Baudrillard refers to the Borges
fable in reference to the general semantics
phrase “the map is not the territory
.” In this phrase “the map” refers to the symbology of language, and “the territory” refers to the real. Hence, general semantics
makes the important distinction between symbols and reality, and cautions us to never mistaken our interpretative tool (symbols) for reality itself. Dreamvirus
illustrates this well in his node, general semantics
, when he says,
though a system of symbols (such as religious iconography, for example) starts out...as a tool (helping) human beings to understand and analyze certain forms of experience (such as religious experiences), there is an inherent tendency in humanity to begin to treat the symbol-system as if it were itself real. This leads to great confusion when the symbol-system encounters symbols or concepts which do not fall within its sphere of description (for example, the iconography of another religion). It may seem, to those who use the symbol-system to understand the world, as if the conflicting symbols or concepts are unreal or dangerous somehow.
However, in the Borges
fable, the symbols match the real in every exact detail – it is a copy, an exact copy. So how could you tell difference? (Think The Matrix
- “Have you ever had a dream that was so real
you couldn’t tell the difference between the real world and the dream world?” – or something like that) What you have, in essence, is two identical realities. Then they begin to move through time, each being affected differently by random events and circumstances. But which is the real
? You could never tell, since they both were identical
at one point. So they are, in essence, simulations. Difference between them can be determined, but never authenticity. Hence both must be considered simulated copies, but copies without an original, because the original, reality, could never be known.
And this is Baudrillard’s point: with the advent of mass media and hyper-analysis, there are no truly conflicting iconographies anymore – everything has been incorporated into a hyperreality of analysis, even the historical iconographies are no longer all-inclusive absolutes; they’ve become relativities subject to the same mass media analysis as everything else. Catholic dogma is compared to Buddhist doctrine regularly, the edicts of President Bush are analyzed right along Saddam Hussein’s pronouncements (with right and wrong being ascribed, true, but all are consumed and filtered through the mass media simulation). In our postmodern world, where
the old poles of attraction (iconographies) represented by nation-states, parties, professions, institutions, and historical traditions are losing their attraction ( Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition)
there is only one all-consuming symbology – the mass media. Hence analysis has become as real as ‘the real,’ an identical copy, thereby effacing realness
, just like Borges
’s identical map effaced the realness
of “the territory” by, in effect, created two ‘reals.’ Since there can only be one ‘real,’ and that is indeterminable, both are considered simulations, duplicate reals, and thereby in effect becoming simulacra (various simulated events) running in a massive world-system of simulation - a copy without a determinable original.
According to Baudrillard then, general semantics’ distinction between symbol and reality has become impossible to determine. The sign is reality. The reality is the sign. There is no difference.
Make sense? It’s thick, I know, and I tried to write as clearly as possible.
/msg comments are very welcome.