Taylor, Mark C. — Hiding


moves between theology, literature, literary criticism, art, architecture, biochemistry, neurophysiology, fashion, and technology


Synopisis taken from University of Chicago Press presssite: 


The age of information, media, and virtuality is transforming every aspect of human experience. Questions that have long haunted the philosophical imagination are becoming urgent practical concerns: Where does the natural end and the artificial begin? Is there a difference between the material and the immaterial? In his new work, Mark C. Taylor extends his ongoing investigation of postmodern worlds by critically examining a wide range of contemporary cultural practices.


Nothing defines postmodernism so well as its refusal of depth, its emphasis on appearance and spectacle, its tendency to collapse a three-dimensional world in which image and reality are distinct into a two-dimensional world in which they merge. The postmodern world, Taylor argues, is a world of surfaces, and the postmodern condition is one of profound superficiality.


For many cultural commentators, postmodernism’s inescapable play of surfaces is cause for despair. Taylor, on the other hand, shows that the disappearance of depth in postmodern culture is actually a liberation repleat with creative possibilities. Taylor introduces readers to a popular culture in which detectives—the postmodern heroes of Paul Auster and Dennis Potter—lift surfaces only to find more surfaces, and in which fashion advertising plays transparency against hiding. Taylor looks at the contemporary preoccupation with body piercing and tattooing, and asks whether these practices actually reveal or conceal. Phrenology and skin diseases, the “religious” architecture of Las Vegas, the limitless spread of computer networks—all are brought within the scope of Taylor’s brilliant analysis. Postmodernism, he shows, has given us a new sense of the superficial, one in which the issue is not the absence of meaning but its uncontrollable, ecstatic proliferation.


Key Quotes:


Ultimate reality can never be known; all we can be is ourselves; we cannot be other than what we are or make anything that will not bear mark of our own making (theoretical assumption to Taylor’s philosophy and worldview) (5). 


He is against totalization of post structural thinking; in favor on nontotalizing structures such as in a web. 


“By repeatedly seeking what hides, we tend to forget how to read the surfaces on and between which life is lived” – 25

Analysis is interminable – 35


All things mean something.  The puzzle is not the lack of meaning but its excess – 38


Language always duplicitous 54


Lacan—word is death of a thing


Identity  of sign is function of its relations to and associations with other signs – 54


When everything is essence, nothing is essential and when nothing is essential, the center can never be located and the circumferance never drawn – 56


The skin (surface) is site of research who superficiatlity is its strength rather than weakness – 77


Progress to be artistic, philosophical or cultureal is marked by the movement from the material to the immateirial or from the sensorous to the conceptual (105); progress is move from sensuality to reason – 176


Transparency is not merely an artisitic or architectural effect but a modernist ideal that assumes the force of an psychological, social, or cultural imperative – 187; the utter transparency of inner and outer betrays the superficiality of depth and the profundity of surface -188


To think virtually is to think reality differently – 267


Little is to be gained by ceaselessly repeating gestures of resistance that have lost their historical necessity oand have become utterly familiar and predictable.  It is no longer sufficient to expose repressive character of social and cultural stystems. The question that is now pressing is whether the polarity of system—structure/difference—other can be reconceived in a way that is intellectually effective, culturally creative, and socially productive….in far too many cases, philosophy of difference has issued a politics of identity that is iindistinguishable from the divisive foundationalism and fundamentalism it is supposed to subvert.  Social and cultural survival depends upon our ability to conceive and realize complex strurctures than can function holistically but not totalistically.  Poststructuralists cannot conceieve of a structure that does not totalize and is not repressive.  I will attempt to think what poststructuralism leaves unthought by showing howing nontotalizing structures, which nonetheless acts as a whole, are beginning to emerge in the tangled networks and webs through which reality is virtualized and virtuality is realized.  -272


The most pressing question of our era is how personal, social, political, and religious fragmentation can be overcome and oppositions joined in a sustainable unity that does not repress differences (286).


When the virtualization of the real presupposes the philosophical and aesthetic tendencies we have been considering, it is no less important to acknowledge the indispensable role played by specific social and technological developments – 292


We need to consider the complex relays between the ways we shape experience and process information and knowledge and the technologies of production and reproduction that characterize different societies and historical periods – 293


The overlay of electronic networks transforms the very conditions of the possibility of experience and knowledge in ways that analysists have yet carefully considered – 293


If the ways in which we constitute experience and process information are bound to changing technologies of production and reproduction, then newly emergent networks not only alter how we experience and think but also transform the very structures of self and world – 301


Life can be understood as patterns and communication of information  308


The interface…


The interrelation of body and mind or nature and clture does not involve the interaction of two qualitatively different substances but entails the endless interplay of information that knows no depth….The brain is something like a virtual machine, which, paradoxically, has always already been produced by the virtual worlds it has produced -314


The brain is structured like a network or web.  More precisely, the brain is a network of networks or web of webs whose “global” operations mirror and are mirrored by the circuits of the worldwide webs that now circle the globe  -314  neurotransmitters facilitate whatever communication occurs while at the same time communicating a certain lack of communication -319


Donna Haraway—the body is a coded text, organized as an engineered communications system, ordered by a fluid and dispersed command-an-control-intelligence network – 320


The notion of distributed intelligence redraws the boundaries with the body, between mind and body, and between self and world.  Haraway—body is a “network-body” – 323


Virtualized reality refigures distinctions and oppositions in a way that makes it possible to overcome the critical impasse in which we are currently mired. 


Nontotalizing and nonrepressive structure is the web,  matrix in which all subjects and objects are formed, deformed, and reformed….Networks are milieu in which everything arises and passes away.  -325



Rules that define contours of web:


  1. Rule of association:  non-fixed, ever-shifting interaction of local nets and webs—patterns of relation that fall between externality of mechanisms and internality of organisms
  2. Rule of distribution:  no bottoms up or tops down; never centralized, parallel distribution in decentered and nonheirchical networks.  Lateral organization.
  3. Rule of allelomimesis:  critical distance in networks allos presence and absence, as well as positivity and negativity, mingle without becoming one
  4. Rule of nonlinearity:  forever incomplete, non-linear networks do not exhibit a circularity that is self-reflexive or self-referential
  5. Rule of emergency:  in state of constant emergency; no part of network in control, networks always open, flexible without being indeterminate.
  6. Rule of the aleatory:  always gaps present; control always insecure and knowledge uncertain.
  7. Rule of volatility:  always unstable; complexity breed volatility
  8. Rule of vulnerability:  more connected networks are, more vulnerable they are to disruption; recoginiation that networks run wild leads to surveillance, administrtion, and management; awareness of fragility creates prospect for subversive or terrosist activity
  9. Rule of contestation:  networks are sites of contestation; violence is often result, not unity and harmony; networks are constant state of renogotiation…
  10. Rule of interfacing:  nothing exists in itself and no one exists by her or himself; every face in web or network is interface


Webs/networks operating under such rules are allemorphs—mark site of interaction between biological and informational…nature and culture always interacting on interface that creates new forms under constant state of mutation….morphing..constant transformation…. 331


This interfacing refigures binaries….allows us to see that symbolic order and reality are different inscriptions of distributed information.  As a result of this interfacing of the immaterial and the material, images and symbols have concrete effects in the “real” world.  Conversely, biological, technological, and sociopolitical reality transform symbolic order.  ..-332


 When everything is caught in webs and networks that comprise subjects as well as objects, the political is aesthetic and art is inescapably political – 333


Virtual reality trope for postmodern condition.  Everything always mediated


To err amidst shifty interfaces that know no end is to live an irreducible enigma:  nothing is hiding….337







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