12 July 2010

EOS–3 / MARSHALL McLUHAN: MASS MEDIA MYSTIFIER








Information is information, not matter or energy.

- Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics








I. BACKGROUNDER. With the internet explosion of the last 10+ years, it would be expected that a resurgence of interest would occur in the mass media communication theories of Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980). And so there has...

  • Books are still being written about him: commentating on, and applying his notions to, modern technological society, including two biographies since his death.[1]
  • The Library and Archives division of the Government of Canada has a whole section of their website devoted to McLuhan's work: basic concepts, essays, photographs and images, with a forum and comments section. LINK
  • The Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto has its McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology. LINK In 1998 the Maastricht McLuhan Institute opened up in The Netherlands. LINK
  • The Estate of Marshall McLuhan operates an official website. LINK
  • A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
  • A Companion of the Order of Canada.
  • A secondary school has been named after him.
  • So is a song: The Ballad of Marshal McLuhan.
  • Even a play: Marshall McLuhan: The Musical.
  • He is the "Patron Saint" of Wired magazine.
So-called "cyberculture" commentators are now expositing that McLuhan’s variegated ruminations on media technology are reaching actualization. The "Global Village" has, they claim, come into being - a web of electronic-collectivist consciousness, unifying the world into a kind of technological One. Global media networking, said McLuhan, "Brings back [the] Tower of Babel: group voice in the ether".[2] Thus the interest in McLuhan remains. But the question is this: For better or worse? TH2 argues the latter. Definitely. Indeed, just the aforementioned Tower of Babel analogy to global media networking bespeaks mystification (a sure sign of gnosticism). Accordingly, TH2 analyzes McLuhan's ideas in relation to current perspectives that attempt to mystify computers and technology.


II. MOTIVATION. TH2 was too young at the time of the McLuhan vogue (though craze is a better descriptor) to fully grasp his ideas, the various reactions of critics, and the transient sway he had on North American thought. Periodic references made to McLuhan that TH2 encountered throughout the years never did not spark an interest; that is, until reading a sentence by a critic in a book being perused at the local library. He described McLuhan as:
...the high priest of Popthink who conducts a Black Mass (for dilettantes) before the altar of historical determinism.[3]
This highly animated and disapproving phraseology at once evoked my curiosity. And so began TH2's investigation of McLuhan's commentaries on mass media. Furthermore, not originally being caught up in the McLuhanist wave, and with a decadal time lag, one is, assumingly, more competent to objectively appraise the conjectures of a man who has become a cultural icon, if not now internationally, at least in Canada.

III. TEXTUAL DISCONTINUITY. The first thing noticed when reading McLuhan is his laborious writing style. Ironically, the sophist literary critic George Steiner was correct when he wrote that reading McLuhan "is not an easy thing to do".[4] McLuhan’s lexicon is certainly, at first reading, beguiling, unsystematic, aphoristic. You need not begin reading at page 1. If you start in the middle, one still has a sense being lost.[5] To be sure, the effect is bewilderment and, when thought over, is an exact reflection of the topic that McLuhan was so roused. Namely, that Joycean-like manifestation of the media, textually and graphically, the embodiment of irrationalism in the face of a world that seemingly causes perplexity in self and environs. The disconnected writing style is, however, largely explained by the fact that McLuhan did not actually write all of his books. His colleagues and assistants garnered McLuhan's thoughts from notes and recordings so as compile books, which explains why many of them are co-authored. Still, even in this situation, a consistency can still be discerned after a little patience and probing.


IV. POPULARITY. It is interesting to read the reactions of the day. There was Tom Wolfe's witty essay in the New York Herald Tribune, "The New Life Out There" (1965), wherein, as if entranced, he declared McLuhan to be "the most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein, and Pavlov".[6] Such overstatements show how easily the excitement attending a new worldview can evoke loose associations with the past. More notably, there was the film actor-director-writer Woody Allen, who was absolutely enchanted by McLuhan’s theories. So much so that Allen got McLuhan to make a guest appearance in his film Annie Hall (1977). Allen also protested when the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, headed by McLuhan, closed down.

V. MYSTIFICATION. Much of this popularity was attributable to the way McLuhan was able to mystify his topics of interest when thus presented. Properly defined, mystification means to obscure understanding, to bewilder or confuse people, drawing them away from harsh reality, yet leaving them in a state of enchantment, teasing them for more. A noteworthy example of this is seen when, on television, he was interviewed by Fr. Patrick Peyton (1909-1992), the great Irish priest, founder of the Family Rosary Crusade, originator of the famous saying: "The family that prays together stays together". Not to diminish the true intentions of this holy priest (whom TH2 hopes will one day be made a saint), but when watching this interview it is not hard to see that Fr. Peyton was somewhat mesmerized by McLuhan, accepting all that he said on mass media as universally valid.[7] What is regularly omitted by the cognoscenti when expounding their usual gibberish on McLuhan is that he was a serious Catholic, devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He converted to Catholicism after reading What’s Wrong With The World by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). McLuhan, let it be known, acted as advisor to Vatican II for the Decree on the Mass of Social Communication.[8] But just because somebody is a devout Catholic does not necessarily mean their secular pursuits are correspondingly truthful. Unfortunately, not a few Catholics are ensnared by this trap, and just suggesting this inconsistency will surely enrage not a few Catholics who also happen to be his loyal followers. Nonetheless, harsh reality must be confronted and dealt with in the appropriate fashion. As will be shown below, his theory on mass media is at stark variance with Catholic philosophy.


VI. MEDIUM = MESSAGE: EPISTEMOLOGICAL FALLACY. In one of his more popular books, McLuhan wrote the following in the early 1960s:
As automation takes hold, it becomes obvious that information is the crucial commodity, and that solid products are mere incidental to information movement... the business of moving information... [via technology] eliminate time and space factors in human association.[9]
Note here that McLuhan's equalization of information with the commodity intimated his famous dictum "the medium is the message", i.e. medium = message, commodity = information or, philosophically abstracted, the thing is equal to the sign which represents that thing. The "medium" belongs to objective reality, and the "message" is the formal signification of that medium. Yet if a thing is made equivalent to a sign that represents that thing, all kinds of quandaries emerge in the area of epistemology. If the sign represented to the mind cannot be differentiated from thing in the world, if the message is not seen as really distinct from the physical medium, this would make understanding impossible. The distinction between the intelligible and sensible, the mind and the world, therefore become blurred, fused into one unit so to speak. More on this later.

VII. MORE MYSTIFYING. Consider this statement by McLuhan: "Our technologies are generations ahead of our thinking",[10] which is akin to mottos used today by some high technology companies. Though how can something devised by the human mind be "generations ahead" of its own thinking? Logically, TH2 would think that the level of technology - in terms of its ingenuity, applicability, utility, precision and so forth - only attests to the current state of technological know-how. Here again is noticed a mystical, unexplainable quality ascribed to technology, which in reality it does not possess. This subject, too, is addressed later.

VIII. So, then, let us travel back in time and see why such a commotion arose about Marshall McLuhan.


IX. THE BASICS. This is how the whole shebang supposedly worked: Pre-literate primitive man, existing and subsisting primarily by the physical senses, had a very contented, happy life. He dwelled in a kind of bucolic utopia. This situation, however, changed with the invention of writing, then radically so when printing came along. This had the effect of making vision the prime mode of communication, consequently forcing man to think logically, in linear patterns of thought. Yet as technology continued to advance, there arose a corresponding change in the environment which man lived. These technological developments caused an alteration in his sensorial response to this environment. It now emasculates man's sense of self-identity, eliminating individuality. Electronic media become actual appendages of ourselves: "the effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts, but it alters [our] sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily without any resistance."[11] This technology "saturates perception so that its own character is imperceptible; it has the power to distort or deflect human consciousness."[12] As such, physical, inorganic media become protractions of our organic "physical and nervous systems, [and] constitute a world of biochemical interactions that must ever seek new equilibrium as new extensions occur". Therefore, this interfaced organic and inorganic medium of man and technology must "also configure the awareness and experience of each one of us".[13] George Steiner gave a laconic description of McLuhan’s central thesis:
Marshall McLuhan posits that Western civilization has entered, or is about to enter, an era of electro-magnetic technology. This technology will radically alter the milieu of human perception, the reality co-ordinates within which we apprehend and order sense data. Experience will not present itself serially, in atomized or linear patterns of causal sequence, but in 'fields' of simultaneous interaction.[14] (TH2 emphasis)
The last sentence emphasized is extremely important for the ensuing analysis. This is because, in the manner of man's augmented awareness that comes with technology, deemed to be an "extension" of the self (including the greater accrual of facts about the world which accompanies this newly affixed sensorial feature), McLuhan made a catastrophic error with respect to the principle of causality, totally in conflict with Catholic philosophy. It is divulged in his book Understanding Media:
For mechanization is achieved by fragmentation of any process and by putting the fragmented parts in a series. Yet, as David Hume showed... there is no principle of causality in mere sequence. Nothing follows from the following except change. So the greatest of all reversals occurred with electricity, that ended sequence by making things instant. With instant speed the causes of things in sequence began to emerge to awareness again, as they had not done with things in sequence and in concatenation accordingly.[15] (TH2 emphasis)
Thus McLuhan was suckered in by Hume's sensationism, and from this spectacular error flowed all the rest. Hume, a Scotsman, did not (of course) disprove causality in the world and this will be discussed in a moment.

X. ELECTRIC MAN DESCRIBED. These will set a foundation for the subsequent analysis: Technology is an extension of the self and in the midst of this encapsulating environment (for which man is "involved", not "contained")[16] he knows things not "at the level of concepts or opinions" (the mind), but through physical perception (technologically-heightened sensation, the body), and this at "instant speed". Man, as it were, stands amidst an electronic world where he is ceaselessly inundated with information issuing from all places, in every direction, at all times. There are no causal connections which unify this stream of information. Instead, a kind of electric rain "saturates" the senses, causing loss of selfhood.


XI. The problem?

XII. HUMEAN REDUX. At the young age of twenty-seven, an escapist backgammon player by the name of David Hume (1711-1776) described man as:
...nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other in inconceivable rapidity, and are in perpetual flux and movement.[17]
That is the formula McLuhan wielded, with the only difference being an external layer of technology which, more so than in Hume's time, heightens modern man's senses of the surrounding world with the increased precision that is concomitant with technological advancement. Hume's man stands, as it were, in the middle of a naturalized, organic environment whereas McLuhan's electric man is situated amidst an artificial, inorganic setting. Hume said: "Any thing can produce any thing. Creation, annihilation, motion, reason, volition; all of these may arise from one another, or from any other object we can imagine".[18] McLuhan similarly wrote (as above): "Nothing follows from the following, except change". To Hume the notion of "personal identity" [19] was a ludicrous premise and, according to McLuhan, man is swept away within the "Global Village" without a real sense of self. Why? Because both Hume and McLuhan rejected the traditional explanation of causality in the world.

