Tag Archives: Rene

Michel Foucault’s This Is Not a Pipe (Treachery of Images)

12 Jan

This philosopher is new to me and new to this site. I will be talking more about him from here on out. The French post-structuralist philosopher wrote This is Not a Pipe referring to the surrealist painter Rene Magritte’s painting Treachery of Images. This painting yields confusion as to what Magritte’s point was and what it means overall.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe is French for This is not a pipe. The issue here is what does it mean to write this across a clear painting of a pipe. Michel Foucault’s writing about the surrealist painting is a clear detailed analysis of the two versions of the painting, the calligram in the painting, and a lot of other detailed information. Foucault’s section of the writing The Unraveled Calligram is th section I have interest in because it gives 3 possible explanations to what the [this] is referring to.

A calligram is a piece of art that is made of a word or phrase or many phrases. When the word or phrase(s) is put on paper/canvas it is structured into a shape of something and what the word or phrase says represents the shape the word or phrase makes.

The above is a calligram. It makes the shape of skilled guitarist Jimi Hendrix and any enthusiast of his would understand that the words the calligram says are of Hendrix’s music. Magritte’s calligram in his surrealist painting has the same function but is with one word.

Going back to the calligram later, the two issues is what is meant by this? and what is Magritte’s point? Magritte’s point is an easy one. He stated himself he would be lying if he were to say that the pipe in the painting really was a pipe. Could you fill that pipe? no you for sure could not, therefore that is not a pipe. What Magritte is aiming to convey is that the non-pipe is a representation of a pipe.

This is an idea that is and can be applied to epistemology and phenomenology in epistemology did just that. Phenomenology, Foucault and Magritte are not related and have no ties, this is just my noticing a similarity in principle between the painting and phenomenological epistemology. Phenomenology is a school of epistemology that studies phenomena and perceives the world unempirically in that when object X is viewed it is not thought that the object is being seen, it is thought that the phenomenal representation of object X is being seen. Therefore being is taken out of the picture in consciousness in epistemology. So, phenomenologically, if one were to see a pipe in real life it would be viewed as a representation of a pipe, however that representation of a pipe being filled would just be an episode of a representation of a pipe being filled with a representation of tobacco. Coming back from my epistemological tangent, in Magritte’s painting it is just a matter of aesthetics in surrealism, while phenomenological thinkers are just a matter of viewing things as phenomena as representations. These two are only the same in principle.

Knowing Magritte’s point to the painting, Foucault discussed 3 functions of the [this] in Treachery of Images. In the first function of the [this], the [this] is referring to the picture of the pipe. The statement is what Magritte’s point is, that the picture of the pipe is not really a pipe.

The second function of the [this] is when the [this] refers to the written statement [This is not a pipe]. It is saying that the statement of the pipe is not the representation of the pipe. This seems difficult to grasp because when speaking of the statement it might be thought that it cannot be denied that [pipe] refers to the above design. Foucault states that ‘design and designation do not overlap’. I understand this as the statement denying that it corresponds to any object like pipe.

The third function of the [this] is when the [this] refers to the entire boundless painting overall. Here the calligram matters in two ways: 1) In the English version of the painting where [this is not a pipe] is what the statement is, the calligram is with the word [pipe] the place in the pipe where tobacco goes in is where the top of the p and the ipe, and the taller part of the p is the long part of the pipe.

Look at the large letter p and try to envision how the pipe can become a calligram with the p especially when the ipe are added. Foucault has illustrations in the writing but I could not find them on the internet. The third function of the [this] again refers to the whole boundless (second version of Treachery of Images by Magritte) painting with the pipe representation and the statement. The calligram here being with the word pipe, the proclamation is that [this], the painting and its entailments is not any representation of a object pipe or a statement/word meaning a pipe.

“Hence the third function of the statement: “This” (this ensemble constituted  by a written pipe and a drawn text) “is not” (is incompatible with) “a pipe” (this mixed element springing at once from discourse and the image, whose ambiguous being the verbal and visual play of the calligram wants to evoke” (Foucault).

In this third function there is an ambiguity. This lies in the identity of the [a pipe] because it is not understood what it refers to because of the ambiguous calligram. The above is a quote on the third function of it from Foucault, and he even says that here lies an ambiguity.

2) The second calligram is with the French version of Magritte’s painting (the second version) where instead of [This is not a pipe], [Ceci n’est pas une pipe] is stated across the surrealist painting under the representation of the pipe. Here lies a different calligram and a somewhat similar ambiguity. The calligram is in the [une] and the u is the part of the pipe where tobacco is inserted to smoke and the other parts of the pipe is the ne and the word [pipe].

Foucault goes on into talking about Klee and Kandinsky and a lot of other things, but I have less interest in that and more in the painting, its functions, its ambiguities, the calligram(s), and the aesthetic value it possesses.

This painting contains astronomical aesthetic value for the following reasons: the three functions of the [this], the utter confusion at first sight of this painting, and the ambiguities from the calligram in each version of the painting. Hegel had 3 ways (as I have continuously affirmed as my standards for aesthetic value) to recognize aesthetic value and beauty in artistic pieces (and media now I think): 1) coming close to imitation of nature, 2) so beautiful you are emotionally moved, or 3) it is so confusing that it sucks you in and does not allow you to think otherwise because you want so much to comprehend. This surrealist painting causes utter confusion in the viewers of the painting because the desire to comprehend the functions of the statement and the desire to comprehend the ambiguities in the calligram(s). Once one understands 2 of the simple functions the [this] of the painting, the third function will create new confusion because whether in the French version the calligram is in the [une] or in the English version where the calligram is in the [pipe], there is renewed confusion as to what the third function means and aims to claim. Foucault even said himself in the writing that the calligram ‘evokes ambiguous being’ of the calligram. It is because of this large amount of things to take into account about Treachery of Images that this painting has aesthetic value by Hegel’s third qualification because it sucks one in in that the person desires to comprehend so much.

