Word & Simulacra

pagal | 2013 07 09

Straipsnyje iš fenomenologinės perspektyvos apžvelgiama kalbos pertekliaus krizė, ištikusi šiuolaikinę visuomenę. Dabartinė kalba jau nebėra betarpiškas saitas, kuris jungia žmogaus protą ir bekalbių daiktų pasaulį. Šių dienų postmodernistinė kalba, kurios pagrindą sudaro paskalos, skandalai, gandai, įvairiausio plauko „nuomonės“, buitinio lygio plepalai ir kitos spekuliacijos, nereprezentuoja jokios realybės, esančios už iliuzinės žodžio teritorijos. Šiuolaikinis žmogus iš esmės kalba apie nieką, yra kalbos vergas ir marionetė. Kalba mūsų laikais įgauna teroristinį, net totalitaristinį (Arvydo Šliogerio terminas) pobūdį. Kalba užvaldo ir atskiria žmogų nuo bekalbės realybės, taip jį pavergdama Ekrano beprotybei. Kalba yra kekšė, sako Šliogeris. Mes kalbame kaip niekada daug ir kaip niekada anksčiau mažai pasakome. Kalba yra mirusi, o negyvas Žodis (ypač rašytinis žodis) tapo tobulu simuliakru, tobulu teroro prieš bekalbių daiktų pasaulį įrankiu.


Word and Simulacra

Jean Baudrillard was not the first thinker to expose a process that is happening in modern society, but he was the first who gave it a definition and provided the most accurate name for what is now widely known as hyperreality. According to Baudrillard, hyperreality” is a way of characterizing what our consciousness defines as real in a world where a multitude of media can radically shape and filter an original event or experience. Hyperreality” is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins. In modern human world (ruled by the civilization of technology) hyperreality” creates so called simulacra” and simulation” which are actually processes that change reality into hyperreality” by hiding and distorting reality. Baudrillard claims that our current society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that human experience is a simulation of reality. It is obvious that this happened to our language too, since postmodern language lost its connection with its material found and turned into pure simulation. From now on we are talking for the language itself and terms we use do not have any reference in the real world. Language is nothing but a system of perfect simulation at its most developed and most frightening form. From now our words are no longer really say anything, they are nothing but sounds and fictions used to cover the scary fact – the language is no longer alive. Nietzsche said that God has died and we could live with that, because modern society did not needed God (since it created a perfect simulation in a form of modern religion that has replaced God himself) and now we must admit – language died too. Phenomenological perception cannot find anymore such a phenomenon behind an artificial singularity of lingual signs existing only in wide emptiness of hyperreality,” Being has lost its primary connection to language and, therefore, its connection to human reason. Where once a living word gave us connection to an existing thing in a real world, now we only find nothing” behind meaningless words. Maybe it means that we did not only lose our language at its primordial form, but we also lost the very basis for human thinking which is our only connection to the world? Martin Heidegger in his fundamental work Being and Time language called “house of Being” and explicated the language affects our very existing in this world not as a theoretical knowledge, but as a practical living. The way we think of the world, the way we understand it, according to Heidegger, must be expressed in words. There is no real experience that we can gain that cannot be expressed with language. We have to speak to exist. We are talking not only to express our perception of the outer world we are in, but also to express ourselves as existing in this world. Human being is an integral part of the language, and only through the language a man as such is gaining his existential form. Talking is always an articulation of our feeling in the world,” the way we exist. At the same time it’s very important to underline that Heidegger separates and opposites the language of Being” (real language” which is the expression of immediate human existence) and everyday language. Everyday language is mostly consisted of rumors” or gossip” and is one of the Das Man conditions. It would be really hard not to agree with the great phenomenologist because nowadays common language is very obviously consisted of above mentioned rumors, gossip, all kind of opinions” and points of view,” scandals and other different kinds of linguistic junk.