XIII. CAUSAL DENIABILITY. Hume's falsity had to do with the mishandling of that which is sensible with that which is intelligible. He contended that man's understanding about the world came from the sense organs, of what is seen and felt, of what is audible, and so forth. Observation was the mode by which knowledge is gleaned. Experience supplants mental cognition. Man, he said, only descries temporal succession in the world, he senses only one thing following another, though the actual causes of things cannot be known. Antecedents and consequents are incomprehensible:
All disputes concerning the identity of connected objects are merely verbal, except so far as the relation gives rise to some fiction or imaginary principle of union.[20]
Hume refused to give credence to the intellect, debasing understanding to a mere sensate process. But this explanation is really no explanation at all. He did not go far enough. To Hume the body was a kind of biological antenna upon which impressions are received. Metaphysics was to him ridiculous. In his later writings, intellection was evasively and even mysteriously claimed to be "the obscurity of ideas, and the ambiguity of terms."[21] Casual identities between things are "just some fiction or imaginary principle of union".

XIV. MATTER OVER MIND. True, things obviously succeed one another, in a physical way that is. For instance, a man may drive a bus off a cliff after eating a cheese sandwich. But eating the cheese sandwich did not cause the man to do the act. This is succession, not causality. Causality properly belongs to the actualization of something that is intelligible to the mind. Something may succeed another, visually and audibly, but what is the reason for the succession? Reasoning is a mental operation. But how can a thing as such be a reason? Is a reason for a thing this thing itself? It is impossible. If understanding is minimized to crude sensation, then this just means understanding is the discernment of succession. McLuhan was unmindful to this because he, like Hume, wrote that "the effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinion or concepts" [the mind], but at the level of "sense ratios or patterns of perception" [the body]. McLuhan, too, subordinated the mind to the senses, substituting physical patterns for intelligible principles. It makes no difference if these senses are more fine-tuned with the extensions of technology. All that is changing here is magnitude. McLuhan, like Hume, confused the intelligible (the mind which produces formal signs, "the message") with the sensible (physical perception of the thing, "the medium").


XV. INCONSISTENCIES WITH CATHOLICISM. All this is rather strange because as a Catholic intellectual McLuhan should have refused to envision man as a hyper-empirical animal. It is then completely bizarre that he advocated Hume's denial of causality. His research into an essay written about St. Thomas Aquinas should have informed him of the distinction between the intelligible and sensorial.[22] He should have submitted to the fact that Catholicism views understanding as a metaphysical operation.[23] It is also well to note that Hume was an enemy of Christianity. When near death in 1775, he said to his friend and economist Adam Smith (1723–1790) that he wished to stay alive a little longer to see the end of Christianity. More proof of McLuhan's ignorance or misunderstanding of Catholic philosophy is revealed when, in a letter, he called the famous Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) "a complete Cartesian subjectivist".[24] Had McLuhan read Maritain's classic work Trois réformateurs (first published in 1925), he would have easily seen that Maritain completely skewered René Descartes' (1596-1650) philosophical angelism.[25] But the problems do no stop here.

XVI. INSTANTANEOUSNESS. Recall: "the medium is the message". How did McLuhan arrive at this dictum? The issue relates to the concept of time. Read the following: "The stepping-up of speed from the mechanical to the instant electric form reverses explosion to implosion."[26] This increase in speed, from mechanical to electronic technology, is not considered as an increase in speed per se. McLuhan saw it as an entire change in the nature of technology. His connotation "instant" "speed" is meaningless. He juxtaposed "speed", which by definition indicates a magnitude in velocity, with "instant", which connotes no duration at all. Speed must be measurable or else it is not speed. Even though electronic speeds far surpass those mechanical, it cannot be maintained that these speeds are "instant". To repeat: this implies no time. McLuhan was delving into the ontological, of that which is related to being, not a function of time, but outside of it. Though electronic speed may seem instantaneous, this does not preclude the fact that this much quicker movement cannot be somehow gauged. More refined technologies are able to measure electronic speeds. McLuhan seemed to recognize this speciousness when he wrote: "the 'message' of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduced into human affairs." [27] Yet this still cannot be translated into the formula: medium=message. For the medium (the thing) must always be distinct from the message (the sign of it), otherwise understanding is impossible.


XVII. TIME/SPACE ELIMINATION. To further explain, read a McLuhan's celebrated words on "electric light":
Whether the light is being used for brain surgery or night baseball is a matter of indifference. It could be argued that these activities are in some way the 'content' of the electric light, since they could not exist without the electric light. The fact merely underlines the point that 'the medium is the message' because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and the form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the 'content' of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium... The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium just because it can have no 'content'. And this makes it an invaluable instance of how people fail to study media at all. For it is not till the electric light is used to spell out some brand name that it is notices as a medium. Then it is not the light but the 'content' (or what is really another medium) that is noticed. The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth.[28] (TH2 emphasis)
Here he makes human action to be a function of electricity. Since "the medium is the message", it "shapes and controls" human interaction, which is a euphemism for determinism. If "electric light" has no "content", if it is not substantial, then what is it? If it is not something that can be perceived (whether biologically or with some technical instrumentation), what is it? It cannot be something and nothing at the same time, as this is in defiance of the principle of contradiction. Moreover, McLuhan wrote that light and power "eliminate" time and space.[29] But do they really? No. They only lessen the scales of "time and space factors" involved. They do not completely remove, effectuating an entire change in the character of technology. Rather, they noticeably reduce quantifiable magnitudes in a biological-sensorial sense.


XVIII. BIG MEDIA GOES AROUND THE WORLD. As is now being evidenced, all kinds of fallacies are coming to the fore. This is simply because McLuhan presumed the medium to be equal to the message. When one really ponders the phrase "the medium is the message", it is classic Humeanism. The messages that man relays around the world are in themselves irretrievably tied in with the physical/technological contraption utilized to emit these messages or information, be it via satellite, television, radio, fax machine, internet, and so forth. The message, represented by universal signs, are fashioned to be equivalent to the medium, which is a singular thing or device. Information (in the forms of language, alphanumeric codes, graphical images, and so on) then become, not representations of commodities (things); instead, they are converted into commodities as such. To McLuhan there was, à la Hume, no distinction between the sensible and intelligible. The signs that communicate ideas to the mind, and the thing in the world as a really distinct existential unit from the mind, were not deemed as such by Marshall McLuhan. Again: he made understanding equivalent to technologically heightened sensation.

XIX. SIGNS OF CONFUSION. Now why is McLuhan’s electronic neo-Humeanism wrong in regard to "the medium is the message"? It appears that McLuhan’s "message" is not a knowledge sign but a natural sign. Speaking philosophically, "medium" and "message" can be given generically as thing and sign, respectively. Now the thing refers to the world and the sign infers the mind. When a message is communicated it is assumed that the message itself is relaying knowledge of some-thing to which the mind makes reference. Hence a relation is set up between the thing and the mind, between the known and the knower. This is because the mind, as distinct from the world, garners knowledge of an-other. When we have a message of the thing, it is presented to the mind as some-thing else, and this some-thing else acts as a substitute for the thing. It is not a material substitution. Rather, it is a sign of the thing, re-presented to the mind. Language or messages are signs that are combined to form words or pictures indicating knowledge. Again, these signs do not physically replace the object during cognition, as in McLuhan (i.e. medium=message). The purpose of the knowledge sign or a message, once again, is to re-present the thing or the medium to the mind, to make it present again. If it was a physical substitution, this would make the message a natural sign of the medium. For example, towering cumulonimbus clouds observed on the horizon is a sign of a storm in the distance. All that the cloud formation does is to present the storm in and of itself, of its own particular nature. It acts for itself. Unlike knowledge signs, natural signs are material in character whereas knowledge signs are intentional in aspect, setting up a relation between the mind and an-other.

XX. LOCKED IN. If McLuhan's electric man is brought into the picture, along with his artificial-technological appurtenances (which he asserted to be unified and equal to man), then you make man, too, one with, and deterministically locked in, the material world. Man as a biological-technological medium also equals the messages he electronically transmits around the global media network. But if, say, I send an e-mail message to person in Australia describing my personality, physical traits, desires, hopes, habits, idiosyncrasies, interests, and so forth... Is the recipient of that message presented with me as a real physical being? Of course not. The e-mail message does not present me physically. It represents my identity, it presents again, and it can only do this because a real distinction exists between a thing and a sign, a medium and a message, a person that physically senses and the mind of this person who thinks and speaks. For how could I have knowledge of an-other, of some-thing, if I was irrevocably bound up with this "other"? I could not. If, say, understanding is not a metaphysical act, and if it is reduced to a technologically enhanced sensationism, then I would effectively incarnate into a machine. I would also, because a machine is a deterministic device, relinquish my freewill. What then would happen to my personal identity? More problems…


XXI. ERROR PROPAGATION. McLuhan's Humeanism, this "medium is the message" nonsense, conducted him to all sorts of other blind alleys. Five errors can be catalogued, which are old "isms" dressed up in the garb of new terminologies. Each proceeds from the other. They are: [i] Occasionalism, [ii] Technological Determinism, [iii] Technozoism, [iv] Formalism and [v] Monopsychism.

