By Anjuli Kolb
Transient

In the wake of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, discussion of firmer gun control measures has been whisper quiet, if not completely nonexistent. Evan Selinger contemplates the philosophical defensibility of the neutral weapon fallacy, Hegel mourns the ruthless efficiency of the guillotine, and Marshall McLuhan calls out a Reserve Brigadier General, who also happened to be a telecommunications mogul, on voicing the “Narcissus style of one hypnotized by the amputation and extension of his own being in a new technical form.”

1.

“Like many other technologies, Ihde argues, guns mediate the human relation to the world through a dialectic in which aspects of experience are both 'amplified' and 'reduced.' In this case, there is a reduction in the amount and intensity of environmental features that are perceived as dangerous, and a concomitant amplification in the amount and intensity of environmental features that are perceived as calling for the subject to respond with violence.”

—Evan Selinger, “The Philosophy of the Technology of the Gun,” 23 July, 2012.

2.

“The sole work and deed of universal freedom is therefore death, a death too which has no inner significance or filling, for what is negated is the empty point of the absolutely free self. It is thus the coldest and meanest of all deaths, with no more significance than cutting off the head of a cabbage or swallowing a mouthful of water.”

—G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller, 1807.

3.

“… General David Sarnoff made this statement: ‘We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.’ That is the voice of the current somnambulism. Suppose we were to say… ‘Firearms are in themselves neither good nor bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.’ That is, if the slugs reach the right people firearms are good…There is simply nothing in the Sarnoff statement that will bear scrutiny, for it ignores the nature of the medium, of any and all media, in the true Narcissus style of one hypnotized by the amputation and extension of his own being in a new technical form.”

—Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964. 

Let Me Recite What History Teaches (LMRWHT) is a weekly column that flashes the gaslight, candlelight, torch, or starlight of the past on something that is happening now. The citational constellations work to recover what might be best about the “wide-eyed presentation of mere facts.” They are offered with astonishment and largely without comment. The title is taken from the last line of Stein’s poem “If I Told Him (A Completed Portrait of Picasso)."

Image: mankindunplugged.com