Lithuanian philosopher Arvydas Šliogeris is describing the modern language not only as a dead system, but even as a “shield” that stands up between our perception and the world itself as it is in its “non-human” existence. In his new book “Conversations about the Essences,” which he wrote with his student Virginijus Gustas, Šliogeris claims that nowadays we live in a state of total lingual “debauchery” which is created by a new religion of mass media and technology, and picturesquely calls language a prostitute1. The critic of language as such takes important part in the philosophy of Šliogeris and especially he is merciless towards “postmodern” language and mostly significantly – towards “written language” or script. He links the empowering of written word to entrenchment of Christianity and blames on it for destroying of the connection between man and “the world of speechless things” in which one lives. According to the philosopher, the main purpose of the language is to deny reality, cover it and create a myth that would rip human from the “reality horizon” and cast him into the abyss of mythological space. For modern language a flower, a cloud, a star, a cow or a bird singing on a pine tree is not a reality. Language claims that “true reality” is not visible with plain eye, neither it can be heard or touched. For modern religious or scientific language the only reality are such abstractions (Šliogeris calls them speculations) as “God,” “heaven,” “afterlife,” “atom,” “space,” “hadron collider” etc. Basically language tells us that nothing we see or feel is real – reality is beyond our perception and the language is our only connection to the reality. This way human becomes a slave of language and an outcast in the world, says Šliogeris. Could there be a more flawless simulacra that an artificial world created by language?

The main problem of language is related specifically to the catastrophic language surplus which drowned our souls and had turned us into “blind moles of the Screen.” Turned into collection of garbage of information, the language is increasingly losing its core sense – to be a bridge that leads man to the “Speechless Reality.” This happens not only to the language as a system, but to separate words too. For Šliogeris first of all this corresponds to the world “politics.” According to the philosopher, “politics” does not exist in the modern world, not ever since it existed in the world of Ancient Greece.

If we had to choose one concept which we would crown as the most misunderstood, abused and distorted by our mass media (especially in the fields of politics and sociology), which concept would that be? The decision is not that obvious, since there are many abused terms flowing down on us from the TV screens, computer displays, pages of newspapers and magazines. Terms like “human rights,” “progress,” “justice,” “freedom of speech,” “equality,” “ecology,” “terrorism” and too many more. We hear them so often, that not only get used to hear them being used in and out of any reasonable context, but sometimes even starting to believe that these deconstructed words or sentences really have a meaning or any existing equivalent in a material word (talking about “material” in this article we will mean anything that goes beyond linguistic speculation and language area and have any perceivable predicate). But there is one concept that stands out (maybe a bit unexpectedly for an inexperienced reader) in a way that no other does in terms of the scale and intensity of abuse and exploitation that this concept has been facing for the last, let’s say, 50 years (there are actual proof that this concept has been intensively abused for more than 2000 years already, but unfortunately, due to the size of this article our main intention is to survey an actual modern society situation rather than historical perspective).

Does democracy exists in a modern society? Does this word corresponds to something that actually happens, takes place in a real world, or this word is nothing more than an empty, meaningless selection of letters that has no content in it and is only used to name something that is nothing more than an idea in our minds (idea stolen from a civilization that is long gone but not forgotten)? We hear everybody talking about democracy, but if you really listen to the spokesmen, you will realize that usually they not only have no idea what they mean by using this word, but they also don’t have any idea of what they are talking about. Ask any Western politician about democracy”, democratic values or democratic rights: most of them will tell you something that will be either a meaningless speculation or an obvious nonsense. Here again we notice how it links to the problem of modern language which neither cannot articulate even immediate thought nor give us some directions for positioning ourselves towards reality.

The only historical period when democracy really existed in its primary and only possible form (as the adepts of political science name as “direct democracy” as if any other rather than “direct” can possibly exist without denying its own primary purpose) was the place where the term itself was born – Ancient Greece. Only there and then was it possible to talk seriously and with no speculation or “game of words” about democracy as a real process that is going on in a living society on a daily basis. Democracy actually was an important part of a free citizen on a Greek polis (city-state). He (only men where “real” citizens having a voting right, so there was no real democracy for women, neither for slaves, nor for children) lived “surrounded” by democracy every day, could observe how democracy works for people, what political processes it empowers or destroys. Democracy was as real as rain or thunder. Is it real today? Is it real in a modern Western society (or any society whatsoever)? Or we are misunderstanding ourselves, talking about nothing and are searching for a phantom and kneeling to a ghost of something that is long dead and buried in the ashes of Greek world? This question corresponds to another, more important question: what is REAL in our human world today, if there is anything real or maybe before we know it, everything is nothing but a perfect simulation.

There is no doubt that all these questions are very difficult to answer and maybe most common people would say that it is worthless even to try to answer such complex questions. But what is important for us is not to get actual answers, but to raise questions themselves, because before we start asking questions and doubt about what seemed to be unquestionable and undoubted, we are really separated from the truth by the immanent power of the Word simulacra.

Jolanta Michalovskaja


  1. Arvydas Šliogeris, Virginijus Gustas, Pokalbiai apie esmes. – Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2013. – 359 (1) p., p. 129.

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