Through the vanishing point with Nietzsche

Throughout McLuhan’s New Sciences, appeal has been made to Nietzsche’s ‘History of an Error’ from Twilight of the Idols (1889) and especially to its final stage:

The true world — we have abolished. What world has remained? The apparent one perhaps? But no! With the true world we also have abolished the apparent one!!1

Compare in McLuhan:

Let us keep in mind that the new reality is in the image and not behind it.2

Nietzsche’s conclusion about the loss of the “apparent world” — aka, the loss of the image — is precipitated from McLuhan’s observation as soon as it is asked if an image is still an image if it is not an image of something? If its reality is only in it “and not behind it”?

McLuhan did indeed appreciate this utter loss:

Put a fast rim spin around a slow one and the slow one disintegrates. Put a satellite ring around the planet and all arrangements on the planet disintegrate. It becomes garbage. (Address to Author’s Luncheon in NYC, 1969)3

Whereas mechanical “dehumanization” wrecked the person, electric super-“humanization” wrecks the entire system. (Take Today, p221)4


  1. Nietzsche (1844-1900), Götzen-Dämmerung, ‘Geschichte eines Irrtums — Wie die »wahre Welt« endlich zur Fabel wurde’, 1889: “Die wahre Welt haben wir abgeschafft: welche Welt blieb übrig? die scheinbare vielleicht?… Aber nein! mit der wahren Welt haben wir auch die scheinbare abgeschafft!!” For discussion, see Catholic Humanism and Modern Letters 2: What Mallarmé saw.
  2. ‘The Electronic Age – The Age of Implosion’, in Mass Media in Canada, ed. John A Irving, 1962.
  3. YouTube recording 12:50ff. The date given at YouTube for this address is 1966. But it is clear from many references in it — like McLuhan mentioning The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann, which was published in 1969, or describing his return from the May 1969 Bilderberg conference in Denmark — that this date is mistaken and should be 1969.
  4. Later in Take Today: The UNPERSON is the inevitable result of improved communication, all barriers of private consciousness are overcome, the resulting collective form of awareness is a tribal dream. Western man experiences it only in his sleep. (…) We all become unpersons at night” (p269).