Friday, March 09, 2007

Heidegger, Benjamin, Lacan, Baudrillard

Still, without necessarily following Heidegger's turn, we can look at this "error" as a productive one. To do so, we can begin to think a brief bit about Walter Benjamin, whose work had a considerable emphasis on Baudrillard's thought. Benjamin's most famous essay, his "Work of Art in the Age of Technical Reproducibility," tackles an issue that may seem somewhat tangential or secondary for Heidegger: the role of new production technologies in changing the nature of the object. But of course it's not tangential at all, since the worldliness that Heidegger writes about in Being and Time is, if we believe Benjamin, in part called into question by these new representational technologies....
Put the Benjamin aside and on hold for a bit, and just let it simmer. Let's recall that Heidegger spends a lot of Being and Time concerned with the way metaphysics has built up a system of thought that hides the more primordial and fundamental ontological question of Being. The separation of beings from Being and the myth of objective reality are all rather essential backdrops for Heidegger's project.
So too for Baudrillard's thought, though for different reasons than the early Heidegger. I think that, and i'll just go ahead and make this clear up front, we can think of Baudrillard's career in many ways as an alternate attempt to deal with the point of confusion identified above in Heidegger. It does so not by reorienting the analysis such that it privileges temporality over the subjectivity of Dasein, but by displacing any question of the subjectal with the objectal, which is to say that Baudrillard explains the dispersal of Dasein into das Man by exposing the subject's overdetermination by the object. As Charles Levin explains, in his book on Baudrillard:
No subject can be posited without an object: the object creates the space-time of thought, and its ontic discreteness (its ‘readiness at hand’, as Heidegger might say) serves as the model for the social individual, as both agency and entity – as a thing that wills...
At this point, it's useful to recall Benjamin's discussion of the authenticity of the object, which relates somewhat obviously to the discussion of Baudrillard thus far, in that it is technological reproducibility that makes automation and the rise of the object possible. But there is a more interesting, though more subtle, way of integrating Benjamin's insight into aura. I quoted Baudrillard earlier as suggesting that we experience automatism as the "imaginary" of the object. in that the object is experienced primarily neither at the level of the symbolic or the Real. We're in the Lacanian register here, obviously, but Baudrillard is way too savvy and antagonistic to simply accept Lacan's terminology. What if the imaginary and the Real also functioned via an auratic economy? We would need to rethink the relation between the registers.
Lacan, for example, was very clear in thinking that the imaginary first comes about through the encounter with a mirror object that is primarily (alright, exclusively) static. But if the object is as ascendant as Baudrillard thinks it is, and this is true because of its mechanical reproduction, its automatism, then to a certain extent it becomes ascendant through the collapse of aura; the fall of latter makes possible the rise of the former, so to speak...By kenrufo March 8, 2007 in Baudrillard, Heidegger Permalink

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