XXII. OCCASIONALISM. Denying causality in the world of mass communications left McLuhan to examine everything as naked physical incidents. There was no intrinsic connection, no cause and effect, no reason for unity in the Global Village. Only disjointed and juxtaposed "instants" of occurrence and interference. This is why he said that the global village "is fission, not fusion, in depth."[30] Man is rained upon by "instants" and they engulf his perceptions, transforming his surroundings from the naturally organic to the technologically denatured. There is a sense of a vague something (so to speak) wandering about the global media network, something in the electronic ether. Voices, events, happenings, codes, information transfer control the rate of electric rainfall, of where and when it occurs, of how much falls, of its intensity, frequency and duration. Indeed, there is something mythical about it all:
...myth is the instant vision of a complex process that ordinarily extends over a long period. Myth is a contraction or implosion of any process and the instant speed of electricity confers the mythic dimension on ordinary industrial and social action today. We live mythically but continue to think fragmentarily and on single planes.[31]
This is an electronic version of occasionalism, such as that advocated by the heretical Franciscan William of Ockham (ca. 1288-1348). Ockham, too, repudiated causality in the world. For example:
...it is not a contradiction for an absolute thing to exist without which that which is neither part of it nor an essential cause of it. But that which is posterior in nature is not a part of what is prior or an essential cause of it.[32]

A thing in the world was an exclusive singular, said Ockham, because it had no prior cause for its being. It was disassociated with that before or after it. Ockham’s occasionalism claimed that God unceasingly dictated physical processes throughout space and time. Think of this deity as a wizard with a magic wand standing from afar, pointing the wand here and there, changing this into that, creating this and annihilating that, intermittently manipulating, destroying and generating from a distance when the occasion demands. McLuhan unknowingly promoted this with the only dissimilarity being that it is not God who directs, but something peculiar, what he called the "massage effect". As he enunciated in an interview: "The mosaic is a world of intervals in which maximal energy is transferred across gaps. This is the 'massage effect'. The Gutenberg Galaxy is a world in which energy is generated in the intervals, not by the connections."[33]

XXIII. TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM. If McLuhan's denial of causality begat occasionalism, what does the latter yield? If not God directly intruding in the world, but an electronic, all-pervasive, instantaneous "massage effect", "a collide-oscope of interfaced situations"... What is the offshoot?[34] Answer: technological determinism. If "the medium is the message", and if the technological extensions infix man with this "medium", then man must necessarily be subsumed by hard mechanistic laws. As McLuhan wrote:
To behold, use or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is necessarily to embrace it. To listen to radio or read the printed page is to accept these extensions of ourselves into our personal system and to undergo a ‘closure’ or displacement of perception that follows automatically... By continuously embracing technologies, we relate ourselves to them as servomechanisms. That is why we must, to use them at all, serve these objects, these extensions of ourselves, as gods or minor religions. An Indian is the servomechanism of his canoe, as the cowboy of his horse or the executive his clock.[35] (TH2 emphasis)
A fusion man and mechanism into one. Man is a servant of technology. If we "become what we behold",[36] and if it is technology that man beholds, he must become a machine. But this is old hat. Already in 1748, the Frenchman Julien Offrey de La Mettrie (1709-1751) speculated the following in a small work entitled L’Homme Machine:
To be a machine, to feel, to think, to know how to distinguish good from bad, as well as blue from yellow, in a word, to be born with an intelligence and sure moral instinct, and to be but an animal, and therefore characters which are no more contradictory, than to be an ape or a parrot, and to be able to give oneself pleasure... I believe that thought is so little incompatible with matter, that it seems to be one of its properties on par with electricity, the faculty of motion, impenetrability, extension, etc.[37]
La Mettrie’s "thought is so little incompatible with matter" is an archaic form of McLuhan’s "medium is the message". Thought, then, for La Mettrie and perhaps in some undetermined way for McLuhan, can be explained with electricity, a physically measurable property.


XXIV. TECHNOZOISM. A consequent of technological determinism is technozoism, or the ascription of some mysterious quality to technology. McLuhan did not view a technological device as a thing, a device with component parts, as valueless rugged matter. Not at all. Retorting to a statement made at a lecture where the speaker affirmed that technology is neither good or evil, and that it is the human use of technology that effectuates the good or the evil, McLuhan astonishingly wrote that this stance is an expression of "somnambulism"! A totally bizarre response that (again) worked to mystify the issue. Sleepwalking? Why? Because "it ignores the nature of the medium, of any and all media, in the true Narcissus style of one hypnotized by the amputation and extension of his own being in a new technical form."[38] But why should a "technical form" have some Narcissistic, hypnotic attribution? This is mystery mongering. A technological device is just a thing, and nothing else. All this relates to the fact that McLuhan did not see a real distinction between man and his technological "extensions".

XXV. OTHER TECHNOZOISTS. McLuhan is not singularly guilty in the mystification of technology. He was just one of a whole gallery of philosophical necromancers extolling this crap. There was, for example, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). In his overrated essay entitled The Question Concerning Technology, he insisted that:
...we are delivered over to it [technology] in the worst possible way when we regard it as neutral... [it] is not demonic; but its essence is mysterious. The essence of technology, as a destining of revealing, is the danger.[39]
For Heidegger, technology, in its capability to store (information, materials, etc.), is not an inert, depersonified "standing-reserve". Rather, it "challenges" man. Also, there was the Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), famed member of the Frankfurt School. He wrote from an economic point of view:
...people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. The very mechanism which ties the individual to society has changed and social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced ... technological controls appear to be the very embodiment of Reason.[40]
Another Marxist, Henri Lefebrve (1901-1991), wrote that space itself is "active". Space is not just there, it is "produced":
Space is becoming... more than theatre, the disinterested stage or setting, of action... Is space a medium?... It is... but its role is less and less neutral, more and more active, both as instrument and as goal, as means and as end.[41]

XXVI. IMMANENTIZED PSEUDO-ESSENCES. In all of the the abovementioned cases, materialist/immanentist views are expounded. They denied the traditional metaphysical acceptation, namely that the essence of a thing, its very quiddity or the actuality of its being, transcends the thing itself. They ascribe to technology a materially-reductive property admixed therein. Technology, commodities and space itself are ascribed their own innate life-force. Effectively, these are said to be the cause of themselves. In other words, there is no other, an-other, upon which they are contingent or moved. Once again, this is mystification. McLuhan, Heidegger, Marcuse and Lefebrve became entangled into the snare laid long ago by Hume. Traditionally, there is that undeniable intrinsic factor which interassociates all things into a unity (the principle of causality). These thinkers (excluding McLuhan) noticed it but refused to identify it as such. This is because the principle of causality points to "a behind" of the existence of the thing. The reason for the being of a thing (or technology) were explained in alternative manners, with some immanent pseudo-essence. Hume mystified it by calling it "the obscurity of ideas, and the ambiguity of terms"; Heidegger with "danger"; Marcuse as "the embodiment of Reason"; Lefebrve with "active"; McLuhan with "subliminal awareness".

XXVII. AI DETOUR. When matter becomes vitalized, when it is given some indwelling life-force or autonomous thinking ability, automatically does the word animism apply. Whether this matter be organic or inorganic does not matter. Whether it is a stone, a machine with gears and rods, a tree with roots and branches, or a computer with silicon chips... If some self-regulating aspect is ascribed to it, a thing is no longer just a thing. It transforms into a magical thing. In the case of technology, this called "technozoism" (sometimes "animechanism") and therefore directly interrelates to the subject of so-called "Artificial Intelligence" (AI). Here a digression is made from McLuhan (though remembering his ideas are important for this discussion). This is because technozoism (best exemplified by proponents of AI) is yet another example of society's mystification of the machine, or today, the computer.


XXVIII. "ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE": A FALLACY. Now the whole idea of "artificial intelligence", "neural networks", "expert systems" or whatever catchphrase one may think... In terms of an autonomously operating, thinking, self-regulating, self-learning computer is, of course, absurd, if not comical. It is a fantasy, a chimera, the product of science fiction sages and futurists, in line with those nutbar advocates of "perpetual motion" machines and that old biology called "spontaneous generation" (i.e. self-caused things, not moved by an-other).[42] Without external human intelligence, ingenuity, guidance, direction, planning, designing, constructing and troubleshooting, a computer is a mere consolidation of inactive plastic and metal parts. As M. Bunge bluntly stated:
Without the intervention of man's abstract and purposive activity, which has no counterpart in machines, the most expensive digital computer is a mere scrap of iron.[43]
A shock indeed to the late night video game player, the computer science graduate from the University of Waterloo, the science fiction escapist, or the fan of Stargate Atlantis. It is, nevertheless, one of the hard and cold facts of science that must be acknowledged. It is a wake-up call for the reader of Arthur C. Clarke, of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, of William Gibson's "cyberpunk", and other types of popularizing ephemera. "Science fiction is free", writes John Carey, "because it transgresses the constraints of technology, turning natural laws into lawless ends."[44] Modern science fiction plays no role here except for the popularization of myths and banalities.[45]

XXIX. COMPUTERS CANNOT THINK. Why is the phrase "computers can think" ridiculous? TH2 will list a few reasons, and will do so in summarily fashion.[46] Much of the inspiration for AI exponents comes from La Mettrie who, as quoted above, makes thought to be "on par" with electricity. If electricity empowers a computer, if this computer is deemed an "electronic brain", and if this computer can transfer, store, manipulate, sort, filter, cross-correlate and perform mathematical operations on data so as to visually present information or emulate phenomena (via graphical images or numerical values), or to control the physical movement of some extraneous mechanism (a robot, satellite dish, production line, etc.), then we must necessarily appraise these data as such. Effectively, these data or this information, as maintained by the AI advocate, comprises the "life", "intelligence", "consciousness", "thought" or even the "will" of the computer.

XXX. DUALISM/MONISM. Now the computer itself is made of various parts (a keyboard, silicon chips, circuit boards, plugs, buttons, wires, drives, etc.), forming the physical "body" of the computer. The programming language and the information input into the computer memory, with their signs and symbols (calculating, interchanging, counterpositioning with each other) constitute the so-called "mind" of this mechanical creature. Body/mind, hard drive/information, hardware/software, thing/sign, sensible/intelligible, medium/message... With these collocations we encounter, inevitably, the situation of dualism. Of course, the AI devotee denies dualism. Because he sees the computer as a physical brain with an interfused "intelligence", he must therefore dive into the murky waters of monism.[47] Of what has been famously called "the mind-body problem" (in reference to man) now becomes the mind-computer problem if you permit.

XXXI. DATA/INFORMATION. Are these data (or information) inside the physical computer "intelligence" or "thought"? Absolutely not. In reality, we are dealing with language, not thought (the two are different, addressed below). Any computer coding schematic is a language, be it HTML, PROLOG, LISP, FORTRAN, COBOL, Pascal, C+, APL, BASIC (intermediate-level languages); or whether it be high-level, ready-made subroutines, "macros" or the latest software package now available in the marketplace; or whether it be low-level languages like Assembler. These languages are comprised of physical signs, symbolical and graphical (alphanumerics, pictures), concatenating, interchanging, translating, calculating, functioning and working between each other within a circumscribed, enclosed set: a formal system. And it is the consideration of the nature of this formal system (the language of a computer) that betrays the fallacy of AI.



XXXII. SYSTEM "S". Within this formal system, denoted here as S, what can be said of it? If this system S is to be the "intelligence" of the computer, and if the AI disciple asserts that a "thinking computer" is within the realm of technological plausibility in the fact that such a computer can be autonomous, without external monitoring, managing, or input from a human being... What of S? Is this S really the "mind" of the computer? For if S connotes "intelligence", then necessarily we can equate a machine with a human being. The computer would no longer be a tool of man, something distinct, inanimate, external to him. It would have "a life of its own". If it had this life, it also follows that it would, so goes the extrapolation, have its own feelings and will. Beforehand with Descartes and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who locked cognition and volition within the self, we now see this mentalism transposed over, not to animals and the natural world (as in panpsychism), but to machines.[48] Once again: is this S of the machine (i.e. its language, this formal system) self-consistent in a mathematical-symbolicial sense? Can it disregard that which is extraneous to it, namely man? Can all be explained by S alone? Answer: no.

