Literary Sketches

The Simulacra, the Simulation, and the Subtext

September 12, 2010

The Simulacra, the Simulation and the Subtext:
A Literary Criticism of Socrates’s Phaedrus & Baudrillard’s Precession of the Simulacra (2009)

The art of a simulacrum is to feign what one does not possess. The non-existing qualities instead create an unintended, opposing reaction: a gnomon, a shape or presence defined by its absence (Maus). However, the art of letters defines the knowledge of truth, as a subtext.

Itself, knowledge is defined as “…that has been gained for utilization and common purposes, means, sense… the result of perception and learning and reasoning (i).” A rational mind can gain knowledge from either a stimuli (the copied experience) or from a written letter device (the subtext). Therefore, it is possible to share knowledge of one aspect of the simulacrum without the subtext, and vice versa.

According to Baudrillard, the creation of the post-industrial simulacrum is a stimulus that relies on modern culture to create a habitable fantasy-like environment “(populated) with illusions and phantasms. (1940)” This is a map of the hyperreal: that which is taught through the senses.

The creation of Disneyland and other fantasy-based amusement parks create a world in itself where the laws and logic of the ‘outside’ reality do not apply. It is where the “imaginary is neither true nor false. (1940)” Combining visual, auditory and other sensory-taught cognition; these experiences identify the tangible as a source of ‘true’ knowledge. The experiences of a meeting a fantasy cartoon character; the anticipation, the fear, and the feeling of relief afterwards all fall under the above category.


The rational mind defines this knowledge as ‘true’: the child perceives that Princess Snow White does exist because is outside of the television set in this also ‘real’ world. She is in human form and can be seen, heard, and felt. However, we know that this is not entirely true: once Snow White leaves the grounds of the fantasy Disneyland Kingdom, she becomes another person in a costume playing a role for a somewhat average salary.

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According to Socrates, the creation of the written language fulfills its purpose when it provides “the truth of the several particulars… and is able to define them as they are.” (48) This is the subtext: that which relies upon a top-down processing input of information, comprehending that which relies on previous knowledge. A habitable reality from a book is similar to the fantasy reality of the stimuli, excepting that the literature-reality is based within the imagination and mind. The creation of the encyclopedia and dictionaries are definitions within themselves, combining both of their references and resources for the readers.

Literacy is also important, the creation of hieroglyphs in Egypt were indecipherable to modern scholars until the early century discovery of the Rosetta Stone translations (a). Despite this wealth of information, “the underlying meaning of the sentence or phrase of message, can be interpreted to varying degrees by outside counterparts, that may or may not accurately decipher the speaker or original intentions.” (48) Modern scholars and students of literature rely on textbooks and academic sources to feign omniscient, possessing “the show of wisdom without reality,” (46) and the words are “only recited in order to be believed.” (48)


The rational mind of a modern individual, undoubtedly aware that mankind has traveled to outer space (the moon), is based on information from films, readings and pop culture, which therefore in the absence of other stimuli, interprets this as true. We may encounter astronauts and moon rocks as representations of this journey, however, it would be difficult to ascertain it as a truth based on the stimuli experience. Instead, we must rely on the subtext that is ‘a priori’: knowledge independent of experience (i).

In conclusion, neither input of the knowledge of the stimuli and subtext by themselves is an effective method to gain knowledge and wisdom. Nor if the purpose was disconnected from their original intentions. Also, a utilization of these two sources of information together is not always possible or safely to do so. Therefore, the crows of parroting wisdom from learned texts, or visual comprehension of the environment lacking understanding of the subtext, is detrimental to the cultivation of a well-informed mind of the philosopher, and the individual.

Words cited: Richter, David H. Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Third Edition. New York, USA: Bedford Books Publishing, 2007.

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