May 20, 2022
Richard Frankel (Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis) and
Victor J. Krebs (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú) and VJK Curaduria Filosofica)
Human virtuality and digital life: Philosophical and psychoanalytic investigations
This book is a psychoanalytic and philosophical exploration of how the digital is transforming our perception of the world and our understanding of ourselves. Drawing on examples from everyday life, myth, and popular culture, this book argues that virtual reality is only the latest instantiation of the phenomenon of the virtual, which is intrinsic to human being. It illuminates what is at stake in our understanding of the relationship between the virtual and the real, showing how our present technologies both enhance and diminish our psychological lives.
Frankel and Krebs claim that technology is a pharmakon - at the same time both a remedy and a poison - and in their writing exemplify a method that overcomes the polarization that compels us to regard it either as a liberating force or a dangerous threat in human life.
The digital revolution challenges us to reckon with the implications of what is being called our posthuman condition, leaving behind our modern conception of the world as constituted by atemporal essences and reconceiving it instead as one of processes and change.
The book’s postscript considers the sudden plunge into the virtual effected by the 2020 global pandemic.
Accessible and wide-reaching, this book will appeal not only to psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, and philosophers, but anyone interested in the ways virtuality and the digital are transforming our contemporary lives.
Richard Frankel, is a faculty member and supervisor at The Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis. He is a teaching associate and supervisor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and has a private practice in Cambridge, MA. He is the author of The Adolescent Psyche: Jungian and Winnicottian Perspectives.
Victor J. Krebs is professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and philosophical curator at VJK Curaduria Filosófica. He is author of La imaginación pornográfica: contra el escepticismo en la cultura, and editor (with William Day) of Seeing Wittgenstein anew.
‘Whether we embrace it or resist it, digital communication is one of the defining facts of our times. In their rivetingly thorough and engaging account, Frankel and Krebs show us what psychoanalysis has to do with and do for our digital age. And like all the more interesting psychoanalytical books, it is about far more than psychoanalysis.’ --Adam Phillips, general editor of the new Penguin Modern Classics, translations of Sigmund Freud; author of On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored; Going Sane; Side Effects; Missing Out; One Way and Another; and most recently, The Cure for Psychoanalysis
‘Secluded during the COVID pandemic, I sank into this extraordinary and utterly timely work. Human Virtuality and Digital Life pursues the deeper ambiguities and opportunities of our suddenly, radically digitalized existences. Ranging effortlessly from bison painted on caves to the semiotics of photography to our new "0-1" worlds, from Plato and Walter Benjamin to D.W Winnicott and Guy Debord, the authors consider the way seeing, thinking, and being will change, the way truth, time, and space will bend, the way our most private possession, our own psyches, will be both impoverished and enriched by what is no longer a dream but is our waking present. A brilliant work.’ --George Makari, director, DeWitt Wallace Institute of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medicine; author of Soul Machine: The Making of the Modern Mind and Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis
‘This ground-breaking book is a must-read for anybody interested in how the meaning of the human is being reshaped by digital communication. Who are we becoming as we relate to others and to ourselves via social media, and virtual worlds? How are technological enhancements of human life transforming who we are? This book offers exciting new perspectives on these timely questions that broaden tremendously our way of understanding the media-enhanced world that we have created and is (re-)creating us. Viewing technology as a pharmakon that can be both a remedy and a poison, the different chapters offer powerful elucidations of the ways in which the digitalization of our lives has transformed our world and our capacity to experience and imagine. Using insights from both philosophy and psychoanalysis, the book brilliantly explores digital and virtual technology as "a laboratory of subjectivity" that opens up new possibilities for human existence and new configurations of selfhood and otherness. This mesmerizing book is at the forefront of contemporary philosophical discussions of the human and the post-human, and raises provocative questions about technology and the future of humanity that will spark new debates. A masterpiece.’ --Josž Medina, Walter Dill Scott Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University; author of Speaking from Elsewhere and The Epistemology of Resistance
‘A brilliant articulation of a philosophy of human virtuality for the digital era, conceived in terms of our psychic drives to massify, fracture, and capture our desires, our self-image, and the densities of our lives. The ambivalence and numinosity of digital life in the era of COVID has not found more significant expression. The flow and stoppage of time, truth and post-truth, reality and hyper-reality, beliefs, concepts, images, politics, film, our ancestral bodily capacities: they are all treated here. A sweeping and insightful grasp of technology to bear on our time. A tour de force.’ ---Juliet Floyd, Professor of Philosophy at Boston University; author (with Felix Mÿhlholzer) of Wittgenstein’s Annotations to Hardy’s Course of Pure Mathematics
August: Welcome. Today we are talking about the book, Human
Virtuality and Digital Life, Philosophical and Psychoanalytic
Investigations by Richard Frankel and Victor j Krebs. That's,
Rutledge. Richard Frankel is faculty member and supervisor at the
Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis teaching associate and
supervisor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and has a
private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He's the author of
the Adolescent Psyche Union and Winnicottian perspective. Victor j
Krebs is Professor of Philosophy at Pontifical Catholic, university
of Peru, and philosophical curator at VJK. He's the author of La
imaginacion Pornografica and the editor with William Day of Seeing
Wittgstein Anew. Welcome gentlemen. Thank you. Thank you very much.