XXXIII. Why?

XXXIV. GÖDEL'S METAMATHEMATECAL HOLE. On October 23, 1931 an abstract entitled Some Metamathematical Results on Completeness and Consistency was submitted to the Vienna Academy of Sciences by the Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel (1906-1978). This abstract, and a paper that followed, disproved the claim of a formal system resolvable within itself.[49] Consequently, the S in the context of AI can have no "intelligence" of its own. Reference must always be made to that outside of the system. This is Gödel’s famous "Theorem of Incompleteness". He proved mathematically and wrote that "of no formal system can one affirm with certainty that all contential considerations are representable within it".[50] Pace David Hilbert (1862-1943), gone was the notion of an inherently explainable formal system (of symbols, of language) where it was believed that all meaning and origins could be found therein. Despite opposing views of some notable thinkers,[51] Gödel’s Theorem still stands in its truthfulness.


XXXV. LANGUAGE IS NOT THOUGHT. Another factor that AI exponents will not accept or seriously consider is that this formal system (computer programming codes, i.e. language) is not thought itself. Fr. Stanley Jaki (1924-2009) explained:
A word, spoken or written, is not a thought, nor is a sentence or a lengthy diction. Were a word or a sentence thought itself, translation from one language to another would be impossible, nor could one explain the availability of alternative sentences within one language. If words were thought itself, how could entirely different phonemes stand for the same idea, and how could one in fact be conscious of ideas without uttering words? Evidently, thought implies more than can be contained in purely physical entities acting as symbols. Variegated and differentiated as they might be, they are not thought.[52]
So, then, if a computer cannot be autonomous, if it is devoid of intelligence, from where does its formalistic language originate? Answer: man, a thinking, problem-solving being with a freewill extraneous to the computer.

XXXVI. DATA CHANNELING. Information, data or language are supplied to the computer from without, be it input via keyboard alphanumerics, mouse pointing and clicking, voice recognition, screen touching, or the simple insertion of a data stick into a USB port. Just a person standing outside and looking at a computer monitor screen, which is circumscribed (and hence finite), displaying graphical images and letters/numbers on a screen (the formal system), evidences that the computer is completely dependent on human thought. It is obvious. It is common sense. Whether this computer is first, second, third or fourth generation has nothing to do with the situation. Whether it runs by vacuum tubes, transistors, integrated circuits or silicon chips is irrelative. Even if the device was a simple adding machine operated by gears, levers and rods... this is inconsequential. The power that runs the computer or machine, electronic or human, is situated without the device, distinct from it. "Artificial Intelligence" and "neural networks" are glossed up phrases to make the computer seem to be what is not: a thinking being with its own volition. Expert systems "are no more expert in channeling data than are gutters and canals in hydrodynamics as they drain rain and marshes."[53] Simple inputs and outputs, and that is its maximal operational extent. Data storage capacities may be immense, the speed of information transfer may be breathtaking, time and space may appear to contract to a state where total inertia of human activity may be reckoned, yet these invalidate nothing.

XXXVII. THE COMPUTER IS A TOOL. Hypothetically speaking, if all human physical activity was halted by assistance of the computer, man would still think. What else would there be to do in the condition of total inertia except thinking? Words, written or voiced, would also be unneeded, as they are physical exertions and expressions sparked by thought. Remove, on the other hand, the language or formal system from a computer, and what would be the result? An unthinking pile of plastic and metallic components. Junk. Transportation and communication systems, weaponry, mechanisms used in natural resource exploitation, even appliances in the home may be more efficient as monitored and controlled by a computer. Still, this does not detract from what the computer is in relation to man: a tool. There is no secret or mystery here, no ghost-like consciousness inhabits the computer. Just science and engineering at work. Introductory textbooks on computers, if they are serious, will at their very commencement make it explicitly clear that a computer is just a tool. [54] This is an elementary rule and a necessary truth that the AI protagonists invariably disregard.

XXXVIII. OF MORONS. Espousers of AI also undervalue the fact that the leading thinkers in the fields of mathematics and computers, not the lesser light popularizers, never envisaged intelligent computers. The great mathematician John von Neumann (1903-1957) may have analogized the human nervous system to electronic circuitry, seeing the similarities in the transmission of messages between the firing/non-firing brain neurons and binary (0/1) on/off switching in computers. Yet the idea of a thinking computer was something he repudiated. Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), the father of cybernetics, warned of the cult of "gadget worshippers".[55] Moreover, in the matter of computers in relation to psychological studies, no quantification of a computer's "consciousness" has ever been evidenced. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), too, had the pipedream of making his fantastical psychology acceptable to the scientific community, but he failed completely. In 1958, a statement in a manual for the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Computer and Data-Processing Machine still means the same thing today as it did then and always will mean:
[A] computer is not a giant brain, in spite of what the Sunday supplements and science fiction writers would have you believe. It is a remarkably fast and phenomenally accurate moron. It will do what you tell it to do - no more, no less.[56]

XXXIX. TRANSPOSITIONS. The discussion above has been a critique of AI from the vantage point of intelligence. Other questions now arise and go something like this: What about the physical make-up of the computer in association to man? Are the human brain and silicon chip equivalent? In structure, constitution, performance and potential, are man and computer (as physical entities) commensurate? Are they duplicable? If not now, will they be so in the future? (incidentally, TH2 has not forgotten McLuhan as his idea of technology as an "extension" of man relates directly to this discussion). The solution to the puzzle comes from the consideration of distinctions between things, of a this and a that, of which AI propagandists contort into relativistic degrees and grey shades. Why do they do this? If you can "demonstrate" that there is no real physical difference between a man and a machine, you can also homogenize them together into one streamlined entity. As such the rationality and freewill of man can be transposed over to the machine, and so elegantly it might be added. This is a kind of mechanistic Darwnism. Just over a hundred years ago, popularizers of Charles Darwin's (1809-1882) theory of evolution like Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) extrapolated the theory to the level of society, politics, ethics, philosophy, and religion, when it should have been exclusively considered from a scientific standpoint.[57] Similarly, with Albert Einstein's (1879-1955) General Theory of Relativity (verified with the solar eclipse of 1917), all kinds of quacks have taken an experimentally demonstrated scientific law applicable to the natural universe and transferred it to human morality (i.e. moral relativism).[58] With the AI crowd, such attempts are being effectuated again with the only dissimilarity being that man as an organic being is interconnected, not with organic animals, but with inorganic technology. Not from monkey to man. Rather, from man to machine.

XL. NOWHERELAND. In 1865 Samuel Butler published his classic novel Erewhon, an anagram for "nowhere". The story is partly a satirization of the "ultimate development of mechanical consciousness", a belief that machines, after advancements made in technology, were "destined to supplant the race of man".[59] Bulter's viscious parody of Victorian England, which also mocked a society that deemed vanity and human health to be measures of moral integrity, was an excellent exercise debunking the notion of a "thinking machine" or, in Butler's words, a "vapour engine". A perusal of Butler’s Note-Books, moreover, illustrates that he, too, was attentive to the mind-body problem. He propounded a strangely vulgar view of man: "Man is but a perambulating tool-box and workshop, or office, fashioned for itself by a piece of very clever slime".[60] "We cannot imagine", he wrote elsewhere, "matter without thinking of it as capable of some kind of working power or energy - we cannot think of matter without thinking of it as in some way ensouled".[61] As for the relation between mind and matter: "We shall never get it straight till we leave off trying to separate mind from matter. Mind is not a thing or, if it be, we know nothing about it; it is a function of matter. Matter is not a thing or, if it be, we know nothing about it; it is a function of the mind."[62] Such circularity in argumentation exhibited philosophical disorientation. Nonetheless, this one time protagonist and later critic of Darwin also penned words that highlight the crux in regard to the so-called equivalencies between man and machine. It has to do with distinctions:
All differences resolve themselves into differences of degree. Everything can in the end be united with everything by easy stages if a way long enough and round-about enough be taken... to the metaphysician everything will become one, being united with everything else by degrees so subtle that there is no escape from seeing the universe as a single whole... The difficulty is how to get unity and separateness at one and the same time.[63]
A vicious circle. Were the distinctions he saw real or were they "degrees so subtle"? Were they indicative of that which is separable (contingent and different) or separated (completely disconnected)? Differences or distinctions cannot be pared down into subtleties or degrees, for these too signify real distinctions. Differences are still being indicated. If there were no real distinctions in the world, all perception would be, so to speak, a blurry greyness, optically, or an ominous drone, audibly. Whether the AI horde likes it or not, there are real distinctions between a this and a that, and it is a matter of fact. Butler correctly noted the concurrence of unity and separateness, though this was a "difficulty". In truth, there is no difficulty whatsoever. This is the way things are by the very fact that things are, that first epistemological datum.


XLI. DISPENSING DISTINCTIONS. Let us assume, incorrectly, that all physical existence is blended together indistinguishably into some kind of abstract streamlined continuum or unit. If this taken as a truth then, when it comes to the comparison between man and machine, no real distinction could be maintained, and thus they can be equalized with one another. Just to contrast a man and a machine presupposes a real difference between them. Just to differentiate a human brain with the CPU of a computer designates a real distinction. Just to write the words "mind" and "matter" discloses a dissimilarity. It is nonsensical to expound that "never has the Cartesian line between mind and matter appeared thinner", that developments made in AI research is now permitting for the "merging of quantity and quality", that "the 'human-computer' metaphor is merely an ontological hang-up" (TH2 italics). Obviously, an attempt here is being made to remove distinctions in things, between mind and matter, man and machine. It always promises, it is never specific, and is vague on all matters under its perusal. H. Couclelis, just quoted above (from the University of California at Santa Barbara; where else?), endorses irrationalism when she commented on the future of "Artificial Intelligence": "the shape of things to come is reflected in its still vague contours.”[64] Total crap. There are no "vague contours" between man and machine, between mind and matter. They stand distinct, and man is infinitely greater than some metal apparatus. Even if man and a computer are adjudged as such, no "vague contours" are observed. Once again: this is mystification. What would a vaguely contoured computer would look like? A compressed block of iron perhaps? But is not a computer assembled from different parts, yet still a single working unit? Yes. As usual, the great Fr. Jaki again provided the correct explanation:
The idea that all events, ideas, things, and perceptions lie along an unlimited continuum and smoothly fuse into one another, has... been an invariable feature of AI ideology... It is still to be widely realized that the making of machines (electronic or not), where parts must be different in spite of their connectedness, also becomes a logical contradiction within the continuum principle as embraced in the ideology of AI.[65]
There is no "difficulty", as Butler said, with the concurrence of unity and separateness. There is no, in Couclelis' gnostic parlance, "ontological hang-up". In actuality, things are hung up because of ontology, their being.[66] The premise of an "unlimited continuum" is really no different than those silly conjectures made in the nineteenth century, claiming the brain-thought interrelation to be a function of bodily organs, (e.g. thought is a cerebral excretion as bile is the effluent from the liver).[67] The fact that modern scientific investigations of brain physiology are not even near to understanding the nature of thought should inform the AI aficionado that he lives an illusion. That men of the scientific stature of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) and Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), both of whom were constructors of calculating machines, disbelieved in a physicalist explanation of the mind is of no avail to the AI ideologue. Instead, he loses himself in the symbolically drenched pages of the IEEE Transactions on Pattern Recognition and Artificial Intelligence, dreaming until the dawn of La Mettrie’s man-machine symbiosis.


