Anders, The World as Apparition 3

[More 1950s philosophy from Anders on radio and TV, from section two The Apparition. The one-way unilateral nature of old media, the medial making of reality into unreality, an apparition, how synchronicity and multi-tasking is loss of self, fragmentation of the senses and not being in the present, how the technologies of distraction serve the powers that be by distracting from confronting the boredom and void at the centre of a world of largely personally meaningless work and over-busy leisure…This is as far as I have translated so far. More to follow when I have time to do more…]

II The Apparition

The world is delivered into our homes. The events are delivered for us. But as what are they delivered? As events? Or only as their representations? Or only as news about the events?

In order to be able to answer this question which guides the following paragraphs, we shall first translate it into a slightly different language, and ask: what are the transmitted events like when they arrive at the receiver’s end? In what state is the receiver when they arrive? Really present? Only apparently present? Absent? In what way present or absent?

§ 11 The relationship between human and world becomes unilateral, and the world, neither present nor absent, becomes an apparition

On the one hand they seem to be really ‘present’: when we listen to a radio program broadcasting a war scene or a parliamentary debate we are hearing not only news about the explosions or about the speakers but we are also hearing these things themselves. Does that not mean that the events which we once could not participate in, nor were allowed (or had) to participate in, are really here with us now in the present, and we with them?

And yet, not really. For can we call that situation a real, living ‘presence’ in which the world’s voices have the right to free access to us while we remain without rights and have no voice in any of the transmitted events? When we can answer nobody, whoever might be speaking, not even the person who seems to be addressing us, and when we are not allowed to intervene in any of the deafeningly noisy events surrounding us? Does not a true presence imply the reciprocity of human and world? Has not this relationship here been amputated? Has it not become unilateral, i.e. the listener can hear the world but the world cannot hear the listener? Is the listener not condemned to a situation of ‘don’t talk back’, and is this dumbness not an expression of powerlessness? Is not the omnipresence we are presented with a presence of the un-free? And is not the un-free person actually absent, since he or she is treated as if they were not there, as if they were air, as if they themselves had nothing to say? […]

It would be utterly comprehensible if a heckler interrupted these questions and declared all this hoeing and froing about whether what is transmitted by media were present or absent to be meaningless. I can hear him saying: “What radio or TV delivers are images, representations, not presence! And that images do not permit intervention and treat us like air, well that is obvious and has in fact long been recognised under the philosophical heading of ‘aesthetic appearance’ [the ‘as-if’ nature of art].”

However plausible his argument may sound, it is wrong. For one – and this is a basic phenomenological fact –, because there are no ‘acoustic images’; even the gramophone presents us with a symphony, not with an image of a symphony. […] It is not mere images that we get via the media. However, we are also not really present at the real event either. The question of whether we are present or absent is indeed meaningless. But this is not because the answer is ‘image’ (and thus ‘absent’), but, rather, because the uniqueness of the situation created by the medial transmission is its ontological ambiguity: i.e. because the transmitted events are simultaneously present and absent, simultaneously real and make-believe, simultaneously there and not there, in short, because they are apparitions.

§ 12 In TV the image and what it depicts are synchronous. Synchronicity is the degenerate form of the present

The heckler will continue: “But what might be valid for radio is not the case for television. Surely no one can deny that television delivers us images.”

Surely no one. And yet, these are not ‘images’ in the traditional sense either. In the history of human image-making until now it has always been an essential characteristic of the image that there be a, albeit tacit, time difference or ‘time gradient’ between the image and what it was depicting. […] Whether constructions which lack this ‘time gradient’ may be called ‘images’, is doubtful. Such, however, are the images TV transmits.

