Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard, smoking a cigarette

The so-called “high priest of postmodernism,” Jean Baudrillard evolved from a Marxist-inflected critical commentator of the affluent society to an ambiguous position that can be described either as a bleakly lucid perception that is resigned to the omnipresence of the society of spectacle, or as a horrified fascination with the shallowness of a postmodern society where the sign has become a simulacrum that signifies nothing.

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Nothing Old Fashioned

Gardenna by Paul Cézanne

Like many artists who were inspired by his work, Paul Cézanne was contaminated with the malady of the modern condition – indeterminacy, which can be seen in his art. He agonized over his paintings, and revised many of his canvasses over a number of years, while others remained incomplete with blank spots. Even with scrupulous observation, Cézanne realized that he could never be certain about the details of what he was seeing and so he was unable to complete a decisive, definitive representation.

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…and Nothing besides!*

Darwin caricature

By the second half of the 19th century, scientific progress was adding to a persistent pessimism, and it was becoming more and more difficult to affirm life. The theories of Charles Darwin, for example, played an important role in discrediting more of the myths that human beings relied on. The insulting description of Homo Sapiens proposed in Origin of the Species destroyed once and for all the belief that man occupied a dignified position in the order of things and ruined the hope of cosmic purpose.

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Sweet Nothings

Chalk Cliffs on Rugen by Caspar David Friedrich

Much like how rationalism diminished the credibility of religious authority during the Enlightenment, the Romantic period brought a deluge of irrationalism and eroded confidence in reason. While it’s questionable whether Romanticism was motivated by a genuine search for the truth or by the tedium and conservatism of rational inquiry, reason as the exclusive guideline was gradually dethroned, as was the presumption that the world was an coherent and structured system.

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