I'd like to read a couple of the reviews here. you have a review
from Adam Phillips, which I was saying was very impressive. He
says, in their rivetingly thorough and engaging account, Frankel
and Krebs show us what psychoanalysis has to do with and do four
our digital age.
George McCray says in the book, human Virtuality and Digital Life pursues the deeper ambiguities and opportunities of our suddenly radically digitalized experiences. The authors consider the way our most private possession, our own psyches will be both impoverished and enriched by what is no longer a dream, but is our waking present of brilliant work. That's, George McCurry of Cornell Medical School, and I'll read one more. Jose Medina professor philosophy at Northwestern using insights from both philosophy and psychoanalysis. The book brilliantly explores digital and virtual technology as new as a laboratory of subjectivity that opens up new possibilities for human experience and new configurations of selfhood and otherness. This mesmerizing book is at the forefront of contemporary philosophical discussions of the human and the posthuman, and raises provocative questions about technology and the future of humanity that will spark new debates a masterpiece. I wanted to actually start by you have a quote at the very beginning. I wondered if you could just talk about why you chose it, but it seemed important throughout the whole book. it's from Bernard Stiegler. You have this quote highlighting the toxicity of the digital, maybe salutary, but forgetting how it can be beneficial and how it is pharmacological is dangerous. What about that quote did you think was a good starting point, either of you?
Victor: I'm allowing Richard to start with that, comment.
Richard: It's interesting because we really discovered, Bernard Stiegler about, seven eighths the way through the book. But subsequent to writing the book, he has been very, very impactful for us. And, part of the way that we were situating the book and what we noticed as we were writing the book is that as we got into different kinds of discussions with people about the digital age and the effects of technology, it was always inevitable that the discussions were going to polarize into technology is great benefit to humanity or technology is destroying humanity. And it was very difficult to find ways of talking about it that held the tension of those two perspectives. And I think Stiegler really approaches the issue from what he calls a pharmacological perspective, of course, going back to dairy dos concept of Plato's pharmakon as a kind of healing poison or technology as a remedy and a poison at the same time. And we wanted to sort of delve into that and see if we could write out of that perspective and in a way that really tries to keep that tension alive in the writing.
Victor: That tension, which, George McCray also mentions in describing our book about our being able or our being interested in showing how both our psyche is empowered and impoverished by digitality shows also that the need to be not just aware of how it's harming us, which is practically what, I would say a Stiegler does in probably masterful way more than most people. And that it's important that he emphasizes the importance of showing also where it is bringing something positive to us where the potential for benefit comes in technology. And I think that that's something that we have tried to balance out throughout the book to show not only how it is harming us, but how technology really is a, the potential of the future if we know how to manage it as we would. The pharmacological comes from the Greek pharmakon, which the Greeks called whatever phenomena was both a remedy and a poison. And so that polarity, I think is something that we keep, try to keep together rather than allow them to be, separated as they are usually in normal discourses about technology.