XLII. CARTESIAN CATASTROPHE. Before La Mettrie and Darwin, before Butler and Hume, there was the philosopher and popularly claimed "father" of the modern day mechanistic worldview, namely René Descartes. The origins of the "mind-body problem" can certainly be traced back to this Frenchman. This is because for Descartes - the most influential transformer of the Western worldview after the heresiarch Martin Luther (1483-1546) - there was an absolute dichotomy between the mind and the body. While in residency in Holland, he published his infamous Discourse on Method in 1637, wherein we read:
...a substance whose whole essence or nature is simply to think, and which does not require any place, or depend on any material thing, in order to exist. Accordingly this 'I' - that is, the soul by which I am what I am - is entirely distinct from the body, and indeed is easier to know than the body, and would not fail to be whatever it is, even if the body did not exist.[68] (TH2 emphasis)
Hence mind and body are not separable, but separated, like two juxtaposing sheets of glass in contact with each other. There was no interaction between the two, and so disappeared the traditional (Scholastic) view which deemed the mind and body as two through-going yet distinct units. For Descartes, intellection is intuition, unassociated to material existents. Man is effectively an angel.[69] Analogically, think of Descartes' man as a sealed canister of propane. The metal container is the material body and the propane inside is the mind. The propane gas and metal container only concatenate each other. No allowance is made for them to go through each other by osmosis.

XLIII. BACK TO McLUHAN. Descartes juxtaposed the sensible and intelligible. Hume equalized understanding with raw sensation[70], and so Marshall McLuhan is reinserted to this analysis. This long digression was made to illustrate the roots of McLuhan's philosophy. His views have their connection to AI since the whole fallacious AI movement is currently the prime example of what happens when technology is considered to be that which it is not: a necessitous "extension" of the human being, possessing its own "life", creating "new" environments of perception, uncontrollable, ominous and enigmatic. In a word: mystification.

XLIV. FORMALISM. McLuhan claimed that technology eradicated the distinction between the inner workings of the mind and the externality of the physical world: "electronic technologies have begun to shake the distinction between inner and outer space by blurring the difference between being here or there." McLuhan saw the "border" between the inner and outer as "not a connection but an interval or resonance."[71] What remains, then, is a formal electric environment: "Our new awareness," he said in another book, "of territoriality: the return of formal space." Within this new territory it is the visual aspect that is amplified: "As the bounding line ceases to be stressed, there is a steady lessening of involvement in the process. There is a steady strengthening of visual values and detachment."[72] What is this "formal space" like? Recalling our discussion on AI, namely on how it is assumed that all meaning is explainable within the formal system by arbitrary free association, it is discovered that McLuhan, too, had this proclivity when speaking of electronic media. For example: "Objects are unobservable. Only relationships are observable". Or: "no medium has its meaning or existence alone, but only in constant interplay with another media." Another: "All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perception and arbitrary values."[73]


XLV. "GLOBAL VILLAGE" = MONOPSYCHISM. In addition to his "medium is the message" slogan, what can be gathered from McLuhan’s other popular phrase: "As electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village"?[74] The "global village" refers to the immense number of communicative opportunities and possibilities that arise with the elimination of distance as caused by modern technology, itself creating a unified electronic environment appealing primarily to the senses rather than to individuated logic and reason. Evidence shows that the "global village" is a reiteration of the "Unity of the Intellect" hypothesis of the Islamic philosopher Ibn Rushd (1126-1198), known in the West as Averroes. To Averroes, all people were united in one consciousness, there is but one mind. An "active intellect" was common to all, to which every person was in ethereal contact, participating therewith in some unexplainable way (monopsychism). Understanding of the world, then, came from without. Individual free thought was effectively negated: "the material intellect", he wrote, "is a single one for all human beings."[75] Keeping this conjecture mind, let us now quote McLuhan on the "global village" and see if similarities to this monopsychism can be ascertained:
The technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society... In the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind in us... There is a deep faith to be found in this new attitude - a faith that concerns the ultimate harmony of being... The contours of our own extended beings in our technologies, seeking intelligibility in each of them... [Western man's] steadily and rapid transformation into a complex and depth-structured person emotionally aware of his total interdependence with the rest of human society.[76] (TH2 emphasis)
Is this not what is claimed by the latest fly-by-night computer guru in his latest bestseller? Computers, machines, devices and all sorts of technologies teleconnected into some sort of cooperative intellect, presided over by, not real individual people, but by some unknowable, unnamable, electronic deity somewhere "out there" in the ephemeral world of cyberspace? Is this not where all of one's wishes are fulfilled, as it is proclaimed, in this "virtual reality"? Is this not a shutting out the mind from objective reality? Within, and only within, this transient, ever shifting environment as forged by modern technology, minus any reference to that which is outside the formal system, do we not discern this false belief in a conglomeratic intellect? Marshall McLuhan's mass communication theories do indeed facilitate this absolutist subjectivism.

XLVI. FACILITATING OCCASIONALISM. Within this ethereal, all-encompassing "global village" is not the so-called "information overload syndrome" a manifestation of a supposed occasionalism? Man, stuck inside this technological environment, is bombarded by information not in a serial cause-effect fashion (true), but (said McLuhan) simultaneously from everyone and everywhere (false, only seemingly so). The easy access to myriad types of information on the internet, constantly blaring radios and television sets, beepers suddenly going off, e-mails and text messages received, cell phones ringing on and on... This apparent "popping out of thin air" of information which modern technology fosters, this inexorable sense of being vanquished by data on the affairs of the day... all of this is only a seeming change in the nature of electronic media. In actuality, only the speed of transfer has increased by multifarious modes of media that disseminate this information. Real space has not at all contracted. Only the rapidity of connection from one place to another has made it seem that space has imploded. McLuhan's phrase "the sender gets sent"[77] (a derivative of "the medium is the message") is, therefore, bogus.


XLVII. FACILITATING TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM. Man supposedly feels weighed down upon by the information influx. He cannot keep up to date with the endless innovative marvels of modern technology. He thinks himself in some degree captive to the hand-held device, the automobile, the opinion poll, the latest stock market results accessed on the internet. He feels helpless and begins to believe (after listening to McLuhan) that technology and information control his existence.[78] However, this sense of being overwhelmed to the point of mental breakdown and/or of finding newfangled meanings in technology, is a myth, a concoction of the Vulgar Left (especially the Frankfurt School), who are characteristically anti-technological and anti-free market. A cellular phone was considered a novelty just 15+ years ago. Today it is a device used millions, making life a little safer and certainly more efficient. It is a natural progression that occurs in freer economic systems. A created commodity is at first a luxury, soonafter becoming commonplace if it is actually beneficial.

XLVIII. FACILITATING TECHNOZOISM. If man is declared to be determined by technology, if technology can do the amazing feats of which the intricacies involved are reportedly beyond normal comprehension, what happens next? The mystifier (i.e. McLuhan) makes his entrance and goes about to delude the general public, with the assistance of the characteristically bandwagon jumping mainstream media. The AI ideologue, for example, speaks of the "undreamed of possibilities" of "thinking computers", that we are "almost there", "within a generation", of developing autonomously functioning computers that will, at last, lift humanity out of its misery. Years come and go, decades pass, but the techno-utopia never arrives. Promises made, yet the false prophets are now dead and do not have to answer for the nonsense they once extolled.

XLIX. FACILITATING FORMALISM. Formalism rules triumphantly in this Brave New World. The synthetic-graphical character of "virtual reality", the latest ultraviolent video game on the market, reams of mathematical equations and computer languages, pornography and perversions, "neat" pictures appearing on the monitor to titillate the teenage hacker at two o'clock in the morning - all of this is formalism. Not that formal systems are of no utility. Though the point emphasized here is that when all happiness, truth, knowledge, experience and events are presupposed to dwell only within a formal system, and when the world as such is seen only to exist within signs and symbols and icons, then the social difficulties arise. Why? Because the objective window into that idealistic world is abandoned altogether. The real world is even, in a subconscious fashion, held in disdain. Cyberspace is not real space and it is taken to be more real than real. McLuhan facilitated this attitude with such statements as "involvement in depth" or when he described "media as extensions of our senses" in a necessitarian way.


L. FACILITATING MONOPSYCHISM. When, at last, McLuhan's so-called "global village" comes into being with the internet and satellite telecommunications, formalism expands, it encroaches upon the world. It becomes total, an electronic variant of Averroes' collective mind comes into being. Indeed, to many it is a kind of electronic Marxism since, in some respects, objective private property is abolished, transferred into virtual property (e.g. copyright problems, easy data access, public domain software, pirating, hackers, system security; rapid changes in technology force one to keep up to date with trends, meaning the recurrent purchasing of new hardware, thus technological property is not owned but effectively rented). Unfortunately, this false view predominates as it is presumed there are no such things as things, only formal signs of them. And this is simply because people like McLuhan made objective things into signs. Accordingly, the "medium [objective thing] is the message [formal sign]" equivalence theory is inutile technobabble.

LI. MAN: NOT A MACHINE. In 1934 Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), a philosopher of technology and reputed influence on McLuhan, mentioned a simple truth explaining the fallacies of McLuhanism: "the neutral valueless world of science".[79] During the Industrial Revolution the machine was worshipped and mystified. But after the very mechanized First World War, and considering afterwards what it did to people, cities, the environment, and European culture as a whole, an ambivalent attitude thereof occurred. Weapons and warfare, the introduction of the production line, large earth-movers - those things which came with mechanization created disillusionment in some quarters. A "decay in mechanical faith"[80] emerged. Though today, the new faith for many is in computers, and the mode of worship and mystification is different only in the fact that the environments that modern technology fosters and emphasizes (clean, synthetic, streamlined, quiet / Platonic) is formalistic, mainly enticing to the mind. Whereas the industrial machine of old (dirty, oily, loud, rugged / Aristotelian) accentuated the materialistic and body's interaction therewith.

LII. NEGATION. In the wake of McLuhan, the techno-priests of today effectively say that heaven is formalism and hell is the reality existing outside the technological apparatus. In a word, heaven is virtually believed. Now TH2 does not refute the obvious necessity of computer technology. He is no Luddite. Yet when the formalistic mentality is elevated to metaphysical levels, soonafter erected into quasi-religious dogma (explaining the origin, nature and destiny of man in relation to technology, e.g. AI), then this becomes a problem. It tends toward a negation of objective reality and, philosophically speaking, a negation of being in actuality. In the end, this repudiation of being would devolve, within the technocratic form-world, into an outright negation of Being, namely God. Recall the words of Wittgenstein: "I am my world". In "virtual reality" not a few think themselves godlike.

