagoric ocean of sights and sounds. This is made evident by the despised art of erotica. Erotica, when it does not go over into the spectacle, teaches us that artwork is a magical engine operating on the body. Erotica is physical - it operates by elevating the corporeal unconscious to consciousness in sexual arousal. It reveals, and revels in, unacknowledged desire. Erotica plumps for the liberation of desire. Erotica shows the way for art to become a desiring machine that operates by induction to shape liberatory energies. Erotica demonstrates that the marvellous inhabits the everyday, that the physical bodies around us constitute the dreamworld and that the true dreamworld is made up of real physical bodies. Of course, most pornography conveys only body-hatred, but that should not lead us to the erroneous conclusion that erotica has no potential for the enhancement of bliss-consciousness. If ours is a culture mad for death, erotica has a role in transforming it into one mad for love - into one blessed with amour fou.

         Furthermore, the truly erotic reaffirms joy - even a joyfulness of "repetition" that acknowledges that there is no such thing as exact repetition. But there is no reason why we should accept Baudrillard's despairing claim that melancholy is the fundamental tonality of functional systems, including the grindingly repetitive systems of simulation, programming and information.[cv][105] There is no reason to believe that, by implosion, history has collapsed into inertia, into the endless repetition of the same - the same dead forms organized again and into new permutations and combinations.[cvi][106]

         Reconnecting art to the body and the body to physical reality - these are our goals. They demand that we eschew narrative. For making our bodies palpable requires us to sense our presence in the immediate here-and-now. To do that, we must avoid all retrospection, and all narratives are retrospective. We must intensify the image to the point that it takes effects on our bodies. Vaneigem commented on the importance of the intensification of lived experience in The Revolution of Everyday Life.

Which leaves the hopeless cases _ those who reject all roles and those who develop a theory and practice of this refusal. From such maladjustment to spectacular society a new poetry of real experience and a reinvention of life are bound to spring. The deflation of roles precipitates the decompression of spectacular time in favour of lived space_time. What is living intensely if not the mobilization and redirection of the current of time, so long arrested and lost in appearances? Are not the happiest moments of our lives glimpses of an expanded present that rejects Power's accelerated time which dribbles away year after year, for as long as it takes to grow old? [cvii][107]

Itensification of the image requires desublimation. We are familiar with the orthodox psychiatric view on the matter of desublimation: "Identification with an imago [which in its re-projected form is what Vaneigem calls a "role"] leads the individual to expend his sexual drives on cultural goals, and this is the best way for him to defend himself against these drives." It is the counsel of the despair, for it turns the individual against him- or her self; the reified projection of desire becomes an object of identification, the aim of which is to absorb vital energies and to reduce the energy of erotic desire through sublimation. Erotic reality is transferred from the body to the spectacle. These projections ensure orgastic impotence.

         But the converse is also true: true pleasure, true jouissance, true joie de vivre, true orgastic potency return erotic reality to the body. The pleasure accomplishes desublimation. When individuals stop seeing the world through the eyes of the re-projected imago, and look at it from within their own pleasured bodies, when they reclaim the erotic energy as their own, they will see through these claims about the erosion of reality. If, as Debord claims, the era of the spectacle is the era when all that was once directly lived has become spectacle, the response is the return those energies invested in identification with the projected image to lived experience - to intensify life, and to intensify it brutally if necessary. 

         The more we have denied the body corporeal pleasure and the more we have allowed life to be sacrificed, the more we have allowed ourselves to be seized by its double, the mere spectacle of life. And the more daily life is thus impoverished, the greater the spectacle's attraction. Thus, the spectacle has dislodged us from the core of our lives, as the simulacrum conspired to make lived reality seem trivial by comparison, and eventually the idealized projection obscured the importance of the reality of actual bodily pleasure. We have allowed identification with the re-externalized imago to compensate for the life energies we sacrificed to the projection. The first goal of the intensification of life is to dissolve the subjugated consciousness that feels itself impotent.

         Intensity makes us feel our belongingness-to-others The recognition that social relations are between real, embodied human being is a key to overcoming that fetishism that generates the sensation that autonomous relations between simulacra have become the core reality for present-day metaphysics. It is important to remember the psychological conditions that allow relations between things, or between images, is a certain measure of anomie. The antidote to that anomie is intensity.