August: Yeah. So I wasn't aware of that. It's interesting because of course the reader typically thinks, when you mentioned pharmacological or pharmakon, we, I think about drugs and actually I wanted to, there was a quotation that kept coming to me. This is kind of a free association, but I wondered if you think it's related. This is from Jonathan Lee Love, its place in Nature. He's writing in 1990. And he says, he, he's concerned about the decline in interest in psychoanalysis and terms of, he says, that there will be marvelous advances in neurology and pharmacology is beyond question that they will solve the conflicts inherent in living this particular life is fantasy and however valuable it may be to jumpstart someone out of a depression. And a just viable from the point of view of our commitment to the individual. The all important question is what happens next? Does the person use the relief from crippling pain as an opportunity to work through the meanings and conflicts inherent in his life? Or is he relieved of that opportunity? Did you think there were some relationships between this, the pharmacological, the drugs question and the, this virtual reality issue?
Victor: That's an interesting question. It's an interesting way of looking at what we're we're doing. Because you're using layers distinction between the, the pharmacological as what the medicine does to your body. And what then you have to work through when you're psyche. And I think that one of the wonderful things about whether we've discovered in our explorations is that, if we're going to really appreciate the nature of technology, we have to see it as an extension of ourselves, not as something external to us. And we talk about the pharmacological nature of the tech of technology. We're talking about both. It's in a way extending not only our body, but also our psyche. And so sharing with our psyche also and with our body, the opacities, the unconsciousness that comes with it. So when we talk about the pharmacological, we want rather to integrate these two aspects rather than separate them so that the pharmacological layer sense would help us to get to another dimension of the same phenomenon rather than to allow us to do something different. And I think this is something I, we've struggled with trying to make sure that the technological doesn't look like an external thing to us, like an object of tool use, whatever. But in our using it, we're already expressing ourselves and discovering something in technology about our own limitations and potentialities and so on.
August: And I take it that this idea of both a, I guess etymologically, this idea, both a poison and a remedy predates our current understanding of a drug as at least supposedly only trying to do the positive.
Richard: I mean, but just a quick aside, we would say, of course, anyone who's taking psychiatric drugs experiences them as pharmakon because they both relieve you of something. And there's also often very bad side effects. There's often ways people report about certain kind of effective states that are no longer open to them.
August: Right. Definitely.
Richard: So the decision to take those medicines always has a pharmacological sort of tension in them.
Victor: And there's always the side effects that we find in the description of the drug. There's always side effects. It's not that we're not aware of it, but perhaps our culture, because it is, has been so focused on how we can improve things have de-emphasized something that was already from the beginning in the meaning of the term. The pharmakon always is is something that depends on a certain dosage for it to be beneficial rather than harmful.
August: There's also this sense of one of the side effects being flattening. And you talk a lot in here about flattening in terms of virtual. Can you comment on that.
Richard: Yeah. In terms of, in terms of virtual, you're saying?
Richard: Yeah. I mean, just to stick with Victor's notion of dosage, that there is something about our own use of the digital, right. That in the beginning you go on, you're searching something, you're looking for something and it's very a livening and your associations are moving and you feel a certain kind of animated, animatedness and aliveness.
Richard: But too much time spent on the digital often then results in the opposite of that, which is a kind of flattening and a two dimensionality. And there we all talk today about kind of zoom burnout. We're doing therapy on Zoom, and of course in the pandemic, it's offered this opportunity to keep therapies going that could not have kept going, and there's been something incredibly valuable
August: About Yeah.
Richard: But you also can know that you spend all day on Zoom and you as a person feel the flatness of it, and you feel what's not what you can't be reached through zoom. And so that tension, that tension of enlivening and flattening, I think is always embedded in the digital
Victor: . And it's, and it's been really part of our, our discussion from the very beginning. I mean, Richard and I have met long, a long time ago, long before the digital started, really. And so we've lived together through these things. And I remember one of the examples, let's say, of this first initial sort of just brightening and potentiating of something, and suddenly it's becoming flatten again, was our discovery of, of possibility, of having all the music you could have in your gadget. It was like, we couldn't believe it. We were so excited and suddenly we realized that actually nowadays, see, people will not even blink at that fact. In fact, having so much music, in fact has had the opposite effect. They're not as excited about music as you can have it there. So there's something about the pharmakon that this person, there, there's something paradoxical that's happening. You're being attracted by something. It's really filling you up and it fills you up so much that suddenly it numbs you.