LIII. MEPHISTOPHELES IN THE MEDIUM. The term "virtual reality", namely to say that something which is not quite, that is virtual, almost, yet is still real, is not only illogical but disturbing. It goes against the principle of contradiction, that is, one cannot affirm and negate something at the same time. This "virtual reality" is expressive of a kind of nothingness that, in a way, is trying so hard to establish itself, pushing up against, and bordering on, being as such. It is, so to speak, screaming at Being in its defiance of objective reality. This was also spoken similarly with different words by a fallen archangel: non serviam, bellowed the archnegator of God. McLuhan wrote the following to Jacques Maritain in a letter dated June 6, 1969:
The electric-oriented person thinks of himself as tribally inclusive of all mankind. Electric information environments, being ethereal, fosters the illusion of the world as a spiritual substance. It is now a reasonable facsimile of the mystical body, a blatant manifestation of the Anti-Christ. After all, the Prince of the World is a very good electric engineer.[81]
Mystification or mystery? Time will tell.


LIV. GNOSTICISM. Thus TH2 concludes that Marshall McLuhan was a gnostic who mystified mass media. This is straightforwardly confirmed with the following:
The main obstacle to a clear understanding of the effects of the new media is our deeply embedded habit of regarding all phenomena from a fixed point of view.[82]
As with any gnostic, ancient or modern, philosopher or scientist, the remission of specificity or "a fixed point of view" is an error betraying a propensity towards relativism, leading inescapingly to obscurantism. If one cannot distinguish between a this and a that, and if one opts for metamorphosing everything, technological or not, into an indeterminate "thisness", then the situation is made conducive for disengaging the mind from the world. McLuhan was fascinated by incredible speeds attendant with modern technology. Yet with speed there comes an increasing disregard and consequential disrespect for the real and the sacred. The seemed annihilation of time and space overshadows the underlying implications and actualities of things that are. Technology enthralls, delights, generates exhilaration. Mass media devices are recurrently considered "out of date", relegated to unimportance as technology advances in its breathtaking rapidity. But it must remembered that the complicated and the exciting have their roots in the discrete and the mundane, and the truth is always to be found in the latter.

LV. "GLOBAL VILLAGE" NUKED. The English historian/commentator Paul Johnson delivers the final, devastating blow:
McLuhan's theory, of course, was rapturously received by the mass-media, which instantly made him into a best-seller and a world figure. He also became popular among some young people, because he seems to be saying that it is not important to reach rational and logical conclusions by serious thinking - sensations are all that matter... A section of mankind is always anxious to find new reasons for rejecting the 'modern world' especially if, as in McLuhan's case, its members are nevertheless allowed the benefits of modern mass-entertainment - a return to nature plus colour TV. What is surprising is that McLuhan should ever have been taken seriously by the educated. His theory bears all the hallmarks of a pseudo-science in their most unthinkable form: the feverish search for 'confirmatory' evidence culled from every possible context, however irrelevant; and a parallel blindness to the multitude of the facts which contradict it. It also has the giveaway built-in defences against criticism... His methods, in fact, are a travesty, almost a caricature, of the way in which the real scientist works[83].
By Jove! I say, Mr. Johnson hit the nail right on its head. Hurrah.



NOTES / REFERENCES

1. See W.T. Gordon, McLuhan For Beginners (Andhra Pradesh, India: Orient Longman Limited, 2003); M. Federman, McLuhan for Managers: New Tools for New Thinking (Toronto: Viking Canada, 2003); P. Levinson, Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium (Florence, KY: Routledge, 1999. The biographies are: P. Marchand, Marshall McLuhan, The Medium and the Messenger (Toronto: Random House, 1989), revised in 1998; W.T. Gordon, Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding, A Biography (New York: Basic Books, 1997). Gingko Press is the official publisher of McLuhan's works. LINK

2. M. McLuhan and B.R. Powers, The Global Village, Transformations of World Life and Media in the 21st Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 178. Posthumously published. Rewritten/edited from McLuhan's notes a few years prior to his death. Hereafter referenced as TGV.

3. Quoted in McLuhan Hot and Cool, ed. G.E. Stearn (New York: The Dial Press Incorporated, 1967), p. xv. Hereafter referenced as MHC. Perhaps we find a precursors to McLuhan’s thought as early as 1925 with S. Zweig, "The Monotonization of the World" in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, eds. A. Kaes, M. Jay and E. Dimendberg (Berkeley: University California Press, 1994), pp. 397-400 and J. Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Vintage Books, 1964). Originally published in 1954. It is not entirely unreasonable to state that McLuhan, like Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), was a Catholic anarchist (see main text, passim).

4. G. Steiner, "On Reading Marshall McLuhan", In: Language and Silence, Essays 1958-1966 (London: Faber and Faber, 1990), p. 280. Essay compilation originally published in 1967.

5. See, for instance, M. McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (New York: The Vanguard Press Incorporated, 1951).

6. Reprinted in MHC, pp. 15-34.

7. The interview of McLuhan by Fr. Peyton can be viewed on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Upon viewing, the EWTN station identifier is seen (bottom right).

8. See "Inter Mirifica" In: Vatican Council II, Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. A. Flannery (Boston: St. Paul Books and Media, 1992), Vatican Collection (revised edition), vol. 1, pp. 283-349. McLuhan warned that the use of microphones on the altar during Mass would devaluate prayer to colloquialism.

9. M. McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: Signet Books, 1964), pp. 185, 25. Hereafter referenced as UM.

10. MHC, p. 301.

11. UM, p. 33. Also: "media as extensions of our senses institute new ratios, not only among our private senses, but among themselves, when they interact among themselves" (ibid., p. 61). See also M. McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (University of Toronto Press, 1962), passim; M. McLuhan and Q. Fiore, The Medium is the Massage, An Inventory of Effects (New York: Bantam Books Incorporated 1967), p. 41. Hereafter referenced as TMM.

12. M. McLuhan and H. Parker, Through the Vanishing Point, Space in Poetry and Painting (Harper and Row Publishers, 1968), World Perspectives, vol. 37, p. 2. Hereafter referenced as TVP.

13. UM, pp. 181, 35. The phrase "configure the awareness and experience" is a sign of technological determinism. Discussed later in main text.

14. G. Steiner, op cit., p. 282.

15. UM, p. 27.

16. UM, p. 20.

17. D. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L.A. Selby-Bigge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), bk. I, pt. IV, sect. VI, p. 252. Originally published in 1740 with the (full) title A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects.

18. Ibid., bk. I, pt. III, sect. XV, p. 173.

19. Ibid., bk. I, pt. IV, p. 251.

20. Ibid., bk. I, pt. IV, sect. XI, p. 262.

21. D. Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. L.A. Selby-Bigge, rev. P.H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), sect. VII, p. 61. The former was originally published in 1749 and the latter in 1751. Both were rewrites of parts of A Treatise on Human Nature (see note 17). Despite counterclaims, Hume was a determinist.

22. M. McLuhan, "Joyce, Aquinas and the Poetic Process", Renascence, vol. 4, no. 1, Autumn, 1951.

23. St. Thomas Aquinas: "our soul possess two cognitive powers; one is the act of the corporeal organ [the senses], which actually knows things existing in individual matter; hence sense knows only the singular. But there is another kind of cognitive power in the soul, called the intellect; and this is not the act of any corporeal organ. Wherefore the intellect naturally knows natures which exist only in individual matter; not as they are in such individual matter, but according as they are abstracted therefrom by the considering act of the intellect; hence it follows that through the intellect we can understand these objects as universal; and this is beyond the power of sense", Sum. theol., i, q. 12, art. 4c.

24. McLuhan wrote this in his letter dated June 19, 1975 to Fr. John Culkin. Reprinted in The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion, eds. E. McLuhan and J. Szklarek (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Company Limited, 1999), p. 74. Hereafter referenced as MLRR.

25. J. Maritain, Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau (London: Sheed & Ward, 1936), pp. 51-89, 209-219. Maritain subtitled his chapter on Descartes as "The Incarnation of the Angel".

26. UM, p. 47.

27. UM, p. 24.

28. UM, pp. 24-25.

29. See also TMM, p. 16.

30. MHC, p. 280.

31. UM, p. 39.

32. William of Ockham, Quodlibetal Questions, trans. A.J. Fredesso and F.E. Kelly (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991), quod. 4, q. 32 (vol. 1, pp. 375-376). See also quod. 6, q. 15 (vol. 2, pp. 536-539).

33. MHC, p. 296.

34. TMM, p. 10.

35. UM, p. 55.

36. UM, p. 33.

37. Man A Machine, trans. various (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1993), pp. 143-144.

38. UM, p. 26.

39. See Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1977), pp. 287-288, 309. Heidegger's essay "The Question Concerning Technology" (Die Frage nach der Technik) was originally written in 1954.

40. H. Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, Studies on the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1991), p. 9. Originally published in 1964.

41. H. Lefebrve, The Production of Space, trans. D. Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Limited, 1991), p. 411. Originally published in 1974, this text is a solipsistic work written in a fashionably postmodernist vein.

42. The "spontaneous generation" of living things mainly originates from Aristotle (384-322 BC): "The nature of animals and vegetables... are produced from the seed of other plants, and others are of spontaneous growth... So also some animals are produced from animals of a similar form, the origins of others is spontaneous, and not from similar forms." See Aristotle's History of Animals in Ten Books, trans. R. Cresswell (London: George Bell & Sons, 1883), bk v, ch. 1, pts. 2-3, p. 101. So-called "perpetual motion" goes against the laws of physics and anyone who thinks otherwise, or attempts to offer experimental proof thereof, is just running an exercise in futility. It well to note that the idea of "perpetual motion" is intimately tied in with the notion of eternal time, matter and motion as proclaimed by Greek/pagan and Arab cultures, save the Christian West. Namely, those cultures where science did not develop.

43. M. Bunge, "Do Computers Think? (II)", British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 1956, vol. 7, no. 27, p. 219. The phrases "technozoism" or "animechanism" were coined by Bunge.

44. J. Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses, Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), p. 145.

