So I was… relaxing and thinking about my game, in particular the fact that I have a Baudrillardian and a Lacanian ending, to try to figure out which is the real ending and/or if they could/should be merged in a single takeaway directive line.
Here is a dump of my stream of consciousness thought process because I thought it might be somewhat interesting.
The self is a simulation
The self is necessarily a simulation in the Baudrillard sense because it’s a representation (at the very least a self representation). In fact anything that exists conceptually (i.e. is talked about) necessarily requires a definition and therefore boundaries and representation, which creates a simulation.
The story is the ontological grounding of existence
You exist as a self because you’re being conceived of as such, be it only by yourself. Therefore you only exist because there’s a story about yourself. The story is the ontological grounding of your existence.
The story does not need a narrator, you’re enough as a narrator. So you’re always already in a Baudrillardian simulation trap by virtue of being self reflexive.
Every story has gaps
Every story necessarily has gaps because it is by definition a framed representation of reality, leaving out what’s not in the frame. Even memory and self-narration presuppose necessarily an editorial work.
In the same way, any ideology necessarily has gaps and holes. It’s also notably a direct consequence of the Godel theorem, but we’ll come back to that near the end.
Parallels between Lacan and Baudrillard
Lacan is focused on the self, Baudrillard is focused on reality itself, simulation and representations. Where they meet is simple: the story of the self.
Lacan tells us that there is no Big Other, Baudrillard tells us that there is no fundamental level, everything is simulation, we could never conclude that we are on the essential ontological level.
For the story of the self, it means that there is no canonical authorial source. They both stipulate that there is no author, or rather if you want to consider the self as an author, there is no reader whose validation would make the story “canon”. In a sense, the main takeaway is “the story of the self is necessarily non canon”.
This is all well and good, but what do the theories tell us about what we should do?
- Lacan = love your lack, fuck the big other its an illusion
- Baudrillard = fuck the law, its arbitrary, you need to do a revolution and overthrow the system by denying its fundamental ontology because it could just as well be smoke and mirrors.
They join in an injunction to negate the ontological foundation (the law for Baudrillard, the self/lack for Lacan). I.e. “reconsider your implicit assumptions”.
Lacanian/Baudrillard societal project
To translate this into a societal project, it would be that people need to accept their lacanian lack so that they can conceive and think reality on a healthy basis (the healthy basis being there is no big other, no absolute truth, uncertainty and illusions are permanent and necessary). That way we can start building a society rationally and integrate uncertainty, and more generally integrate the insights of Baudrillard.
In that sense, the joint meaning of the two theories is: “if everyone got psychoanalysed, the world would be a little better”, which could be constructed as the ultimate message of the game.
So the endings of the game articulate in that order:
- Accept your lack, because it’s the goal and necessary means for
- Building the world on healthier bases, by a revolution or even in order to drag it through gradual improvement.
Metaethics of collectivism vs individuality
It’s interesting to note that this betrays an implicit assumption that the betterment of self is in service for the betterment of the world, where a more humanist person would posit that the betterment of the world should be in service of the self.
It is in a way a metaethical arbitrary axiom, but what I’m wondering here is, one level of meta remote, is this distinction between self and world is really a good framework to ground our metaethical considerations (after all it’s pretty arbitrary to cut and hierarchise those two concepts).
It’s tempting to say that this duality is as arbitrary as any ethical norm, but in fact there is something that gives it more weight than any arbitrary duality. This framework is the necessary and natural direct consequence of my nature as a human being, and more generally as a thinking self, because the thinking self is necessarily constituted by definition as a self in opposition of the world. So the very existence of a self brings with it the duality of self vs world as the base of metametaethical questioning.
That being said, any further response would be arbitrary.
Metaethical considerations of simulation theory
Does this assume an arbitrary ethical mapping to layers of simulation, implying that the base level is always “better”? Baudrillard probably thinks so but that might be an abusive jump. Would it be rationally justified?
It would be arbitrary, like all ethical framework, but arbitrary does not mean irrational.
There does not seem to be anything as such which could give the base level of baudrillardian simulation a superior ethical consideration.
But the point has never been to “return to the real” anyway, it’s simply to understand that our ontology is arbitrary, which does not mean bad, but certainly does not make it good.
What this means for the game
The fact that “other systems could be worse” is not a rational argument in favor of not trying out other systems in an attempt to get better. The crux is a hidden assumption on the space of possible states, i.e. are the other possible systems more often better or worse than ours? That’s the core of the right wing/left wing political debates, where right wing posit that its mostly negative and left wing posits that its mostly positive.
Am I therefore so far up my own ass that I’m justifying through pompous philosophy a pretty basic left-wing thesis that “the world could be better”? It is more or less what the thesis boils down on the prescriptif and teleological side, but it’s reductionary to consider the game just by its teleological thesis. What the game brings is way more complete because it does not only suggest a moral ideal but also a rational methodology to tend towards it.
This grounds the game ethically, Q.E.D.
Rationally grounding ethical frameworks
So in order to decide “what” is better we need ethics, in order to do this right and see how we decide what is better we need metaethics, and I’m wondering how to do that right, so we would need metametaethics?
But every level of meta consideration will run into the same problems: there is no absolute, everything is arbitrary, so there is no objective grounding possible for a framework at level N. That being said, even without an objective rational grounding for the “good” of a framework, the framework can still work as a means to make more good. It’ll just neve ever be provable.
The infinite hole of meta considerations
Trying to ground your thinking in an objective meta framework, you always end up going one level deeper in meta consideration, which brings to mind Zeno’s paradox and Lewis Carrol’s Achiles and the Turtle short story.
Maybe I love this paradox because you can see there is a fundamental whole in reality, or at least in rationality, which rationally wants to ground itself but necessarily will never ever be able to do so.
That also clearly echoes the Lacanian lack.
But does this hole in rationality matter? It might just be a meaningless detail without real importance on your thinking framework. But this question is precisely what’s in the hole, and will necessarily remain without answer. We will never be able to tell how bad the hole is, so the Lacanian attitude to accept your lack seems to be the best rational answer.
Godel theorem applied to metaethics
Actually, it’s a proven mathematical theorem that is going to be true no matter what, which is pretty impressive if you ask me. Godel’s incompleteness theorem proves that you cannot ground at meta level N a framework in a satisfactory way in the language of the level N and you need to posit axioms of level N+1 as arbitrary postulates.
On the one hand, it’s fairly obvious and trivial to say that you cannot ground an ethical framework in the same level of meta-considerations, so is it even worth mentioning Godel? But on the other hand, it does prove that those discussions will necessarily never conclude, and in that way it makes metaethics a doomed field because it’s rationally proven that no conclusion can ever truly be reached.
That being said, as I mentioned before, this is not a valid argument to say that “we should not try to do better”, we can always try to do better, but we won’t ever be able to prove it. I wonder if that’s just a retelling of this article, or if we should throw in a Kierkegaardian leap of faith…
How meta is like entropy
Since every time you think about something you add a layer of meta, it only increases. Any reaction to a situation, be it speech or ignorance, is nonetheless a reaction, so it adds a layer of meta. Any second, more and more layers of meta pile up that way, coating the world more and more and I’m sometimes suffocating under the weight of the infinitely growing amount of layers of meta. We can see clearly an analogy with entropy here.
It’s pretty clear that if you try to do things right, rationally and objectively, you necessarily fall into an abyss of recursive layers of meta. In a way, it makes the Godel theorem the absolute level of meta and the final closure of the universe beyond which we can never go.