August: Yes. Right. And I, I certainly, I mean, your book is very timely because it seems, would you say that the pandemic what was already there, it had just gone further? I mean, as you were kind of anticipating that.
Victor: We were forced to write a post script because everything we had talked about suddenly became so obvious .
August: Well, not obvious, but more important in our Yeah. In our lives. Yes. And you talk about flattening, I don't know if it's just me, but I find that if I'm on a zoom call, it's very easy to do mute people and just not listen to them at all.
Richard: Right? Yes.
August: And just, and other tell other people do that to me too, because they don't actually hear what I would say.
Victor: But that activates something else that we also point out about technology, and that is that it becomes also, it can also become a weapon of power asserting power on the other. And so many ways in which we can do that, both consciously and unconsciously,
August: To the point where you can just not listen to someone. Right. Right. You don't have standing, I'm just going to push this button and you have no standing. So in the introduction, you talk about the parallel between turning towards our devices and on the other hand, shifting our attention inwards. Can you speak to that?
Richard: Yeah. It's interesting what you just said, August, in terms of that you can press a button and mute something. And that's something that the, the digital allows us to do. But when we say pre digitally, we had all sorts of ways of muting people that weren't quite so obvious, which had to do with not listening, going into our own thoughts, turning our attention away from a person. So I think that that's one of the, that's one of the points we were just trying to explore a little bit. What's the digital, what are these devices allowing us to do that's sort of psychologically we weren't already doing before, with the way that attention can shift and move around in all sorts of complex ways between two people. Is this a new form? Is this something different, or is this more of the same? Or sometimes we talk about it as an intensified form, and we talk about sort of hyperreality. And
August: It seems to me that, correct me if I'm wrong, you do seem to want to say that there's a, a different space now that, and that kind of, there are different types of virtuality. There's our own inner virtuality, and then there's a kind of a new space that has become evident and that they kind of merge. That was my sense.
Victor: Yeah. Perhaps there we could go back to something that also I think is one of the main concepts of the book. And it has to do with the fact that, I lost my, my thought there. Can you just repeat the last thing you said?
August: I was just thinking about the way we can turn our attention inwards and we can turn our Yeah.
Victor: Yes. So the notion of virtuality, we tend to think that virtuality arises comes to be with a digital virtual. We think that the virtual world is the first time the virtual. But really, if we think about it, and then we've got, we go through the history of technology. We realize that the virtual is really the space of the mind that allows us to abstract our thought from our experience in present concrete reality. And so that from the very beginning, from the moment that we're human beings, thinking human beings, we have the virtual with us. It's part of our reality. And that's always infusing our reality with potencies that are actualized or not actualized possibilities that we imagine that we, that know we surround our world with. Okay. We've done that with every technology. We go through a whole bunch of examples of how writing does that it gives us a new space, then photography does that, film does that, and eventually the virtual world.
But the virtual world, what it does with that virtuality is that it gives it a concreteness that it didn't have before. I mean, it was always in our mind. Now it's on a screen now that technological achievement creates a dimension of our experience that is outside of us, not no longer outside us, but that has that quality. And not only that, but now can be shared with others. So it's, it's like we have a, a universal mind in which we all can go in. That's a new experience. I think that that really does create a a kink as, as it were in the history of the virtual. Suddenly the virtual has acquired a dimension that is on a par where spatial temporal reality, how does that affect us? How is that affecting our notion of what it is to be human, our notion of the world, how it's to relate to one another,
Richard: How we live in time, how we relate to the fact of our own mortality, how we relate to fantasy and imagination. I mean you want to be a little bit, when we would say it's really has created this new kind of potential space, and it's a potential space that is surprisingly chaotic and creative, and one that we don't quite know what to do with, yet. It's impacting us in all sorts of conscious, unconscious ways. I think that's really what we're trying to explore in the book.