Although they, as films, proceed within time, there can no longer be any talk of there being a temporal relation between them and that which they depict. What we have called the ‘temporal gradient’ has now shrunk to zero. They appear simultaneously and synchronously with the events they depict. Like telescopes, they show us present events. Does not that indicate ‘presence’, and are constructions which show things that are present still ‘images’? […]

The achievement of the TV transmission consists in its presenting the synchronous or almost synchronous in such a way as to seem like an authentic present; to give the appearance of real, concrete presence to the only formally present; to completely eradicate the inherently diffuse borderline between the two ‘presents’, and thus between the relevant and the irrelevant. Every TV transmission declares, in fact correctly, “Now I’m here – and not only I, the transmission, but I, the transmitted event.” And through this “now I’m here”, via this present actuality, it makes itself into a phenomenon that transcends all image-likeness; and since it is equally not a really present something, it makes itself into an intermediate something, an intermediate object between being and appearance which we have just called, speaking of the radio transmission, an appearance or ‘phantom’.

With respect to the weakening of the borderline between the two presents there would not only be nothing to object against, properly done it would even be welcome. For today there is much too much that we unjustly push aside as ‘merely synchronous’, as adiaphoron [Stoic Greek term for ‘morally indifferent’, PL-N], although it really impacts on, and can be impacted by, us, although it is nostra res [Latin: ‘our thing’] and most concrete and threatening present. The danger of parochialisation is no less than the danger of false globalisation. Technology for widening our moral horizon of the present far beyond our immediate sensuous surroundings would thus indeed be necessary.

However, TV does not enable this widening. Rather, it dissolves our perceptual horizon so completely that we no longer really know an authentic present; and even regarding those events which should really concern us, we display only that seeming degree of interest we have learned to display from the pseudo-‘presents’ delivered to our homes.

Unnecessary to add that the number of delivered phenomena of ‘presents’ is unlimited. […] Events that fall out of the global Now do not exist, and thus there is also nothing that could not be transformed into a supposedly present something. But the more is made present, the less it is made present. Among the radio and TV fans I have met, I would not know of a single one who has been educated into becoming a ‘friend of the world’, or even a ‘man of the times’, via their consumed daily portion of simultaneities. However, I have met quite a few whose daily media diet has made them ‘world-less’, bereft of relationship, distracted, has made them a ‘man of the now’.

§ 13 Digression: Flashback to a burnt-out passion. The Distracted Person lives only in the Now. The Devices produce an artificial schizophrenia – the Individual becomes a ‘Di-vidual’

[…] Of course it was no accident that these poets [like Apollinaire, Werfel] emerged in the historical moment in which the technologies of distraction and dispersion in the form of illustrated magazines etc. began to become mass commodities. However, these poets simply desperately attempted to force together the dispersed, whereas the purpose of the technologies of distraction and entertainment media was the opposite, namely to produce distraction or enable it. What distraction (usually understood much too distractedly, namely as a mere metaphor) intended was to remove people’s individuation, or more exactly to remove their consciousness of this loss by taking away the spatial location of their principium individuationis [principle of individuation]; i.e. by placing them in a situation in which they were ubique simul [simultaneously everywhere], always also elsewhere, no longer taking up a certain location, never finding themselves in themselves, never in something real, in short, finding themselves nowhere.

One will object that the victims of these distraction technologies were not victims, that industry and its supply of distractions was simply fulfilling a demand. This is not quite untrue, but also not quite true, since the demand itself was produced.

One cannot expect that people who are pressed into the narrowness of specialised, personally meaningless employment and exposed to boredom, will simply be able, or even want to, or even be able to want to, find back to their proportio humana [human proportion], their true selves (if they still exist) at that moment when that pressure and boredom stops, i.e. at the end of the working day. Rather, since the ending of the constricting pressure is like an explosion, and since those suddenly liberated from their work no longer know anything in their work but estrangement, they, unless simply exhausted, rush to a thousand strangenesses, no matter which, to everything that is geared to renewing the passage of time and creating another time signature after the long lull of boredom: i.e. to rapidly changing scenes.

