Philip Marchand helps us celebrate with AN ARTICLE posted at Laureano Ralon’s Figure-Ground Commmunications blog. Individual reasons for celebrating McLuhan may differ. If asked to summarize my own reasons for liking him, I’d respond roughly as follows:
1. He has a tremendous sense of how the background conditions for any statement or appearance are more powerful than the statement or appearance itself. In this respect he can be paired with Heidegger’s critique of presence-at-hand, which I happen to think was the single most important insight to come out of 20th century philosophy.
2. Unlike Heidegger, McLuhan has a very detailed sense of how background and surface can trigger each other and reverse or flip into each other. This is why he isn’t a “technological determinist.” It lies within your power, individual human, to create something really remarkable that transforms the medium in which humans work in any specific area. (Example: It may have been true that academic illusionist painting was in trouble in 1905, but it was by no means “determined” what Braque and Picasso had to do next. Things could have gone in a number of different directions at that point. The individual is in fact extremely powerful in McLuhan’s vision.)
3. Formal causation as more important than efficient causation. I’ll save these remarks for my talk in
. But Francis Bacon is McLuhan’s key partner here, and if you don’t like Bacon– you will. (For starters, go early into the second half of the Novum Organum and look for a long list headed something like “Instances Agreeing in the Nature of Heat,” in which Bacon tries to sum up a list of all warm and hot things in the world. It’s hilarious, remarkable, and has a fascinating metaphysics of formal cause underlying it.) Brussels