Ideas of Jean Baudrillard, by Theme

[French, 1929 - 2007, originally a teacher of German]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 1. Philosophy
There is no longer anything on which there is nothing to say
     Full Idea: There is no longer anything on which there is nothing to say.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p. 17)
     A reaction: Compare Ideas 2937 and 6870. I'm not sure whether Baudrillard is referring to the limits of philosophy, or merely to social taboos. I like Ansell Pearson's view: we should attempt to discuss what appears to be undiscussable.
1. Philosophy / H. Continental Philosophy / 1. Continental Philosophy
Some continental philosophers are relativists - Baudrillard, for example
     Full Idea: There are philosophers in the continental tradition who are relativists - Baudrillard, for example.
     From: report of Jean Baudrillard (works [1976]) by Simon Critchley - Interview with Baggini and Stangroom p.192
     A reaction: This remark is in the context of Critchley denying that most continental philosophers are relativists.
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 5. Objectivity
The task of philosophy is to unmask the illusion of objective reality
     Full Idea: The task of philosophy is to unmask the illusion of objective reality - a trap that is, in a sense, laid for us by nature.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p. 40)
     A reaction: There is a vast gap between this and the Lockean view (Idea 7653) that philosophers are there to help reveal reality, probably via science. I retain the Enlightenment faith that there is a reality to be found. Baudrillard must be taken seriously, though.
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 9. Limits of Reason
Drunken boat pilots are less likely to collide than clearly focused ones
     Full Idea: Two boats on Lake Constance in dense fog are in less danger of colliding if their pilots are drunk than if they are attempting to master the situation.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p.196)
     A reaction: Charming, but I think empirical research would prove it false. At least rational pilots know to keep to the right (?) when a shape looms through the fog. I prefer rational pilots, but then I am one of those sad people who admires the Enlightenment.
2. Reason / C. Styles of Reason / 1. Dialectic
Instead of thesis and antithesis leading to synthesis, they now cancel out, and the conflict is levelled
     Full Idea: Gone is the dialectic, the play of thesis and antithesis resolving itself in synthesis. The opposing terms now cancel each other out in a levelling of all conflict.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p.129)
     A reaction: This is from someone who approved of 9/11 (p.137 of this text), and seemed to welcome conflict. His idea, which has plausibility, is that the modern media have become a great warm bath that calmly absorbs every abrasive thrown into it.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 2. Reality
Without God we faced reality: what do we face without reality?
     Full Idea: The eclipse of God left us up against reality. Where will the eclipse of reality leave us?
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004])
     A reaction: Baudrillard's distinctive view is that modern culture is thwarting all our attempts to grasp reality, which itself becomes a fiction. The answer is that you are left in the position of the ancient sceptics. Sextus Empiricus (see) is the saviour.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / b. Vagueness of reality
Nothing is true, but everything is exact
     Full Idea: Someone said: everything is true, nothing is exact. I would say the opposite: nothing is true, everything is exact.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p.210)
     A reaction: In analytical terminology, this appears to say that vagueness is ontological, not epistemological, agreeing with Williamson and others. To say that 'nothing is true', though, just strikes me as silly. What does Baudrillard mean by 'true'?
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 5. Against Free Will
There is no need to involve the idea of free will to make choices about one's life
     Full Idea: There is no need to involve the idea of free will to make choices about one's life.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p. 57)
     A reaction: Someone who believed that free will was metaphysically possible, but that they themselves lacked it, might feel paralysed, defeated or fatalistic about their decision-making. But that would be like falsely believing you were fatally ill.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 6. Value of Art
In modern times, being useless is the essential aesthetic ingredient for an object
     Full Idea: Since the nineteenth century it has been art's claim that it is useless...so it is enough to elevate any object to uselessness to turn it into a work of art...and obsolete useless objects automatically acquire an aesthetic aura.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p.111)
     A reaction: Art is 'purposive without purpose' (Kant). An nice summary of the situation, and this seems to explain the role of Duchamp's famous urinal, up on the wall and rendered useless. The obvious rebellion, though, is Arts and Crafts.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / c. Value of happiness
Good versus evil has been banefully reduced to happiness versus misfortune
     Full Idea: The ideal opposition between good and evil has been reduced to the idealogical oppositions between happiness and misfortune. The reduction of good to happiness is as baneful as that of evil to misfortune.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p.139)
     A reaction: A nice example is the use in the media of the word 'tragic' for every misfortune. See the debate over the translation of the Greek 'eudaimonia'. 'Happiness' seems the wrong translation, if it leads to comments like Baudrillard's.
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 4. Suicide
Suicide is ascribed to depression, with the originality of the act of will ignored
     Full Idea: Suicide is always ascribed to depressive motivations with no account taken of an originality of, an original will to commit, the act itself.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p.153)
     A reaction: Apparently research suggests that most suicides are clinically depressed, but even within the depression there is a startling act of will that goes beyond merely feeling bad.
25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / c. Despotism
Whole populations are terrorist threats to authorities, who unite against them
     Full Idea: One way or another, populations themselves are a terrorist threat to the authorities...and by extension, we can hypothesize a coalition of all governments against all populations.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p.120)
     A reaction: This may count as left-wing paranoia, but it is a striking thought, which plants an uneasy notion in the mind whenever we see two world leaders disappear behind closed doors for a chat.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / d. Representative democracy
People like democracy because it means they can avoid power
     Full Idea: If the people puts itself into the hands of the political class, it does so more to be rid of power than out of any desire for representation.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p. 54)
     A reaction: Very nice. If we are all in the grips of some biological 'will to power', that needn't be power over huge numbers of other people, merely power over our immediate lives. It can be expressed by building a wall.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 6. Liberalism
Only in the last 200 years have people demanded the democratic privilege of being individuals
     Full Idea: Individuality is a recent phenomenon. It is only over the last two centuries that the populations of the civilized countries have demanded the democratic privilege of being individuals.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p. 55)
     A reaction: I think Aristotle's ethics and politics imply individuality, given that the only purpose of civic society seems to be to enable individuals to flourish and lead virtuous lives. Society is justified, for example, because it makes friendship possible.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 4. Education / d. History study
The arrival of the news media brought history to an end
     Full Idea: The course of history came to an end with the entry on the scene of the news media.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p. 83)
     A reaction: The sort of remark for which Baudrillard became famous. It strikes me as nonsense. The view the British people got of the Battle of Trafalgar was even more distorted than their picture of the Battle of El Alamein. We know what he means, though.
28. God / B. Proving God / 2. Proofs of Reason / d. Pascal's Wager
Pascal says secular life is acceptable, but more fun with the hypothesis of God
     Full Idea: What Pascal says, more or less, is that you can more or less content yourself with a secular existence and its advantages, but it's much more fun with the hypothesis of God.
     From: Jean Baudrillard (The Intelligence of Evil [2004], p.155)
     A reaction: Pascal will be a bit startled when he reads this, but it is a lovely way to present his idea. It suddenly sounds much more attractive. Life would be much more fun if we lived according to all sorts of startling beliefs. Relating your life to God is one.