There is nothing that so completely satisfies this understandable hunger for omnipresence and rapidity of change like radio and TV programs. For these simultaneously cater for greed and exhaustion, tension and relaxation, speed and inactivity, manipulation and leisure – they serve it all up together. Indeed, they even spare us from even having to rush towards this distraction since they rush towards us – in short, it is impossible to resist such manifold temptation. No wonder then, that the curse of being everywhere and nowhere at once that weighed so heavily on those early-modern poets has now become the (apparently) carefree and normal leisure condition, i.e. the condition of all those who are over there while sitting right here, and who, being so used to being simultaneously everywhere and thus nowhere, that they actually do not live anywhere anymore, at least not in any place, not in an apartment, but rather, at most, in their unhomely place or point in time which changes in every moment, in the Now.

But in this way the distraction of the contemporary person has not yet been completely described. For its pinnacle is to be found in a condition which one cannot describe as other than ‘artificially produced schizophrenia’. This ‘schizophrenia’ is not just a side-effect of distraction machines but rather one which is explicitly intended and is also demanded by the customer, albeit not under this label.

What do we mean here by ‘schizophrenia’?

We mean that state of the ego in which it is cut up into two or more parts, or at least into two or more partial functions, into entities or functions which are not only not coordinated but also not able to be coordinated; and which are not only not able to be coordinated, but upon the coordination of which the ego places no importance; and upon which the ego not only places no importance, but the coordination of which the ego even energetically rejects.

In his second meditation Descartes had described it as impossible ‘à concevoir la moitié d’aucune âme’ [‘to conceive of half of any soul’, PL-N]. Today the halved soul is a common phenomenon. In fact there is, for the contemporary person, or at least for that person during his or her leisure time, no habit as characteristic as the habit of giving oneself up to two or more disparate activities at the same time. The man sunbathing, for example, who is acquiring a suntan while his eyes are skimming through a magazine, his ears are participating in a sporting match, his jaws are chewing gum – this figure of the passive simultaneity-player and multitasking non-doer is a common international phenomenon. […]

If one were to ask this sunbather what is ‘actual’ activity was, where his soul ‘actually’ was located, he could of course not answer. He could not answer because the question about the ‘actual’ is already based on a false assumption, namely that he is the subject of the activity. If one can still even speak here of ‘subject’ or ‘subjects’, then these can only refer to his bodily organs: in his eyes located in the magazine images, in his ears located in their sporting event, in his jaws located in the gum chewing – in short his identity is so fundamentally disorganised that the search for ‘him himself’ would be the search for a non-existent. He is thus not only dispersed over manifold localities but over a plurality of single bodily functions.

[Anders Footnote: If it is correct to view a tumour as a disease sui generis, namely as the condition in which the central energy of the organism is no longer able to keep all the cells in line with the result that these now begin to independently and rampantly grow, then the autonomisation of the single bodily functions we are talking about here is the psychological analogy of a tumour.]

The question of what drives such a person to this disorganised busyness, what makes his single bodily functions so disconnected, independent or apparently autonomous, has really already been answered. But let us repeat: it is the horror vacui [‘horror of emptiness’], the fear of independence and freedom, or more exactly, the fear of having to himself articulate the space of freedom which his leisure provides him with, the vacuum his leisure confronts him with, of having to fill his own leisure time himself.

His work has so finally habituated him to being employed, being dependent, that he cannot cope with the task of being independently self-active the moment his work stops; for he can no longer find the ‘self’ which could drive this self-activity. Every leisure time today has a secret affinity with unemployment.

If he remains thrown back onto himself at this moment then he breaks up into his single bodily functions because he himself as a central organising principle is missing. But of course these single functions are just as habituated to merely being used as he himself is. Thus they – every single one of them – reaches for the nearest available content at the moment of their ‘unemployment’. […]

One kind of content is certainly not enough, rather every organ needs its own content because if only one organ stays unemployed, this unemployment could provide a breach through which nothingness could flood in. To just listen or look or view is thus quite insufficient – quite apart from the fact that the exclusiveness of such a ‘single activity’ would demand an ability to abstract and concentrate and that ability does not exist where an organizing centre is absent. […] In short, every organ has to be ‘occupied’ in order to be secured against the void. And ‘being occupied’ is a much better description of this condition than is ‘being busy’.

