Jean Baudrillard: The Seduction of the Demon

Baudrillard as Extreme Pyrrho-Manichaean:

When I evoke the principle of evil, of an evil demon etc., my aim is more closely related to a certain kind of Manicheanism. It is therefore anterior to Descartes, and fundamentally it is irrational. There are in fact two principles at stake: on the one hand there is the (Descartes’) rational principle or principle of rationality – the fundamental attempt, through doubt or anything else, to rationalize the world – and on the other hand there is the inverse principle, which was, for example, adopted by the “heretics” all the way throughout the history of Christianity. This is the principle of evil itself. What the heretics posited was that the very creation of the world, hence the reality of the world, was the result of the existence of the evil demon.

The function of God, then, was really to try to repudiate this evil phantom – that was the real reason why God had to exist at all. So in this situation it is no longer a question of doubt or non-doubt, of whether one should exercise this doubt or whether this doubt could lead us to confirm or deny the existence of the world. Rather, it is once again the principle of seduction that needs to be invoked in this situation: according to Manicheanism the reality of the world is a total illusion; it is something which has been tainted from the very beginning; it is something which has been seduced by a sort of irreal principle since time immemorial…

Nevertheless, one has to recognize the reality of the illusion; and one must play upon this illusion itself and the power that it exerts. This is where the Manichean element in my work comes in…This is the key to the whole position: the idea is that of a most fundamental and radical antagonism, of no possibility existing at all of reconciling the “illusion” of the world with the “reality” of the world… For me the reality of the world has been seduced, and this is really what is so fundamentally Manichean in my work. Like the Manicheans, I do not believe in the possibility of “real-ising” the world through any rational or materialist principle – hence the great difference between my work and the process of invoking radical doubt as in Descartes’.1


  1.  Jean Baudrillard. The Evil Demon of Images. Translated by Paul Patton, Paul Foss
    and Philippe Tanguy. Sydney: Power Publications, 1987:44-46.

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