08
Nov
08

Baudrillard’s The Vital Illusion

Jean Baudrillard
The Vital Illusion
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
Chapter 1: The Final Solution: Cloning beyond the Human and Inhuman

•    Cancer cells forget to die—forget how to die
•    Only by obtaining the power to die, that we live
o    We’re now eclipsing this with cloning
•    Freud’s death drive: nostalgia for a state before appearance of individuality and sexual differentation—state before were mortal and distinct from one another
•    First, sex was liberated from reproduction, now reproduction is liberated from sex
o    Sex is becoming a useless function
•    Death, once a vital function, could become a luxury
o    When death is eliminated, the luxury of dying increases: cyberdeath
•    Durable and contradictory movement: humankind tries to build itself a deathless alterego and at the same time to perfect natural selection through artificial selection
o    Puts an end to natural selection
•    “The specter that haunts genetic manipulation is the genetic idea, a perfect model obtained through the elimination of all negative traits”
•    Behind the Rights of Man are the prerogatives of an endangered species
•    The loss of the human is serious, but the loss of the inhuman is just as serious
•    In process of erasing the distinction between human and inhuman by reconciling them
•    Clone overthrowing the father (not the sleep with the mother) but to regain status as the original
•    Life is preserved as long as it is has exchange value
15-6: “If we discover that not everything can be cloned, simulated, programmed, genetically and neurologically managed, then whatever survives could truly be called ‘human’: some inalienable and indesctructible human quality could finally be identified.”
22: “Once the human is no longer defined in terms of transcendence and liberty, but in terms of functions and of biological equilibrium, the definition of the human itself begins to fade, along with that of humanism.”
Chapter 2: The Millennium, or The Suspense of the Year 2000
•    Cleansing is the prime activity of this fin-de-siecle
o    Turning away from history ‘in progress’
o    Nothing’s been resolved, plunging into a regressive history
•    Time is counted by subtraction—starting → end
•    Fanatical memorization: commemorations, rehabilitations, cultural museification
o    Making the past itself into a clone
o    Instead of first existing, works of art go straight into a museum
•    Makes of excess (ecstasy of the body: obesity—fatter than fat; ecstasy of information: simulation—truer than true)
•    But is a ghost history, a spectral history, still a history?
•    If Foucault can analyze power it’s because power no longer has a definition that can properly be called political
51: “That the system of information has been substituted for that of history and is starting to produce events in the same way that Capital is starting to produce Work.  Just as labor, under these circumstances, no longer has any significance of its own, the event produced by information has ho historical meaning of its own.  This is the point where we enter the transhistorical or transpolitical—that is to say, the sphere where events do not really take place precisely because they are produced and broadcast ‘in real time,’ where they have no meaning because they can have all possible meanings.”
Chapter 3: The Murder of the Real
•    No corpse, no victim
•    The Real is disappearing because there is too much of it
o    Excess brings end
•    Illusion is the general rule of the universe; reality is but an exception
65: “This short circuit and instantaneity of all things in global information we call ‘real time.”  Real time can be seen as a Perfect Crime perpetrated against time itself: for with the ubiquity and instant availability of the totality of information, time reaches its point of perfection, which is also its vanishing point.  Because of course a perfect time has no memory and no future.”
82: “Either we think of technology as the exterminator of Being, the exterminator of the secret, of seduction and appearances, or we imagine that technology, by the way of an ironic reversibility, might be an immense detour toward the radical illusion of the world.”

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