Since, however, this occupation should not consist of work (for we are talking about leisure), it can only be consumable stimulants which occupy the bodily organs. Every organ, every bodily function thus follows its aim of consumption and desire for consumption. […]
Every organ thinks it is suffering from hunger when, instead of being occupied, it is exposed to the void, i.e. when it is free. Every moment of non-consumption feels like deprivation, for which the chain-smoker is the prime example. Thus, horribili dictu, freedom (freedom = non-activity = non-consumption) becomes identical with deprivation. This is also the reason for the demand for consumer items that can be ceaselessly consumed, items that thus do not contain the danger of satisfying. I say ‘danger’ because satisfaction would limit the time of enjoyment and thus dialectically again change into not-consuming, i.e. deprivation. This is the explanation for the role of the never-ending gum and the eternally playing radio.

[Anders Footnote: At the same time the background to ‘passive simultaneity-playing’, albeit completely transformed, is the ideal of maximal work productivity and the economy principle. Transferred to leisure, this means: with the sweat of one’s brow one attempts to achieve as much leisure as possible at one go, everything that is ‘fun’, crossword puzzle and gum and radio music etc. all at the same time. And this because otherwise one would be wasting leisure.] […]

Today the new normal is the simultaneous delivery of completely disparate elements, not just the objectively disparate but the stylistically disparate, not only the stylistically but also the culturally disparate: today no one finds it strange, for example, to be having breakfast looking at a cartoon and experiencing the thrust of the knife through the sexually breast-enhanced chest of the jungle girl while the triplets of the Moonshine Sonata simultaneously trickle into one’s ears. And nobody has difficulties taking in both at the same time. – It is only recently that academic psychology had still rejected the possibility of simultaneously consuming two such completely disparate phenomena and moods. […]

Until now cultural critique had seen the destruction of the human exclusively in the latter’s standardisation, i.e. in the fact that only a numerical individuality had been left to the individual who had been transformed into a serial being. Now even this numerical individuality has also reached its end: the numerical rest has itself been ‘divided up’ again, the individual transformed into the ‘divided’, cut up into a plurality of bodily functions. The destruction of the human can obviously go no further, the human not become more inhuman. All the more abstruse and hypocritical is thus the ‘renaissance of holistic perspectives’ so passionately and portentously celebrated by current psychology, which in fact is merely a manoeuvre to hide the fragmented shards of the human under the academic cloak of Theory.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on February 11, 2018.

17 Responses to “Anders, The World as Apparition 3”

  1. it’s hard to accept…but hard to deny…being a product of this conditioning in more ways than i want to look…

    • Hi Kristi,

      Perhaps we are all conditioned and often in ways we are not aware, even people like Anders, Adorno, Marx, and all great thinkers, and people of all persuasions for better or worse. No different to most or all animals dealing with their internal and external environs. To tell you the truth, I’m am becoming less and less confident recourse ability to communicate clearly with one another. I’m am not certain we have really come to grips with this thing called the language faculty which seems to have a lot to do with this thing we call knowledge and our ability to absorb and understand things.

      I am not sure whether “we” really “know” quite often what is for better or worse. It is usually always an assessment made sometime after the fact and even then subject to all kinds of dispute.

      • Bloody hell, that should be “re our ability to communicate” not “recourse”…

        Bloody technology and it’s preemptive language correction and my habit/conditioning to not double check stuff!

      • I’m sure you’re right James…so many variables…so many spectacles to contend with…a constant assault…
        I barely even try to converse deeply with anyone anymore….it’s like i live 2 separate lives…the routine and the constant feeling it’s so mundane and murderous and could be so much better if people would just question, analyze and communicate without all the “right fighting” attitudes…but who the fuck knows…?!

