No sooner has the real moment gone
Baudrillard’s ideas about simulated reality seem to have touched on an old philosophical panic. Perhaps our senses are no better than our televisions. Perhaps nature has varnished and spun the pictures we receive. They too are commodities, bought in to provide sustenance.
Perhaps, but then again, it’s a mistake to relish the idea, because generalized scepticism implies that nothing is wrong with anything and nothing matters.
[A]nd would any self-respecting culture critic want to draw that conclusion? In any event, it is not all simulacra. We are participants in a public world, not hermits trapped in our own private cinemas. The cure for the sceptical nightmare is action. Nobody stays sceptical while crossing the street, or choosing dinner.
I like that ‘nobody stays sceptical while crossing the street’ – I amused myself with a little riff on that idea in Why Truth Matters. Blackburn reviewed WTM; maybe the riff stuck in his mind. (Or maybe not; it’s certainly an obvious example.)
French postmodernism may be passing, but it had a point. Even if engagement with the world is the cure, the respite it gives may be short-lived. No sooner has the real moment gone than the work of memory begins, once more selecting, massaging, suppressing and spinning.
Just so. I love that last line, and we were just talking about that idea the other week. That’s why I don’t agree with Jeremy that Stannard is being rational to believe that his inner experience of meeting god in prayer is genuine evidence that he has met god in prayer. It’s because even if he can’t doubt the experience while he’s having it, he should be aware that once the real moment has gone then the work of memory begins, once more selecting, massaging, suppressing and spinning. Even if he can’t doubt it while he’s having it, he should be able to doubt it afterwards. Being unable to doubt it afterwards is too credulous, therefore not rational.