Neil Postman’s, “The Medium is the Metaphor”

“Physical reality seems to recede in proportion as man’s symbolic activity advances. Instead of dealing with the things themselves man is in a sense constantly conversing with himself. He has so enveloped himself in linguistic forms, in artistic images, in mythical symbols or religious rites that he cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of [an] artificial medium” (Page 10)

Literally: This is a quote from the German philosopher Ernst Cassirer.  Postman suggest McLuhan’s aphorism should be change from the medium is the message to his version of the medium is the metaphor. He disagrees with McLuhan because saying a medium is the message implies any form of medium is a specific statement that is believed. To support his argument Postman references Cassirer by using one of his quotes to describes what he means.

Intellectually:  This quote reminds me of the discussion we had in class about time and the invention of the mechanical clock. The idea of the clock shifted from religious purposes to “controlling the actions of men” (Postman) and putting a value on time.

Emotionally:  This passage makes me feel sad and it makes me question what I believe is really important in my life and not what society says it should be. I never thought about time they way we have discussed it in class before and I found it to be very insightful to break down the concept of time.

Relationally:  This quote fits into the overall essay because it describes Postman’s argument that the mediums we create shapes and controls the society we live in because we believe its valuable, but once you remove that value then it appears to be unimportant. Ernst Cassirer words are more expressive than Postman’s title, “The Medium is the Metaphor.”


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3 Responses to Response#4

  1. Abigale says:

    I like how you tied in the clock theory with your intellectual description. The clock definitely evolved in terms of its purpose. It’s now more about quantitative value and what portions of our lives it controls.

  2. I really liked that you chose a quote that Postman did not say explicitly, it was a very interesting choice. I really agree with your view on the emotional part because reading that quote does force me to do some reflective thinking not only about myself but about the things that I value in my environment, its really an “eye-opener” in my opinion. Nonetheless, Great perspective!

  3. I enjoyed your interpretation of the quote and how it relates to the overall piece. The quote definitely expands on the idea that mediums we created have come to control our society only becoming valuable because we stress the importance of it. Great response

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