October 10, 2012

Pictorial reality and capitalism

1. Pictorial reality and capitalism


A little disquisition on pictorial reality, with a nice illustration of "the reality of capitalism", from the 1920ies. I've put it in my NOTEBOOK to be able to refer to it later, when discussing politics and the current crisis.

1. Pictorial reality

Wittgenstein held in the Tractatus to a "picture theory of reality" as far as propositions were concerned:

4.01 A proposition is a picture of reality.

I commented on it that this is as if "we would all write and speak in hieroglyphics" - as in Egyptian or Chinese writing (both of which are at bottom pictorial), but something like it does hold for images and also for diagrams.

The reason it doesn't hold for alphabetic languages is that what these represent are - simplifications of - sounds of speech. And besides, some people - often not the least intelligent - report that they do not make mental images at all.

What is true in Wittgenstein's quoted statement is that statements represent aspects of reality or at least human experience of it, in the sense that from certain relations in a statement certain relations in (supposed) fact may be inferred, by people who understand the language, and conversely, they can verbalize the (supposed) fact in terms that represent them in that language.

But that was all by the way. Here is a nice illustration of "the reality of capitalism", that I liked since I first saw it, in the 1970ies. As it happens it also illustrates  the fact that any known complex society in history is pyramidical.

Here it is, lifted from the Propaganda lemma in Wikipedia, that is well worth reading: 

Click image for source of it

Is this propaganda? Yes, I think it is, and it also is art

According to George Orwell "All art is propaganda", which does not seem to be literally true (music, pictures of nature, abstract art, some architecture, some literary fiction and poetry...) but Orwell's statement is a fair exaggeration of much that counts for art, since art, depends on leaving out and exaggerating things for emotional effect, and indeed also very often for making a moral, political or religious point, directly or indirectly.

Clearly, the above pictorial representation is quite exaggerated, in several ways, but it also makes some points quite effectively, although its makers probably forgot or didn't realize that every somewhat complex human society is pyramidical, with a few at the top (of power, income, status, and more), many at the bottom, and some in between.

This very probably cannot be helped, at least not with human beings such as they are and have been since the beginning of written history, in spite of anarchist, socialist and communist ideals, that indeed all derailed as soon as they were practised on a large scale.

If you want a clear and unsentimental treatment of the subject, consult Mosca's "The Ruling Class" aka Elementi di scienza politica. I do have an English translation of it, and it still is available in antiquarian editions. See also the Wikipedia's lemma "Political class", Burnham's "The Machiavellians", and Orwell on Burnham.

To return to my subject:

Is the above picture fair? Not if one pretends it is the literal or approximate truth; yes, if it is fairly clear that it is a simplification meant to make a point - which I think it does make clear.

Besides, modern advertisement tends to be far less fair:

The above picture is quite explicit in taking a political and moral position, whereas most modern advertisement misleads, misinforms, and lies in far more devious and hidden ways, and that not for a political or moral ideal, but to make money.


Maarten Maartensz

P.S. My eye problems

                  PS: Any necessary corrections have to be made later.