         I insist upon a cinema of radical perception take the place of the cinema of ideas (which, analytically, includes all narrative films) because only such a cinema can be truly spontaneous. The idea inevitably compromises with Power. I believe fervently that the artists of the future will make immediacy their most radical demand. Only spontaneous attunement to the gift of the given, the immediate consciousness of lived experience can overcome the sense that the dialectic of identification is one that inevitably involves strife. In extemporaneous creative attunement to the gift of the given, we discover that self-denial is the assumption of the true self, that by abandoning our limited selves, we become more truly ourselves, that we become what we behold. This way of getting out of oneself occurs through the discovery of oneself as dispersed through all that is

         More important yet is to forego imposing conceptual order upon experience. Benjamin's writings provide one of the best examples of what is possible and one of the best collections of reflections on its potentials.[cviii][108] Benjamin contraposed the term "constellation" to the concept of  "totality," distinguishing the former from the later on the basis that a constellation is a labile form wherein the relation between objects and the perspective of the viewer is always in a state of flux, while the latter is a mediated and structured concept. In her introduction to Illuminations,  Hannah Arendt pointed out that metaphor was the central trope in Benjamin's writings; what gave metaphor such importance in Benjamin's writings is that he lived in a universe in which each object is connected to all others.[cix][109] The idea of a form of unity in which the function of concepts is to group phenomena together seems to me signal, perhaps, even, an antidote to the poison of post-modernist claims about the unreality of nature.[cx][110] Perhaps it has the capacity to set aright, after two thousand years, the inverted relation between Concept and particular, between Intellect and reality, between Abstraction and the particular material object that Plato's philosophy made normative in Western philosophy.[cxi][111] Unlike a totality, a constellation is not constituted as a conceptual unity:  "Ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars. This means, in the first place, that they are neither their concepts nor their laws. They do not contribute to the knowledge of phenomena, and in no way can the latter be criteria with which to judge the existence of ideas. The significance of phenomena for ideas is confined to their conceptual elements. Whereas phenomena determine the scope and content of the concepts which encompass them, by their existence, by what they have in common, and by their differences, their relationship to ideas is the opposite of this inasmuch as the idea, the objective interpretation of phenomena-or rather their elements-determines their relationship to each other"[cxii][112] Thus, Terry Eagleton points out that "the thing must not be grasped as a mere instantiation of some universal essence, instead, thought must deploy a whole cluster of stubbornly specific concepts which in Cubist style refract the object in myriad directions or penetrate it from a range of diffuse angles. In this way, the phenomenal sphere is itself persuaded to yield up a kind of noumenal truth, as the microscopic gaze estranges the everyday into the remarkable."[cxiii][113] This is just what I referred to in "The Cinema We Need" by a cinema of experiences, not a cinema of ideas - that it would eschew concepts that serve as laws that govern images.[cxiv][114]

         Benjamin sought to discover an emancipatory potential in the experiences whose importance is ordinarily overlooked, even in experiences of  trivia and marginalia. An exemplary feature of Walter Benjamin's work is his attention to the everyday, to the ordinary, to the "rubbish" of history ("Abfall," a key term that Benjamin took over from Hegel, though many don't seem to realize that fact), all of which, he believed, a radical messianism could reclaim. A boulevard, postage stamps, children's books, unpacking one's library, eating, and untold other elements of everyday life became the objects and commonplace processes that command attention; by evoking associations of the sort that Surrealists taught us liberate, every object takes on an allegorical or mythical significance. Benjamin's good friend, Gershom Scholem remarked on this strain of Benjamin's thinking long ago:  "his [Benjamin's] speculative talent was aimed no longer at devising something new, but at penetrating something existent, interpreting and transforming it."

         This interest in the everyday allies his thinking to that of  Siegfried Kracauer and Theodor Adorno, who likewise sought to demonstrate how the macrocosm is mirrored in the form of the microcosm. But Benjamin's notions about form were far more radical than theirs, for Benjamin possessed a stronger sense of the intimate relation between Wahrheitsgehalt (the "truth content" of a work) and Sachgehalt (the "subject matter" of a work); and so, Benjamin developed for the Passagen-Werk, a manner of presenting his notions about integrity in a non-conceptual fashion that let the object speak for itself, a manner of presenting an object without imposing on it, so that its singularity was never lost. The montage style of the Passagen-Werk implies that the signification of an object appears directly in relation to that of other objects.

         But intensification of the image is our principal means for combatting fears of the loss of reality. We intensify the image, too, by steering it towards immediate perception. Immediate perception, too, is attentive to what is, to the gift of the given. Thus, it combats the devaluation of the everyday realm. A cinema of immediate perception is opposed to the world of the  spectacle, to the devaluation of the real world of actual, everyday pleasure through the spectacle.

         Spontaneity also intensifies the image. Spontaneity blasts open the prison-house of false-consciousness, the alienated méconnaissance of the society of the spectacle, consciousness which turns the subject against his or her real interests. It blasts apart the sedimentation  of the self in the petrified projections of the spectacle, and carries us away in the dérive.

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