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Philip K. Dick (2) vs. Jean Baudrillard

For yesterday, I was gonna go with Vincent, based on X’s comment:

In addition to his unique painting style and very special life, van Gogh was highly literate, as shown through the 844 letters from him that are available today.

X also made a missing-body-part joke, which I generally don’t think is so cool but, if anyone’s allowed to get away with that sort of humor, it’s X.

Anyway, now I was curious so I googled *Vincent Van Gogh letters* and found this site. I clicked through and looked at a few letters and they seemed like nothing special.

So, given that this was the best argument in favor and it wasn’t so great, I’ll have to call it for Grandma Moses, boring as she sounds.

Today we have Horselover Fat vs. the self-parodying intellectual. Dick would seem to be the easy winner here. But Baudrillard did write this:

Decidedly, joggers are the true Latter Day Saints and the protagonists of an easy-does-it Apocalypse. Nothing evokes the end of the world more than a man running straight ahead on a beach, swathed in the sounds of his walkman, cocooned in the solitary sacrifice of his energy, indifferent even to catastrophes since he expects destruction to come only as the fruit of his own efforts, from exhausting the energy of a body that has in his own eyesbecome useless. Primitives, when in despair, would commit suicide by swimming out to sea until they could swim no longer. The jogger commits suicide by running up and down the beach. His eyes are wild, saliva drips from his mouth. Do not stop him. He will either hit you or simply carry on dancing around in front of you like a man possessed.

I think we can safely say this is a contest between two guys who did not spend much time at the gym.

P.S. As always, here’s the background, and here are the rules.


  1. Bill Jefferys says:

    Philip K. Dick. My interest in pomo philosophy is so low that I would not waste my time on listening to a lecture based on it.

  2. Thom says:

    Have to go with PKD. So many questions I’d like to ask him about his work (especially Confessions of a Crap Artist), his life and the exegesis. Meanwhile Baudrillard is barely as interesting as one of the characters in one of the pulp novels (he’s certainly less coherent than Palmer Eldritch).

  3. John Mashey says:

    +1 for PDK, as one of the few modern science-fiction authors to have a few stories turned into reasonable movies, i.e., at least some of these.

  4. Jonathan (another one) says:

    I’m going to go with Dick (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) His lack of fitness is counterbalanced by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall.

  5. Patrick Caldon says:

    PKD, just because Baudrillard’s own editor wrote this (got this on wiki):

    Baudrillard’s writing up to the mid-1980s is open to several criticisms. He fails to define key terms, such as the code; his writing style is hyperbolic and declarative, often lacking sustained, systematic analysis when it is appropriate; he totalizes his insights, refusing to qualify or delimit his claims. He writes about particular experiences, television images, as if nothing else in society mattered, extrapolating a bleak view of the world from that limited base. He ignores contradictory evidence such as the many benefits afforded by the new media

    It sounds a bit like a TED talk.

  6. zbicyclist says:

    From Dick’s Wikipedia entry: “Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty,[6] eleven popular films based on his works have been produced, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau and Impostor.”

    The least we can do is let him have the small seminar honorarium.

  7. Dalton says:

    The author The Simulacra vs the author of Simulacra and Simulation? This contest might seem to be a coin toss, but it’s PKD all the way, for so many reasons.

    Baudrillard actually referenced PKD in his own writing in the Simulacra and the Simulation, but he insults the man by calling him K. Philip Dick. He also seems to attribute the plot of We Can Build You to the Simulacra. And when he does pay homage to PKD it sounds like this:

    “Where would the works be that would meet, here and now, this situational inversion, this situational reversion? Obviously the short stories of Philip K. Dick [K. Philip Dick in original text] “gravitate” in this space, if one can use that word (but that is precisely what one can’t really do any more, because this new universe is “antigravitational,” or if it still gravitates, it is around the hole of the real, around the hole of the imaginary). One does not see an alternative cosmos, a cosmic folklore or exoticism, or a galactic prowess there—one is from the start in a total simulation, without origin, immanent, without a past, without a future, a diffusion of all coordinates (mental, temporal, spatial, signaletic)—it is not about a parallel universe, a double universe, or even a possible universe— neither possible, impossible, neither real nor unreal: hyperreal—it is a universe of simulation, which is something else altogether. And not because Dick speaks specifically of simulacra—science fiction has always done so, but it played on the double, on doubling and redoubling, either artificial or imaginary, whereas here the double has disappeared, there is no longer a double, one is always already in the other world, which is no longer an other, without a mirror, a projection, or a utopia that can reflect it—simulation is insuperable, unsurpassable, dull and flat, without exteriority—we will no longer even pass through to “the other side of the mirror,” that was still the golden age of transcendence.”

    So this is what you get with Baudrillard: shoddy research, misattribution, and a final product that is nearly incomprehensible.

    Now PKD wasn’t always comprehensible neither, but I’m going to give him a break since he wrote some of his novels in two weeks and under the influence of amphetamine’s. But the dude was broke and more than once needed a quick novel for a quick buck. When he was good, he was damn good. Hell, he even had the power to make his novels alter reality (see the Flow My Tears the Policeman Said story about PKDs real life encounter with a character in his own book at a gas station).

    Here’s the thing: for all PKD and Baudrillard could write on the same themes, PKD did so with simple language and simple stories that launches a mind into the stratosphere much more efficiently than Baudrillard’s overburdened prose. In terms a statistical audience can understand: the difference is between giving someone the beauty of a really good graph that immediately tells the analytic story, versus just dumping the design matrix and raw numerical output of a model on a page and demanding the reader catch up.

    Plus PKD gave us a simple means of telling an android a simulacra apart from a real human being: empathy. Androids lack it; human beings possess it, often at their own peril.

    Lastly, if you need one more point. PKD is down with E.T. Jaynes: “Everybody knows the Aristotelian two-value logic is fucked.”

    While it is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane, the only appropriate response to this match-up is to pick PKD hands down.

  8. WB says:

    Dick … maybe we’d finally learn if androids dream of electric sheep.

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