August: And the screen, of course is literally flat literally flattened now. Yeah. I was often wondering reading this, I was kind of skeptically or trying to challenge it thinking, well, okay, we stared our screens, but it used to be that people would carry around a book, maybe the Bible, and they would stare at it a lot. But I guess the point is, well, you tell me, but I understand the point is that it wasn't really shared with other people at that. I mean, it was shared with other people. They had their own bibles, but it wasn't this place where other people were also looking at what you were looking at at that time.
Victor: Exactly. That's, and that's essential because if you think about it, there are other people there in, as it were, your digital mind, those other people have an influx in your own existence. I mean, you might be working something and suddenly something pops up on your screen Or you're looking for something in the internet, and suddenly you realize there's, there's a connection here that you hadn't seen, but that's being inputted to, to you because of some other person that's interacting with you. So suddenly there's an activity that's going on that's autonomous to you, that it's influencing you in a way that your thoughts, they never came from outside, or at least we're not aware of. They're coming from outside. Of course, some of them do appear from nowhere, right? So that's another con connection between the, the digital virtual and the subjective virtual, you see. So there's, there's a transformation, I think of what we call the virtual or the subjective that involves other people. That involves an inter interaction at between a multitude of other subjectivities that suddenly raises questions about what the subjective is, how it's related to the objective know,
August: And what the difference between public and private also, which is one of the things that Le was getting at. Absolutely.
Richard: And just in terms of that, that notion of staring at something, I had this experience this morning that I woke up and I came downstairs and my son was eating his breakfast. So he is, he's eating his breakfast with one hand. On the other hand, he's holding his phone.
August: Oh, yeah.
Richard: Right. And he's looking at the phone as he's eating. And I had a big reaction to it. This is my kind of, cenex non-digital native side, like, what are you in? Right. Something about the way that one hand, how to hold the phone one hand had to scoop up the food. And then I thought to myself, for 20 years, he has woken up every morning and watched me do the same thing, but I'm holding a newspaper.
August: Ah, yes. Yes. There's a
Richard: Difference. And where's that reaction coming from in me? And it really does just raise a lot of interesting questions about the generational divide between those of us who grew up with other media.
August: Yeah, I completely agree. I actually work with parents whose kids have recently had a psychiatric hospitalization. And it just seems every case, there's a battle over how much time is spent on the phone, how much time do you get your device in the evening? And the kid is so furious when it's taken away. And sometimes you wonder, well, what is so bad about, I mean, and you see both sides of this again. You know, one of the advantages of if you have a child who is flirting with someone on another continent in their room on the phone, well, that's not too bad. That's a lot better than being conservative standpoint. That's a lot better than having the kid actually with the other person down the block. And there's a certain, I think a lot of times we look at adolescence at a time where you kind of need to get through it until your impulsivity goes down and the screen is kind of a way of passing the time. But yeah, the generational is, I don't know, do what, do those resonate?
Richard: Yeah. Complete, I mean, I think our whole chapter on Winnicott and especially trying to think about Winnicott adolescence we really are trying to explore those questions about Right. What the digital might be doing for the adolescent in a way that exactly in our reactive, kind of allergic way doesn't see. And I think part that's part of the problem that parents have with kids is not really appreciating, really trying to see it from the kids' point of view in some way and get it from their frame of reference, what these devices are and what kind of worlds it's opening for them.
August: Yes. Definitely. Now, so you do, you mentioned, I think in part one, you provided a genealogy and you kind of gave a little bit of an overview of that, Vic. I wanted to know about, I think the listeners would be interesting to hear about San Un per,
Victor: Well, I mean, black Mirror that this series it comes from is very popular. And it started a few years ago when this was not still a boom. And it really did touch on very interesting ways on issues that are rising. One of the issues that arises in this engine apparel deals with is the issue of our relationship to death, to mortality. Because the virtual, obviously, the possibilities that we have, what we fantasize about has to do with our life beyond this life. And there's idea, the idea of heaven is something that life after life and so on so forth. Well, this idea of life after life becomes, in a way, concrete with the idea of being able to, and send you apparel. The idea is that there is a program, an application through which you can experience your days of youth in perfectly convincing virtual way. And, in that episode, it is in fact a possibility that even the people that are going to die are through euthanasia or whatever, can be downloaded into the computer so that they can continue their life in that realm internally. Right. Internally. Yeah. And that, of course, is a fantasy that now has a name transhumanism. I mean, the transhumanists are thinking that that's what we're going to do. Technology is going to allow us to become immortal. And so we found that episode to be a very nicely dealt with this issue.