      • Thanx Kristi, and I’ve tried a response on language/communication to you both below under James’ comment. (And hope your school was far from that shooting madness in Florida?)

      • Hey Peter, James….well…in my, albeit limited, experience, these inherent characteristics of language for cooperation between speakers seem to largely dormant…probably due to the competitive conditioning…but I find people are usually too busy trying to prove their own point…and barely listen to another’s pov….loud debates as opposed to thoughtful (dialectical?) conversations…i admit to being guilty myself…
        As for that latest school shooting, it was an hours drive from my school and the fallout was naturally emotional, reactionary…the solutions leaning towards more surveillance and more police in the schools themselves…little questioning of the root causes…

      • Take your point Kristi, competitive conversations, not really listening and point-scoring all over the place and we ALL do it too much I agree. I’m too often guilty of the odd rant and point-scoring…

        I think the language-as-inherently-cooperative argument pertains to any decent kind of human conversation, however, e.g. among friends and peers, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE DISAGREEING WITH EACH OTHER. Imagine a few workers sitting around in a bar having a conversation about their families, sport, work, politicians, whatever…Unless anyone is bent on being ostracised as a prick, they will be listening, responding to the others’ remarks, taking turns and trying not to cut off, checking if they’ve misunderstood or understood correctly, providing confirmation or encouragment or criticism etc etc. i.e. they will be experiencing a participatory process of collective and individual meaning-making, no matter what the topics are nor whether they agree on everything…(This will only be happening to a much lesser degree or not at all in non-peer, hierarchical order-taker/order-giver communications of course…)

      • Hey James, Kristi, camerados, here we are opening the whole great steaming can of language philosophy amigo…as you do…i like the idea (a la Habermas and others, but strangely not Chomsky as far as i know) that human language per se has this cooperativeness inherent in it: e.g. we need to take turns (cooperation, fairness, justice), we may need to ask for clarification or check that we are being understood (cooperative interaction, caring for the other), we may become aware that we cooperatively construct meaning together even, or especially, when we argue and disagree etc. etc. So language can be seen from this anti-capitalist perspective as inherently grounding human cooperation, caring, a sense of fairness/justice, a participatory meaning-making within an often overwhelming universe… i.e. human language thus may ground the transcultural possibility of a participatory society, since we all already have daily structural experience of it when we communicate, even trivially…(as we may also do improvising music or theatre…) Thus language unites as much as divides, even as it divides…And then there’s the unity beyond language, words, thinking…

  2. At least there’s Peter.

  3. yeah…conversations among friends and family who don’t have an agenda or ulterior motive are usually civil, balanced and participatory…definitely depends on the social/gender/hierarchical ranking…
    personally, there’s nothing like a conversation where everyone contributes and everyone is heard…whether all agree or not, there’s none of that lofty judgement…

    • I agree with y’all and without conversation nothing happens really, but there is this thing…this ‘what I’m into thing’ which could be anything for anyone at anytime and not a shared place. Those ‘things’ may not be the things others are into so require elucidation. Elucidation needs time and conversations, like free improvisations happen in real time and the end result is unknown. To embark on conversations whose direction and outcome is unknown is dicey at the best of times. Most pub conversations, even family conversations don’t go there, they avoid the unknown like it’s the plague.

      Pub conversations can handle this to a point, usually if the conversation remains within certain boundaries and shared knowledge. Once the conversation veers off into ‘heavier’ areas of a more abstract or political nature that is beyond shared knowledge, all sorts of stuff, much unexpected and the unknown can come up. The conversation has veered into that territory that places a question mark next to each participants intellect and ability to understand and people feel it themselves, they don’t need others to point it out. All of a sudden the conversation has put people into uncomfort. The word or idea of ‘the intellect’ or ‘intellectual’ or ‘clever dick’ and ‘smartarse’, is floating around, maybe unstated, like a dark spectre and people feel like they are back at school, being tested, marked, sussed, questioned, and unable to cope with what’s happening.

