Friday, December 8, 2017

There Was No Consistent Marshall McLuhan

Privately, Marshall McLuhan was a Thomist (see the first sentence on p.240 of Through the Vanishing Point).

But in his artistic creations McLuhan was more a Scotist (Duns Scotus) than a Thomist.

One can see the dichotomies tiered throughout his works: Winnipeg vs. Toronto, Catholic vs. Protestant, South vs. North, French-Canadians vs. English-Canadians, Gnostic vs. Positivist, Form vs. Content, Ear vs. Eye, Tactile Space vs. Kinetic Space, Ground vs. Figure, Programming vs. Accidents/Chance, etc.

“Publicly”, McLuhan was a contrarian (“anti-environmental”) and seemed to contradict himself at first and second glances. But he was always communicating TECHNICALLY: his audience and the set (“set” being the longest entry in the Oxford dictionary he would point out) determined his posture. The phrase, “the medium is the message”, was the clue to deciphering his motives in his aesthetic efforts.

So, there was no consistent McLuhan regarding his apparent preferences in public matters (and the “private” was increasingly invaded by the “public”). This applied to his Catholicism, too. People who knew him well (George Thompson, Ted Carpenter, Harley Parker, Barry Nevitt, Joe Keogh, Marg Stewart, and Don Theall), if they deigned to open up to one (as they did with me), all expressed the opinion that McLuhan was not a “Catholic”, at least not in any “regular” way.

The tetrad is a snapshot of McLuhan’s personal methodology… of his consciousness… and of how he would respond to you.

That’s the understanding that led me to coin the neologism, “quadrophrenia”. McLuhan was acting out, in an auspicious way, the natural instincts of the present Millennial Generation.

Therefore, I’m thinking of McLuhan’s quoting of Rabelais in The Gutenberg Galaxy (see p.150 of the orange-covered edition) when I suggest: they, the Millennials, would do well to put down their tools and study me.
Bob Dobbs

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