Self Under Siege (1993) Lecture 5: Habermas and the Fragile Dignity of Humanity

I mean, in a certain way, one of the characteristics of what the self is, and one of the reasons it’s under siege, is we are interpretative beings. And now, by the late 20th century, we are in a situation where interpretation has never been more difficult. Never been more difficult. One can… I mean, I can name artefacts that we have developed technologically that are almost completely closed to interpretation, and I’ll name one – although we attempt to interpret it – Television.

Television tries to interpret itself to us, bypassing the upper brain functions and directly feeding into our minds. This is why I said – off camera between classes – that Orwell was a pie-eyed optimist. 1984 arrived in sort of the early 70′s, and ah, Orwell’s vision of a horrible future which was a boot stomping on a human face forever is a utopian image because he assumes there would be resistance and human faces; both of which may turn out to be false. So, I mean, 1984 is not a book that scares me… anymore. I mean, again, last time I outrageously said that Herbert Marcuse was the Norman Vincent Peale of the 60′s, and now this time I have been forced to say that Orwell was an optimist… you know… it’s sort of my corollary to his little cautionary tale.