Simulacra and Simulation is a book on theories of cultural materialism by the noted French thinker, Jean Baudrillard. It was written in 1981, and reflects a distinctly postmodern school of thought.

Perhaps one of the more interesting things about this book is that it does not speak of theories of culture in terms of economic notions like production, but instead in terms of expenditure.

Some helpful notes on getting a grip on what this work, which is severely mind-bending is about, are taken from the inside front flap:

The publication in France of Simulacra et Simulation in 1981 marked Jean Baudrillard's first important step towards theorizing the postmodern. Moving away from the Marxist/Freudian approaches that had concerned him earlier, Baudrillard developed in this book a theory of contemporary culture that relies on displacing economic notions of cultural production with notions of cultural expenditure.

Baudrillard uses the concepts of the Simulacrum - the copy without an original and the Simulation, crucial to an understanding of the postmodern, to address the problem of mass reproduction and reproducibility that characterizes our electronic media culture...

The book sums it up better than I can, but there are some interesting concepts brought forth that I will share, as well as an interesting quote:

"The simulacrum is never what hides the truth - it is the truth that hides that there is none. The simulacrum is true." -- Ecclesiastes

The first interesting idea I got out of this book was that of simulation. What is the difference between faking illness, and simulating illness? To fake illness, we mean to pretend to exhibit some symptoms of disease. To simulate illness, we mean to really generate those symptoms. Where do we draw the line between simulation and reality?

A good example of this is Maxwell Klinger from M*A*S*H - trying to escape from the army on the ground of being crazy. Ask yourself this - where do we draw the line between someone who simulates craziness, and one who is crazy? We might say that if he is able to simulate so well, it is becuase he really is crazy.

The Second idea is the notion, briefly, of simulacrum. We can examine the Borges fable of the empire's cartographers, who become obsessed with mapping the empire. Eventually, they draw a map so detailed, it totally covers the empire at a 1:1 scale. which is reality?

Thirdly, what of the hyperreal? To use the map metaphor, what of the map, where there is no land?

If you think about it, these simple ideas can be applied to many areas of metaphysics in culture, and your lives, especially now in this digital age. The entirety of the internet, that nebulous "reality", falls into this provence, I believe.

If you had not guessed already, I highly recommend this book.

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 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.

Another day comes to an end, she runs the simulation and I put on my blinds.
My illusion about unreal becomes real and her simulation is feigned.

N number of times have I warned myself not to live in a fallacious world.
I don’t understand why she needs to simulate one when fallacies are all around us.

In an insane quest for intelligence I managed to cloak the wisdom.
Though her symptoms are no different, she is just wise enough to hide.

I always wanted to protect her from reality that cleaves us every now and then.
But her fears were unreal, non-physical and my shield became translucent.

Something’s cannot be interpreted or understood and best left veiled.
It is a splinter in the convolutions of mind, like pin-pricks to existence.

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