Richard: And I think it also really, really anticipates Zuckerberg's, metaverse.
Victor: Absolutely. Yeah. That's the
Richard: People are going to spend more and more time in the metaverse and living in that kind of virtual reality simulated world, and less and less time in the actual world. And what does that mean for us as a society, as a culture, right? It always has the promise of something eternal, something a certain kind of freedom of possibility, freedom from material restraints in the metaverse that all the obstacles to our desire, regular, actual world don't exist in the metaverse.
August: Yeah. So sometimes I work out and I try to run, and I don't do it very often, but when I do, I can get into these daydream or these fantasies that are just so wonderful thinking about my youth or my kids. And it's just fantastic, it's just such a thrill. Yeah. I guess that would, that's the sort of thing we're talking about, being able to, to go into that.
Richard: But the difference is you could say, well, that's exactly the stuff of Psycho, what you just described, what is what Thomas Ogden would call Rey. Right? So, Thomas Ogden says, you're sitting with your patient, you want to pay attention to those reveries that are occurring. But the difference is what happens when your reverie becomes a three dimensional world. Or when your dream becomes something that you can return to and re-experience in a kind of three dimensional, alive way. Then things get a little bit more complicated. Right?
Victor: Right. Yeah. They pose, I think what, what is a really a deep philosophical question, which has to do with the relationship between our fantasy and reality. I mean, fantasy and reality have been so clearly separated so that we talk about the metaphor verse and reality still as if they were two different things. One of the phenomena we're experiencing is that this separation that we're talking about, something that sends you in pair on most of Black Mirror deals with is that we're a hybrid reality. We live in a hybrid reality now. And the question is, what does that mean? What does that mean with what is objective? What is real? What is not real? What is a fantasy? So the whole issue of, of there being a separate, a clear separation between what's real and what is virtual is gone out the window. And so we need to rethink these issues. Right. I mean, what was the difference between them? That's something that we have left in the book, sort of like an open question that we would like to go back to soon.
Richard: And we could just say that in psychoanalysis, just to go back to psychoanalysis is exactly what beyond discovered, that we're not just dreaming while we're asleep, beyond says that we're dreaming while we're awake. There's no separation. He has a beyond, gives us a whole ontology, I think, for beginning to understand what victor, what you just laid out there, when there's no clear division anymore.
Victor: Absolutely. And Cal Debar said that the dream was that life was a dream. Right. And so did Shakespeare. No,
August: No doubt. I wonder now you do deal with this some, and I think some our psycho analytic, listeners maybe thinking. Okay. Yes. And there's also, you talk about this in the book. I'm not saying this is new. There's also the unconscious or the Laconia real, there's primary process and secondary process. There's not only these two different aspects, but there's so many different ways of approaching them. So many different vocabularies.
August: Tell me, in part two, you talk about the delusion simulacrum. Could you give an overview of that
Victor: Overview of that? I mean, let's see. How do we bring delusion? Why do we bring delusion? Because in our debates about technology, we're always asking whether the virtual is more real than the real or the real, more real than the virtual. Right? I mean, we have this prejudice that the virtual is a false copy of the reel. And then of course, there's the other side, those that think, no, no, the virtual is an upgrade of the reel.
August: Yeah. My fantasy's I'm running. Yeah.
Victor: For instance, the list is a wonderful way out of that because the list talks about how it is that from a perspective, from a different metaphysical perspective, not a perspective from the, a world that is made out of substances that are permanent, but in a world that we're subs where there are no substances, but everything's a process where time goes through everything. Everything is temporal. Then the distinction between what is permanent and what is not, what is real and what is not starts to dissolve. We have to realize he says no, that the virtual is real. And so far as it is virtual, I mean, it doesn't need to be actual to be real.