45. This is not to say that there is no literary merit in older science fiction, such as Edgar Allan Poe’s (1809-1849) excellent The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Phall, C.S. Lewis’ (1898-1963) Perelandra or the short stories of Jorges Luis Borges (1889-1986). These belong to the literary world and are distinct from scientific fact. Science fiction comes after the advancements made in professional scientific investigation, not vice versa. Jules Verne (1828-1905), for example, kept up to date with the latest scientific advancements whereas Poe, though a spinner of great tales, was a dilettante (e.g. his story Eureka, positive view of Mesmerism, phrenology). In his introduction to Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (New York: The Heritage Press, 1962), p. vii, Raymond Bradbury (b. 1920) correctly observed: "I cannot for the life of me understand why so many people underline and re-emphasize the fact that science fiction sometimes predicts the future. This is not its function, business, nor purpose for being". As for Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), we have another example of a condescending view of man, presupposing him to be unintelligent. In his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, we recall not only an autonomously thinking computer (named HAL), but a black monolith situated on the moon by aliens, giving humans, upon their discovery of it, superior knowledge of the universe, a key to the secret of the cosmos (i.e. gnosis). This, after the humans had sufficiently evolved, enabling them to construct the technology needed to travel to the moon. The inference here is that intelligence is evolutionary, that our ancestors were effectively stupid, and that science alone is the only hope for humanity. Standard scientism. It is ironic, but more so humorous, that Clarke liked to present himself, from his home in Bangladesh, as some sort of rational science writer and debunker of New Age esoterica when in fact he himself was a perpetuator of chimeras and a mystifier of science. In his 2010: Odyssey Two, Clarke's mystery mongering was again manifested: when the main character in the story asks "Dave" what is going to happen (as regards the event of millions of these monoliths orbiting around the planet Jupiter), the response is a vague abstraction, a promise and a teaser: "something wonderful". This "something wonderful" turns out to be the transformation of Jupiter into a star and the creation of life on one of its moons. Big deal. This is that immemorial pagan belief in the eternality of matter and of the world extended to astrophysics. Same old crap.

46. For a brilliant exposition and repudiation of "thinking" computers see S.L. Jaki, Brain, Mind and Computers (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1989). Third edition; originally published in 1969. TH2 will draw ideas out of Fr. Jaki's work to support his own analysis. A precursor to Fr. Jaki's book is M. Taube, Computers and Common Sense: The Myth of Thinking Machines (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961).

47. Monism is a philosophy arguing that there is a totalistic unity in a reality comprised of a basic singular element or substance, regardless of perceived differences and diversity in the universe. Monists are opposed to any dualistic worldview, especially the properly/truly configured dualism implicit to Catholicism.

48. See comments by K. Gunderson, Mentality and Machines (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1971), p. 7 ff. 7. This work is a defence of Cartesianism dualism, taking neither side of the debate on whether machines can have their own volition: "no philosophical argument could ever show that they couldn’t" (p. xvi). This is a nice way of saying that he cannot think of an argument to prove that they could. It is the usual escape hatch mode of evasion.

49. Gödel’s classic paper (1931) is entitled "Of Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I". See Collected Works, Kurt Gödel (Oxford University Press, 1986), vol. 1, pp. 145-195. The aforementioned abstract can be found in the same tome, vol. 1, pp. 141-143.

50. K. Gödel, "Discussion on Providing a Foundation for Mathematics", In: loc. cit., vol. 1, pp. 201-205. A non-technical description of Gödel’s theorem is given in E. Nagel and J.R. Newman, Gödel’s Proof (New York University Press, 1958). See especially pp. 85-97.

51. Many still refuse to accept Gödel’s proof, which has implications not only for mathematics, but also for "analytic" (neo-Kantian) philosophy and linguistics. Alternative explanations are customarily functionalist, associationist (sometimes called "symbolic interactionism") that attempt to resolve all meaning within a formal system. Some instances: Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970), member of the logical positivist "Vienna Circle" (advocated that the only source of knowledge is experience/observation, understood only with mathematics/symbolic logic), wrote that methods of traditional logic "have one characteristic in common: They all regard an expression in language as a name of a concrete or abstract entity. In contradistinction, the method here proposed takes an expression, not as naming anything, but possessing an intension and extension" within the formal system. Carnap defines his "L-concept" theory with: "We start with the semantical concepts of truth and L-truth (logical truth) or sentences... The definition of L-truth holds for a sentence if its truth follows from the semantical rules alone without reference to (extra linguistic) facts". See his Meaning and Necessity, A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic (University of Chicago Press, 1970), pp. iii, 1 (second edition). Originally published in 1947. Refutation of Carnap perhaps came from Karl Popper (1902-1994), a critic of logical positivism: "[Assume] English as our metalanguage in order to speak about German (as the objects under investigation)... let 'S' be a metalinguisitic name of a statement of the object language, and let 'f' be the abbreviation of an expression of the metalanguage that describes the (supposed) fact F which S describes. Then we can make the following linguistic assertion: A statement S of the object language corresponds to the facts if, and only if, f". See his Objective Knowledge, An Evolutionary Approach (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. 314-316 (revised edition). Originally published in 1972. The French structuralist anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) expressed his usual nonsense if one considers his studies of the mythology of non-literate aboriginal peoples in the Americas: "The elementary units of mythical discourse certainly consist of words and sentences which... are, however, more in the category of phonemes: meaningless units that are opposed within a system, where they create meanings precisely because of this opposition." If one of the oppositions is "meaningless", how can one phoneme reference the other, its opposite, and be meaningful? See his article "The Lessons in Linguistics" in The View from Afar, trans. J. Neugroschell and P. Hoss (University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 144-145. Originally published in 1983. Subnote that Lévi-Strauss, inspired by the literary theorist Roman Jackobson (1896-1982), believed that there is an isomorphic relation between genetic codes and speech. Both took the position that there is a fusion between speech and gene codes, which can be explained by "underlying" factors, such as "architectonic patterns", "molecular communication", i.e. can be explained with vague, imprecise, obscurantist and therefore unscientific terminologies. Comparable inanities are to be found in the writings of the former prince of neo-Kantian philosophy (despite counterclaims) in the United States, W.V. Quine (1908-2000): "A single language, regimented... is purely semantic". See his Pursuit of Truth (Harvard University Press, 1990), p. 72. There is nothing as drab and boring as Anglo-American "analytic" philosophy. The grey shadow of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) pervades all such works in this area. More immediately than Kant, however (as regarding language/mathematics resolvable within itself), the main culprit is clearly Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), stemming from his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. It is a shadowy, nihilistic work from a troubled weirdo. Wittgenstein’s apriorism and denial of objective reality extraneous to the self is all too evident in the propositions which constitute the Tractatus:
----1.1----The world is the totality of facts, not things.
----1.13---The facts in logical space are the world.
----2.031--The substance of the world can only determine a form, and not any material properties.
----2.174--A picture cannot... place itself outside its representational form.
From
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness (London: Routledge Humanities Press International Incorporated, 1988). Originally published in 1921. See also Propositions 2.11, 2.181, 3.01, 3.13, 4.015, 4.0312, 4.12, 4.121, 4.125, 4.1251, 4.1252, 5.23, 5.231, 5.511, 5.6 and 5.61. Revealingly, Wittgenstein penned: "I am my world" (Prop. 5.63). This is reminiscent of Immanuel Kant who, in old age, claimed himself to be God. See the latter's Opus Postumum, trans. E. Förster and M. Rosen (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 218-235.

52. S.L. Jaki, op. cit., p. 214.

53. Ibid., p. 257.

54. One example would be a book from the 1980s: "computers are merely tools of human beings. Hammers, crowbars, screw drivers and other devices are tools used to amplify our existing capabilities. They can do nothing unless directed by human beings. The same is true of computers which leads us to realize that much of what we like to blame on the computer can be directly attributed to some human action". See J. Frates and W. Moldrup, Introduction to Computers, An Integrative Approach (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1984), pp. 1-2 (second edition).

55. N. Wiener, God & Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1966), p. 53.

56. R.V. Andree, Programming the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Computer and Data-Processing Machine (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1958), p. 2.

57. Cf. R. Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), p. 31. Originally published in 1944.

58. Fr. Fulton Sheen (in the early 1930s) was one of the first to challenge the "everything is relative" mantra: "It must not be thought... that everything is so relative that nothing is absolute, as some philosophers have thought by applying relativity to the theory of knowledge, to morals, and to religion. There have not been lacking philosophers who build their systems upon physical theories, and who have seized upon Einstein's theory... This is an unwarranted extension of the Einstein theory...". See F.J. Sheen, Philosophy of Science (Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1934), pp. 44-45.

59. S. Butler, Erewhon (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1996), pp. 142, 63-4. See especially cc. 23-25, pp. 141-162. The Australian mathematician Paul Davies foolheartedly believes that computers will surpass the intellectual aptitude of man, as stated in his God and the New Physics (London: Penguin Books, 1984), p. 206: "the development of 'artificial' intelligence may well imply that man will relinquish his intellectual supremacy in favour of thinking machines." Butler would have smiled at the stupidity.

60. The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, arr./ed. A.F. Jones (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1926), p. 18.

61. Ibid., p. 76.

62. Ibid., p. 67.

63. Ibid., p. 83.

64. H. Couclelis, "Artificial Intelligence in Geography: Conjectures on the Shape of Things to Come", The Professional Geographer, 1986, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 4, 6, 8, 9.

65. S.L. Jaki, op. cit., p. 255.

66. On the obvious ontological aspects overlooked by proponents of "Artificial Intelligence" (AI), see discussion by W.A. Dembski, "Are We Spiritual Machines?", First Things, October, 1999, no. 96, pp. 25-31,

67. Such advocates included Pierre Cabanis (1757-1808 / Relations of the Physical and the Moral in Man, 1802) and Karl Vogt (1817-1895 / Lectures on Man: His Place in Creation and in the History of the Earth, 1864).

68. From Part 4, "Discourse on the method of rightly conducting one's reason and seeking the truth in the sciences" In: The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch (Cambridge University Press, 1984), vol. 1, p. 127. See also Descartes' 2nd and 6th Meditations, "Meditations on First Philosophy", loc. cit., vol. 2, pp. 22, 51, respectively.

69. Descartes philosophy was coined angelism by Jacques Maritain (see note 25). Compare St. Thomas Aquinas' (1225-1274) "Treatise on the Angels' and the similarities will become manifest (Sum. theol., i, qq. 50-64).

70. Hume further spoke of "the vulgar prejudice that body and mind ought always to accompany each other". See Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and Posthumous Essays, ed. R.H. Popkin (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983), pt. VI, p. 40.

71. TGV, pp. 148, 149.

72. TVP, pp. 2, 39.

73. MHC, p. 302; UM, pp. 39, 179. See also discussion in note 52.

74. UM, p. 20.

75. See Averroes' "Long Commentary on De Anima", In: Philosophy in the Middle Ages, The Christian, Islamic and Jewish Traditions, eds. A. Hyman and J.J. Walsh (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1973), p. 331 (second edition). Monopyschism is a worldview that claims all human beings partake and share in a singular eternal intellect or consciousness.

76. UM, pp. 19-21, 60.

77. TGV, p. 175.

78. The compulsion for technology (by hype, advertising, office efficiency, sales competition, etc.), has led, said a now dated poll, to anxiousness in the workplace. See "High tech equals high anxiety, poll finds", The Toronto Star, May 14, 1997, pp. A1, A36.

