The Prosthetic God

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Just been reading Tom McCarthy's thing on Lynch and the "prosthetic imagination". It's McLuhan's "man externalises himself through technology" once again. I didn't realise Freud had written about this stuff too. Apparently he talks of man as the god with artificial limbs in Civilization and Its Discontents.

For Freud, prosthesis is the essence of technology. "With all his tools," he writes in Civilization and Its Discontents, "man improves his own organs, both motor and sensory, or clears away the barriers to their functioning." Ships, airplanes, telescopes and cameras, gramophones and telephones - all these afford man the omnipotence and omniscience he attributes to his gods, thus making him "eine Art Prosthesengott": a kind of god with artificial limbs, a prosthetic god. "When he puts on his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent," Freud writes; "but" (he continues) "those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times." Man's technological appendages both enhance and diminish him. It's what Hal Foster, in his book Prosthetic Gods, calls "the double logic of the prosthesis": an addition that threatens, or marks, a subtraction.

[...]

Technology, as our prosthesis makes us godlike and less-than-human in one and the same move...

[...]

For Kleist, puppetry lays bare a complex process through which man, robbed of the pure, naive grace of a puppet by self-consciousness, might regain it by advancing so far into knowledge that he re-emerges on the other side to "appear most pure in that human form which either has no consciousness at all or possesses infinite consciousness - that is, either in a marionette or in a god" - an event, the choreographer informs the narrator, that would constitute "the last chapter in the history of the world."
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
This bit,

For Kleist, puppetry lays bare a complex process through which man, robbed of the pure, naive grace of a puppet by self-consciousness, might regain it by advancing so far into knowledge that he re-emerges on the other side to "appear most pure in that human form which either has no consciousness at all or possesses infinite consciousness - that is, either in a marionette or in a god" - an event, the choreographer informs the narrator, that would constitute "the last chapter in the history of the world."
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
well that's the Borg Process you were talking about yesterday isn't it?
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
That was you, not me. Also why would it be the last chapter in the history of the world?
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
There's a cool bit where he claims commercial cinema managed to enact in 1939 the fantasy Burroughs spent decades in the underground trying to: the revealing and blowing apart of the control room/reality studio.
 

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Who loves ya, baby?
He says Burroughs viewed God as an unnecessary limb or organ in need of removal and the day the reality studio's stormed, the director arrives on set, is exposed as a hack and the film/time ends and God/the director withers, dies and drops off like a self-amputating limb. That's what you're seeing when you see the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Apparently your man Lewis is one of the focuses of that Hal Foster book,

Foster argues, two forms came to dominate modernist art above all others: the primitive and the machine. Foster begins with the primitivist fantasies of Gauguin and Picasso, which he examines through the Freudian lens of the primal scene. He then turns to the purist obsessions of the Viennese architect Loos, who abhorred all things primitive. Next Foster considers the technophilic subjects propounded by the futurist Marinetti and the vorticist Lewis. These "new egos" are further contrasted with the "bachelor machines" proposed by the dadaist Ernst.
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Anyone here familiar with Feuerbach? I believe much of the "God didn't create man, man created God" discourse revolves around him. That would seem to be a spiritual externalization of man by man, rather than a technological one, no? Perhaps I am forcing a parallel.
 

luka

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Staff member
Anyone here familiar with Feuerbach? I believe much of the "God didn't create man, man created God" discourse revolves around him. That would seem to be a spiritual externalization of man by man, rather than a technological one, no? Perhaps I am forcing a parallel.
it's not a complicated idea. you don't need a philsopher to explain it to you surely
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
True, I don't even know too much about the guy. Just thought, given the relevance, he might've had some interesting things to say.

My point was that this talk about the fabrication of God seems, as far as I can tell, to have gained academic traction around that time, guessing around early/mid 19th century. Again, I could be way off.

Might not be complicated now, but it could have been largely incomprehensible at that time, no?
 

luka

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Staff member
no. i think it would have been easily understood and already part of every human being's conceptual toolkit.

“The Ethiops say that their gods are flat-nosed and black,
While the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair.
Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw,
And could sculpt like men, then the horses would draw their gods
Like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each they would shape
Bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own.”


― Xenophanes
 

Linebaugh

Well-known member
Anyone here familiar with Feuerbach? I believe much of the "God didn't create man, man created God" discourse revolves around him. That would seem to be a spiritual externalization of man by man, rather than a technological one, no? Perhaps I am forcing a parallel.
You might dig the sacred and profane, constant. Anthropological accounts of how the technological and spiritual are one in the same stroke. If you take technological to mean creating things.
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
I haven't heard of it, but it sounds interesting. Wiki credits Durkheim, who I know nothing of, but its not clear to me: is the theory his?

Does sacred/profane correlate with divine/mundane, or is there something else that qualifies it?
 

Linebaugh

Well-known member
It's a book by Eliade. Sacred/profane correlate to order/disorder. He says that belief in gods is sustained by human creation. (Sustained. Not sourced. It's this distinction that makes it not quite as direct as what Luka is talking about.) Every time we make order of the disorganized world through creation we are rediscovering the original time of world creation by gods. So a belief in god depends on the active participation of man- a religion is really just collection of tasks. To relate back to the thread, as man has 'advanced through knowledge', God has become more and more unnecessary. Beyond science explaining the unknown, technology lessens the need for human creation. So the God prosthetic would be a technology that makes any active human creation/participation obsolete. No use for God if there is no use for creation
 
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constant escape

winter withered, warm
@version , cool thread by the way.

A couple side points: Could the extension of the human sensorium (broadly, "both motor and sensory") also amount to a connecting of ostensibly disconnected nodes/minds? Like a cluster of points each having a territory that radially expands until they all aggregate into one territory?

Also, do any of you think there is a distinct/noteworthy difference, maybe even an essential or near-essential difference between physical techne and non-physical/metaphysical techne? Not sure how to phrase it: between physical tools and mental/psychic tools?

@Linebaugh Thanks for the info. Still digesting it, but I think I get it enough to respond. Is it that technology (as the process of developing techne/technics?) gradually diminsihes the need for human creation, or does it merely "push" this demand into increasingly non-physical/metaphysical spaces? Or do those amount to the same thing?

That is, if the more concrete problems are accounted for with increasing ease and automation, are we under less tension, or is the tension just less concrete and more abstract? Or, again, do those amount to the same thing?
 
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