August: Right. Right.
Victor: In that respect, then we have to shift all our categories so that we can adjust and move away from that polarization that tends to dichotomize everything instead of seeing the complexity of what we're facing. Right. So the delusion sim am is one way of thinking about the virtual in a way that is not subject to this dichotomous perspective. To see it more as part of a single reality that is traversed by time. And that is something I think that we emphasize a lot. That's something that the digital is doing, is it, feeding this new way of relating to the world where the world is no longer conceived as we used to with the traditional metaphysics as substances with a permanent essence beyond time. But rather that everything is temporal. And that also has to do with our assuming the temporality and therefore the mortality of our existence.
August: And you also mentioned, now this may get to Ortega, or maybe it's still del lose, but what you were just saying reminds me, you also talk about the difference between, I guess, emphasizing or foregrounding difference as opposed to identity. Is that Ortega or
Victor: That would be the traditional metaphysics as opposed to the delusion metaphysics, the traditional metaphysics that emphasizes sameness. So for instance, Plato says, right. I mean, what is it that that in essence allows you to do, is to see permanence throughout time? The ideas are permanent, the mutable things are all changing all the time, so they're inferior. So this is one way of saying, well, wait a minute, that's giving a primacy to what is permanent is emphasizing sameness and not recognizing that everything is different. Things are repeating, but they're repeating in different moments as, Heterchrosis used to say, you can't step in the same river twice. Every time that it's repeated, it's different, even though it's repeating. So that's a different repetition of difference, not a repetition of sameness. So that leads you into a world where things are always in the process of transformation rather than despite the temporal holding onto their own static permanent essences.
Richard: And we make the claim that the digital opens both of those things up. Because it really makes us, it really makes us aware of temporality in this new way. It really makes us aware of difference. But when we were talking earlier about the flat meme, it also has that feeling of sameness that, that everything in the digital is, even though it appears to be something new, it can feel like it's the same. And that gets to the question of narcissism and the question of how this self is at the center of everything. So just to lose this readiness before the digital revolution. And one of the things we're trying to open up in the book is how does the digital open up to delusion metaphysics, and how does it sort of repress at the same time at delusion metaphysics.
August: Right. And you, a very interesting discussion of narcissism in all of these contexts. And also I should say there are, in addition to Duluth, you're also bringing in Benjamin and Wittgenstein. Here's a sentence I just wondered if you could, adorate on it. You say Wittgenstein three thinkers, Benjamin Wittgenstein, and Duluth, each in their own way, or interested in conceiving experience more profoundly than what representational mind allows. And they were anticipating in their methods the need to recover the capacity to face a world no longer as static and sedentary no longer as a unified cosmic substance. But as a series processes, fragments tends these lines of force in constant flux.
Victor: Yeah. Well, Benjamin and Wittgenstein, even though they come from such different traditions, are both more or less at the same time, playing around with the technology of writing, with their writing methods and what we see them trying to do without really, I mean, especially Wittgenstein without really knowing what he's doing, feeling very anxious about it. I mean, the preface of the investigations is an apology for not having been able to write a proper book. Right. It's just an album fragments and so on and so forth. But he says, and this is I think is a redeeming point, and what connects him both to, to Benjamin who also wrote the arcades at the end of his life, and they were just citations and a whole lot of fragments and different things that he was almost free associating The saving fact of the investigations is that the method is precisely to be able to develop a way of thinking that was this associative rather than logical and linear.