79. L. Mumford, Technics and Civilization (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1963), pp. 366. Originally published in 1934. Recall McLuhan's contrasting ascription of "somnambulism" (see note 39).

80. Ibid., p. 366. See pp. 365-367 for discussion thereof. Many persons embraced orientalism, spiritualism and theosophy in reaction the mechanistic worldview horrifically incarnated during World War I (e.g. tanks, machine guns, mustard gas).

81. MLRR, pp. 71-72. In another letter to J.W. Mole, OMI, McLuhan wrote: "He [Maritain] is totally ignorant of the new electric environment as creating the World before which misguided Christians kneel. This strictly Luciferan product is ethereal and a highly plausible mock-up of the mystical body" (MLRR, p. 69). Recall that McLuhan completely misunderstood Maritain (see note 24) and that he confessed, in his usual combinatorial irrational/bizarre/mystifying manner the following: "I have never been an optimist or a pessimist. I'm an apocalyptic only. Our only hope is apocalypse". See "Futurechurch: Edward Walton interviews Marshall McLuhan", US Catholic, January 1977, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 6-11.

82. TMM, p. 68.

83. P. Johnson, Enemies of Society (New York: Atheneum, 1977), pp. 149-150.

Share/Bookmark

19 comments:

LarryD said...

Your posts are too short. Anyone ever tell you that? :-)

I'll have to come back and finish this when I have more time. Looks fascinating.

TH2 said...

These long posts compensate for my lack of regular, daily blogging, i.e. laziness. Thanks for dropping in.

Al said...

Never was that impressed with Marshall McLuhan & what he had to say. Although I did like his appearance in Annie Hall since it was not so much to promote what he said but to make fun of those pontificating experts who have no real understanding of what they claim to be talking about.

But back to the "media is the message/global village" messgae he pushed. Maybe he was talking about himself when he said in Annie Hall "You mean my whole fallacy is wrong." As you have pointed out, yes he is wrong.

TH2 said...

Yes, the Annie Hall sequence with McLuhan was funny with the point made therein. I can think of one or two similar type experiences I had in recent years, though I am finding it rather hard these days to bite by tongue.

Lola said...

One of these days I'm going to do a whole series on Annie Hall.

TH2 you are inspirational!

Thank you for your work, I'm printing it out now to read over the next couple days. (Yes, I actually have to chew and think when I read your posts!)

TH2 said...

Many thanks, dear Lola. I am still in the process of finding/learning about a reliable "printer friendly" gadget that would allow users to just print text (i.e. not waste ink on all the graphics). Enjoy the read.

Benjamin Robertson said...

Wow, this is impressive work. You've really done your research.

I have to admit though, that I'm not sure you've understood McLuhan. He described his works and especially his controversial one-liners as probes: tools used to jar the reader's or listener's senses so as to get them to think.

His described his books in an interview (available here: http://www.digitallantern.net/mcluhan/mcluhanplayboy.htm) in the following manner:

"My books constitute the process rather than the completed product of discovery; my purpose is to employ facts as tentative probes, as means of insight, of pattern recognition, rather than to use them in the traditional and sterile sense of classified data, categories, containers."

"I've never presented such explorations as revealed truth."

He was trying to jar people into actually thinking about how they consume media and messages.

I think you have misrepresented McLuhan (as many do) as a worshipper of technology, when he very clearly wasn't. You object to his descriptions of electric man, as being anti-Catholic. I think McLuhan would have as well, based on several quotations that you include from The Medium and the Light:

“He [Maritain] is totally ignorant of the new electric environment as creating the World before which misguided Christians kneel. This strictly Luciferan product is ethereal and a highly plausible mock-up of the mystical body”

"The electric-oriented person thinks of himself as tribally inclusive of all mankind. Electric information environments, being ethereal, fosters the illusion of the world as a spiritual substance. It is now a reasonable facsimile of the mystical body, a blatant manifestation of the Anti-Christ. After all, the Prince of the World is a very good electric engineer."

Clearly, McLuhan sees the electric-oriented person as a sinister shadow of what man should be. In his collected letters, he says that "discarnate man is not compatible with an incarnate church." McLuhan saw the electric-oriented person to be as anti-Catholic as you saw him to be.

Obviously, this doesn't refute your whole analysis. I will definitely be chewing on this for a couple of days and stewing up a response. Thanks for the serious work that went into this!

TH2 said...

Benjamin: Thanks for dropping in and for your detailed response. Much appreciated.

I cannot respond in detail right now. The main contention (for me at least) is his prioritization of sensation and negation of linear/logical thought/understanding. That is simply bad philosophy. The "probe" thing is a literary device used to mystify.

Cheers, TH2/

Benjamin Robertson said...

Hi again.

I've posted a longer response at my blog. Perhaps you'd like to read it?

Here's the link:

http://presidentalien.blogspot.com/2010/08/marshall-mcluhan-enemy-of-society.html

--Ben

TH2 said...

Ben - thanks for taking the time to challenge my piece. Please give me a number of days to respond (which I will do here in a separate post). I've got a bunch of things on the go.

You seem like a formidable opponent.

Cheers..TH2/

TH2 said...

Ben: On second thought, I'll come over to your blog and respond, instead of commenting here.

Mark Stahlman said...

TH2: Sorry, given all the work you have put into this, but you have indeed missed what McLuhan was saying by trying to turn his work into a point-of-view. Since he repeatedly stressed that he wasn't expressing a POV, you can't counter with by acquising him of not having one (i.e. mystifying) while trying to fabricate one for him (i.e. gnosticism.)

TH2 said...

To say and emphasize that one does not have a point of view is still a point of view. It is in defiance of the principle of contradiction, that is, to affirm and negate something at the same time. That was but one of McLuhan's logical fallacies.

Mark Stahlman said...

TH2: McLuhan didn't affirm anything nor did he affirm the negation of anything, or as he said in Annie Hall, "I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!"

He was a devout Catholic living in a world largely populated by Neo-Pagans. Presumably this is the same reality that has driven you to proclaim yourself a "heresy hunter." I'd suggest that you drop your pride (yes, it's a deadly sin) and try to locate your sense of charity.

His "message" was that the media itself presents an environment of non-stop heresy. There are no individuals worth "scorging" since they are also products of this Satanic envelopment. All we can do is understand what media does to us and fortify our faith.

Please read his PhD thesis for some insight regarding dialecticians (i.e. you) vs. grammarians (i.e. him) and remember that he was standing on the shoulders of Belloc's "Survivals and New Arrivals."

TH2 said...

McLuhan didn't affirm anything nor did he affirm the negation of anything, or as he said in Annie Hall, "I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!"

If he did not affirm anything nor negate anything then it logically follows that the ideas he proposed "affirm" and "negate" nothing. Why bother reading him then? Yet his followers take his ideas to be true, thus they are affirming his ideas. Accordingly, the principle of contradiction is infracted. That you still do not see he illogic evidences much. As I quoted Paul Johnson at the end of the essay, this approach of neither affirming/negating anything yet demanding that the recipient of the idea(s) accept it as true is a built-in defense mechanism against any criticism whatsoever. It is also a characteristic of not a few ivory tower intellectual scoundrels.

He was a devout Catholic living in a world largely populated by Neo-Pagans. Presumably this is the same reality that has driven you to proclaim yourself a "heresy hunter." I'd suggest that you drop your pride (yes, it's a deadly sin) and try to locate your sense of charity.

Being a devout Catholic does not mean ideational pursuits outside the Catholic Church are truthful, innovative, beneficial, etc. I stated this at the commencement of the essay and you have also confirmed my other statement that, if reading the essay, McLuhan's followers would become upset. Also: interesting how you also speak of my pride and blog name and get all moralistic on me when the argument is not going in your favour. Standard diversionary tactic.

His "message" was that the media itself presents an environment of non-stop heresy... All we can do is understand what media does to us and fortify our faith.

"His 'message' was..." - I thought you said that he was not affirming/negating anything? How can we "understand" what media does to us" by way of McLuhan's idea's if he did not affirm/negate any method to dealing with the media in the first place? Ridiculous.

... he was standing on the shoulders of Belloc's "Survivals and New Arrivals."

I fail to see the connection here.

Mark Stahlman said...

TH2: To repeat (and hopefully this time avoiding your elipsis), please read his PhD thesis, "The Classical Trivium."

In it you will find an extended discussion of what is indeed an ancient quarrel -- between the "dialecticians" (i.e. those who argue "logically") and the "grammarians" (i.e. those who argue "analogically").

By picking up the cudgels of Paul Johnson and attacking McLuhan for being an analogist, you have clearly placed yourself in the dialectician camp -- along with many who have subverted the Catholic Church from Ramis and Descartes to this day.

You appear to be an educated man, so you might benefit from exploring the "other" tradition, which includes Jonathan Swift as well as McLuhan and many others, including Belloc, of whom McLuhan was a close student.

That said, calling someone a "gnostic" because he doesn't share your style and therefore you can't grasp what he was doing is an act of uncharity and your persistence an act of pride. If you'd like to argue with this statement, by addressing the topics of charity and pride, instead of accusing me of "diversion" and "moralism," be my guest.

TH2 said...

When someone's beloved worldview is shattered, let alone criticized, it is fascinating to see they react. Answers to questions originally posed by the commenter are not responded to, they redirect and demand that you read something else, they accuse you of being "uncharitable" and full of "pride", they do not specifically point to a section of the essay and systematically explain why they disagree, instead extracting a single word here or there from the essay they most likely have not read in its entirety.

Life in the bubble - self-revolving, unreasonable, easily affronted. Yet another casualty of pop-culture irrationalism via Marshall McLuhan.

Lola said...

I just re-watched one of my favorite scenes from Annie Hall.  What with all those too loud-one-sided-cell phone conversations I've been hearing out in public has made me nostalgic.  I am so happy that you have written up this wonderful entry on    Mr. Mcluhan.    Which made me wonder, didn't I think THH have a posting on this?

Thank you for taking the time posting another excellent article.

Ronny Diehl said...

Your criticism of McLuhan's most famous probe that the medium is the message shows how vague you understood his writing. The neon sign illuminating the letters of a hotel is not the medium as you proclaim to be what he said. The hotel sign and the medium, in this case the 'light' of course, are two very different things. But McLuhan pointed out that the medium 'light' is by far more important than any word you will use to illuminate with it. And the pervasive character of any medium is that man does not see the significance of it - how it always works on his sense ratio and changes his brain structure - he is up until today always busy in seeing its content (the words spread out to see in darkness). The most important aspect of any medium is how it works on man's senses and how over time it can radically changes his perception of himself and his worldviews. You obviously have not paid attention to his analyses of how media have shaped man's history, especially that of western civilization of the last three millienia.

If you are a Christian, you should read his book 'the medium and the light' which will give you some interesting clues of how the Catholic Church will survive in the Global Village. He has a very positive view. And by the way, I am not a Christian.

Post a Comment