Through my reading about Magritte and into Foucault’s analysis of the painting I am only further sucked in than I was when I first saw it. I have made some progress in comprehension but I am right back where I started. This somewhat is what artists aiming for this kind of aesthetic value try to achieve.

Thanks for the support. I shall write more in the coming and soon weeks about phenomenology, existentialism, ethics, some older modern and 19th century philosophy, and more about epistemic justification.

If I misconstrued anything about Magritte’s painting or Foucault’s analysis of the unraveled calligram, please let me know on twitter (cosmosz), by email (cosmosuniversez@yahoo.com) or comment below.

Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy: First Meditation

26 Aug

Rene Descartes published a ground breaking set of meditations on his philosophy including 6 meditations that presented great thoughts. My aim is to talk about each meditation and its philosophy in detail. Previously I posted a writing of mine of a synopsis and discussion about all meditations together (which actually was a paper I did almost 2 years ago) and that can be found amongst the Archives and the Rene Descartes category to your right. Here I only want to talk about the first Meditation and what it says about  concerning things that can be doubted.

Descartes begins the meditation by looking back on his previous opinions and states them to have doubt and therefore to be false. A big statement in the beginning of the meditation is when he says that anything that can have some ground for doubt, can be immediately rejected. He looks for complete truth, and stating this is a good start, but goes a little bit to far in my opinion. If I recognize something to have doubt, it would be my opinionated decision to get to the root of those doubts about it, and possibly modify my hypotheses to resolve the doubts. Often the resolution of doubts can lead to ultimate rejection of what is discussed, and in this case Descartes would be right. This rejection of all doubted things is too broad and should be specialized to certain doubts, while excluding other doubts for further discussion and exploration towards a resolution of it. Doubting things is good because it leads to further understanding, and should not be a shortcut to abandonment of the whole hypotheses.

After having said this Descartes discusses the instances of dreams and perceived reality and how we cannot be sure which is which. He clearly states that he previously strictly relied on the senses. But now stating that senses having deceived him before, it cannot be a certain action to rely on something that has deceived us even once. Descartes questions here if he is awake in a certain space and time, because he has some question of his senses because they have deceived him. He goes on to say that a God exists that is all powerful and all knowing, as he states the deception of his senses. The meditation ends by him stating the powerfulness and goodness of God, but with an evil spirit within God. And that God uses the senses and creates illusions to appear to them, simply to deceive him.  He further states that knowing this he can circumvent this deception of God by not accepting any falsities into his beliefs and therefore defeating God’s purpose in deceiving him.

I can understand Descartes’ recognition of the senses deceiving him because our sensory organs are not reliable and can often deceive us simply by mistake. There is not a real purpose behind the mistakes our sensory organs make other than it is something that can often confuse us. Our senses using sight can produce mirages, hallucinations, epistemologically false sense data and others, but it is only a mistake our distorted sensory organs make. My end point is that God does not deceive us, but He distorts our understanding in a lesser form of deception which I get to. This paragraph is not of Descartes’ philosophy by the way, it is of my own. The distortion God put unto our senses is not because he wants to deceive us, and Descartes’ view of God is totally false. However, what Descartes perceived was the distortion we all experience causing us simply to have questions and seek out understanding.

The key to the difference between Descartes’ reality and the real reality is in God’s identity as a deity.  Descartes sees him as powerful, and mostly good, but having evil spirit in him. Saying that a good God has evil spirit in him is a blatant contradiction. In the real world God is sympathetic, loving, caring, generous, and amazing. God also does not deceive anyone, that is Satan’s business.  Our purpose on earth is to worship God, and to find Him amongst the evils. Without the senses we have being distorted, there would be no purpose in life because we would know everything, and God’s purpose for putting us here on this earth would be nullified. So the real God’s distortion of the human’s senses is justified because if this distortion were not existent, our purpose for being here would not exist. But this distortion of our sense is not deception as Descartes understands it. Deception involves tricking a person to lead them down an evil, dead, horrific path that if a person goes down this path, the deceiving would have won, and the deceived would be led to ultimate demise. Satan works in this business, and often leads many down this very path, and they end up in the fires of Hell. God does not do this deception. God’s distortion of our senses and understanding is to lead us towards the narrow path towards  eternal salvation. Descartes fails to recognize that God is entirely good and has all good intentions for his choice to distort our sensory understanding. God does this distortion to our senses because he wants us to eventually seek Him for guidance, where in the event of one doing that, they are rewarded with eternal salvation. For example if one aims to see what is in heaven and hell and at first seeks no help in God, he will be led nowhere in his investigation. God uses this being led nowhere to lead people to His teaching, and to realize (in this specific example) that heaven and hell are to be totally understood when we get to heaven by eternal salvation. Descartes endorses the common misconception of God in that people see God as the fear mongering, angry, acting, and wrath enacting God which is false in all areas. God really is loving, saddened (not angry) at sin, generous, forgiving and great. Descartes misunderstanding of God falsifies his whole argument about doubts and the illusions the sensory data he says it to be.

Based on his false misunderstandings, he states that he can defeat the deceiving God by not admitting any falsities into his philosophy. If he does this he wins against the deceptions. Now, odd as it is, a true statement came out of a false one in that upon his false misunderstandings, he states that no falsities should be admitted into ones own philosophy. This is entirely true in that we should never admit falsities into our philosophy if we can see ever that a certain proposition is false.

It saddens me to see that someone sees God in such a way, but the meditation provoked my thought in the inferences that were somewhat true in their nature. I plan on discussing the next 5 meditations in Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy.

Thanks for the support.