And in so far as this associative, it brings imagination. It brings all sorts of elements that have been relegated by a certain way of thinking that characterized, well, I mean the whole of Western tradition really. Right. but especially the modern age. So this is something that we identified as common to these three philosophers. There was a little bit later than, not so much later than Wittgenstein and Benjamin, but all of them during the 20th century anticipating the necessity of breaking with the paradigm of permanence and sameness and starting to think in a way that was more free, the Less we'll call it, resultmatic, that we think is important for our time and that the digital is requiring us demanding from us. In fact,
August: I just keep, I don't know if these philosophers are aware of the primary process, versus secondary process, but a lot of this does seem, I keep thinking about associations that seems, I don't know if they were aware of that or referred to it or Freud or, or, or were they,
Victor: It's very interesting in philosophy that, I mean, Ortega I said is very important there for me. In any case, he's a Spanish philosopher who at the beginning of the 20th century starts to talk about how things are changing and the identification of human humanity with reason, which has governed us through 2,500 years of tradition suddenly breaking down. And that suddenly we're coming to realize the importance of the body, of feeling, of intuition, of emotion, and this image that I think Freud also uses of the iceberg. And he says reason, it's just the very tip of the iceberg. All that's underneath is sensibility, intuition, everything that has to do with the body. And our time is a time of exploration of something that we have left aside, and that has remained immature. So, I mean, that's, I think where the connection is that you're seeing that Yeah. What's happening in philosophy. And that's why psychoanalysis becomes indispensable for thinking philosophically about anything in, in this time, especially technology. This age is coming to terms with the fact that, and that's mortality again, that the body is an essential element in our constitution of the world.
August: Yeah. And I just think about hysteria also, right? That in terms of the connection between the body and, and representation and solving a physical problem by tracing it back to its association. So many philosophers that I didn't know about and that were great to read about here running out of time. But could we talk about Ortega conception of human beings as ontological center?
Victor: Oh, yeah. Well, , that's a beauty isn't
August: In one minute, please.
Victor: on Richard, would you try your hand? Why,
Richard: Why don't you start it? I'll, I'll come in.
Victor: Sure. Ontological Center, he says we're like a center. We're made of two different natures. He says, a nature and a and a super nature, and you were natural and supernatural. We could say, now we are physical and virtual in that paradoxical, relation that we have to hold is where we find the pharmakon at its heart. I mean, we are the paradoxical complex out of which anything that we produce is going to be pharmakon. Yeah. It's going to be this tension of positive and negative that cannot be resolved. It's a paradox we have to learn to live with. It's not something we can overcome. This is what we are, that's the essence of what calling as an ontological center amounts to we are irreducible, paradoxically, a mixture of two natures that are incompatible with one another.
Richard: And the more contemporary version of that would be Ernest Becker, of course. Right. And the denial of death when he describes human beings as God's with anuses. So there's there's the material there.
August: There you go. I love, that's great. Yes. Right,
Richard: Right, right.
August: That's so great. I mean, I've read that book, but I don't remember that, but that's wonderful.
Richard: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. But it captures the same thing.
August: I think that's so, so right. That's great. So we are coming to the end of our time. I learned so much from this book. Oh, actually, I wanted to ask you, what do you think about these podcasts in terms of, I mean, clearly we're talking, but we're not together. And then they're put onto on to, they go into the virtual space. And they're there and they're accessed by people, of course. And then people listen to them in their car and they're doing other things and so forth. I don't know, have you thought much about the example of podcasts? Or what are your thoughts off the top of your head about them anyway?
Victor: Oh, my first reaction is that we're talking about is this new dimension of human experience. It has a very different set of laws that they, that are based. I mean, what does it mean to be accessible to someone in physical existence? That's one thing. To be accessible to someone in the virtual. Well, that brings in the whole nature of what it means to be virtual. That we have, we are connected to it through our screens, that it does not depend on our everyday life. It depends on that new dimension that we're having to live with. That's the first thing that occurs to me when you ask about podcasts, I mean podcasts or holograms or anything that you can think of. Right. How is it affecting our everyday life, which it's transforming it. Totally. Because now we have access to, to conversations that these three guys had in some zoom place that has nothing to do perhaps with us, but we find in the internet. I mean, I know there's something about serendipity there to so many things that come up with that.
Richard: Right. And then you can think about, how is it different than what Wink was doing in the forties and fifties when he was giving those BBC broadcasts Right. To mothers about their children. Now that's different because you had to be there on the radio when it was being broadcast, but as a very similar kind of feeling to what we'd call broadcast to try to see the continuity as well. If there's something different, there's something similar.
August: Okay. Well, the book is Human Virtuality and Digital Life. Unfortunately, we're out of time. I really, appreciate you guys talking to me today.
Victor: Very enjoyable. Thank you very much.
Richard: Yeah, thank you. Okay.