      And it’s not just what people know, what they have read, are reading, or have done or where they have been or how old they are etc., it’s their ability to not just listen or hang in the conversation but to participate with confidence and that confidence, when conversations have entered a new realm where everyone knows the knowledge, intellect level has been raised, can take a beating from even the most innocuous and silliest of remarks made even flippantly and unintentionally by someone else…

      And people can often get to a point where, what was once real confidence and certainty in their own thoughts and views, is now the complete opposite, to the degree they are not just questioning their viewpoint but their very ability to understand and their own intellect. Welcome to school. You never really leave and prefects, school captains and the really smart buggers are everywhere ready to put you in your place, often with help from yourself.

      The old adage dont’ talk about politics, religion or sex rings quite true.

  4. Kristi, re the school shootings, you may have seen a good article at Znet by a Sandy Carter, an ext-teacher and kids’ counsellor…?

  5. thanx peter…i read it…and then another one by L. Finley…
    all good stuff…meanwhile, the latest “solution” is to arm us teachers!
    like that’s constructive!?
    so Orwellian…

  6. Going to pop this here. Peter might like this. I love it.

    Below are some lines I particularly liked among many others. But as it was about the act of reading I was struck by the way Esther read. The way she swayed to the motion of the words, the way she articulated and how her voice quietly dropped to a gentle breath at the end of some sentences. Put me in a “space” or place that seemed to mirror those conjured by Japanese paper. Reminded me of when I was struck once by the way Billie Holiday opened and shut her mouth when singing, intimately connected to the articulation of groove.

    “The knowledge that is organised in slips and scraps knows no hierarchy.” (E.L or Walter Benjamin?)

    “Thought itself and it’s expression in word and image remains in motion.” (E.L or Walter Benjamin’s?)

    I often compose directly on the “machine”. There is, I notice, even a difference between composing an email or posting a comment in that little box under an essay directly, and roughing it elsewhere, before one copies and pastes and hits send or post! It is something felt. The replacement of Japanese paper with western paper, the brush with the metal nib, the physicality of the typewriter, changes the nature of the writing and writer as does now the touch screen, the iPad, and the larger lap top or PC. Thoughts are being “scribbled” and digitised everywhere, in short and quick bursts mostly, tweets and nasty swipes. The slower thoughtful act of reading, in particular, out loud, once echoed the same in writing. Now the thoughtful has been brushed aside by the the short, swift, and sometimes ill considered, often confused with the efficiency, brevity and concision, and never ever really intended for continued dialogue. No time for that.

    In such a world the dream slips away and becomes even more remote, (Eugene Chadbourne’s book, Dreamory, the whole book, of a thousand pages in tiny print, stands in stark almost vengeful contrast!) and the yearning for a more meaningful narrative of the world turns to anxiety and fear as this gap is widened, becoming a canyon. It’s in this space the unthinking person finds themselves, spinning and flitting, stuck between huge walls, hemmed in, captured by the neon lights of a Grand Time Square, blinding one of distance and pushing any notion of a Utopia beyond the horizon, beyond conception, beyond possibility.

    The perfect word, as snowflake, falls and melts into the snow, forever irretrievable.

  7. Great thoughts, James, thanks. I’m pretty flexible personally re handwriting versus computer…use both for poems/essays, whatever comes up…there is something about the hand’s rhythm and flow and connection to soul urge when first drafting tho’, the PC then great for easy editing and shifting around…have a poet friend who prefers writing postcards and letters and with a fountain pen what’s more which I always greatly appreciate…Ah yes, and the importance of feeling good quality paper…

    The video talk seems fascinating and I watched the first six minutes of it, but I’m running out of my fairly small data download allowance right now at the end of the month, and will come back to it after March first…

  8. thanx for the video james…excellent…yes, her voice really is amazing…

    and her closing words about space now being the screen-space and capitalism communicating from every angle…touch screens linking with our bodies, reading us…now we have become the books…

    damn…computers truly are a double-edged sword…

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