Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Money Wisdom #409

"As the condition of the possibility of differences, virtual reality eludes the very structural oppositions it nonetheless enables. Neither present nor absent, here nor there, the virtual is spectral. To understand the importance of this point, it is helpful to note that the word specter harbors a tale with an intriguing web of associations. A specter is, of course, an apparition, phantom or ghost. The word derives from the Latin spectrum (appearance, image, apparition) whose stem, spek, means to see or regard. Spek is also the root of speculate as well as species. To speculate means both to mediate or reflect and to engage in buying or selling something with an element of risk on the chance of making a profit. The Latin species means, among other things, shape, form, outward appearance, and by extension, representation, image and appearance. While the English word species is most often used to designate the fundamental taxonomic category that ranks after genus, consisting of organisms capable of interbreeding, a less common meaning is more suggestive in this context. In the Roman Catholic Church, species designates the outward appearance or form of the eucharistic elements that is retained after their consecration. Specie, in contrast to species, is coined money. As I have already noted, in the medieval Catholic liturgy, one of the forms of the eucharistic wafer was a coin bearing a sacred insignia and inscription. The words of the priest perfect a process of transubstantiation through which the fiat currency of the wafer becomes the body of Christ, who is the absolute mediator between God and man. Within this economy of salvation, the divine mediator incarnate in the eucharistic coin is the currency of exchange, which makes redemption possible for human beings. When Christ dies and ascends to heaven, the divine does not disappear but remains to haunt the community of believers as a ghost or specter now deemed holy."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.323

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