step80: transcendent escapism, Ryder Richards, Let Us Think About It
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Step 80: Transcendent Escapism

Transcendent Escapism

Ryder Richards dives deep into the relationship between reality, truth, and abstraction.

He proposes reality filters profound ideologies that rely on belief from superficial falsehoods that obscure reality. Richards argues both undermine truth, but marketing bypasses reality. Using examples, he shows how we use abstractions to escape reality’s limits. Ultimately, we tend to use fantasy to disregard reality, envisioning catastrophe to then deny it through rigid universal rules that validate our desires.

Ryder references Plato, Slavoj Zizek, and Jean Baudrillard in the episode. Images created by DALL-E


  • 0:00 Truth, abstraction, and manipulation.
  • 4:22 Reality, science, religion, and marketing.
  • 7:57 The relationship between science, reality, and abstraction.
  • 11:50 Epistemology, science, and art.
  • 15:44 Escaping reality through abstraction.


Simulacra and Simulation, Jean BAudrillard
Sex and the Failed Absolute, Slavoj Žižek


Part 1: Shadow Play

Part 2: Quantum Physics in Art

Part 3: Catastrophe to Apocalypse


Richards begins by reminding us that religion and science require belief, making them vulnerable to subjectivity. Next, he discusses how marketing contains truth but uses it to inflame desire and promote amnesia. From here, Richards explores how quantum physics appeals because it hints at being free from reality’s rules. He shares an anecdote about artists citing quantum concepts as justification for unrelated work. Finally, Richards applies Slavoj Žižek’s ideas about imagining catastrophe to envision rigid orders that deny reality. Our escapist visions allow blindness to humanity’s failings but spawn dangerous universals.

Step 80: Transcendental Escapism

Part 1: Shadow Play

Richards recaps his previous episode, proposing reality filters abstractions like religion and science, seeking transcendent truths through revelation. He notes these ideologies require belief, making them vulnerable to subjectivity. Richards then discusses how marketing propaganda also contains truth but uses it to obscure reality and inflame desire, focusing us inward and promoting amnesia.

From here, Richards explores how there are not two sides, truth versus lies, but rather a chain of escalating assumptions climbing away from reality. He outlines a progression from reality to ontology to epistemology, noting his interest in abstract ideas but that craft attends to reality.

Step 80: Transcendental Escapism

Part 2: Quantum Physics in Art

Richards discusses the appeal of quantum physics to those who don’t understand actual mechanics, latching onto abstract principles of freedom and multiplicity. He situates this as moving within ontology from concrete to abstract entities. Richards shares a story about artists citing quantum physics despite barely grasping it, using it to justify unrelated work. He argues this exemplifies glomming onto weighty abstractions to float free of reality’s limits.

Richards then analyzes how the unknowability of quantum physics excites us, hinting that reality’s rigid rules are malleable. This theoretically frees us from stability, allowing a feeling of profound mystery. But he argues we are no longer looking for reality, instead making myth and wielding the language of truth without fidelity to it.

Step 80: Transcendent Escapism

Part 3: Catastrophe to Apocalypse

Richards applies Slavoj Žižek‘s ideas about imagining catastrophe to establish universal rules that deny reality. Žižek proposes that envisioning the apocalypse shapes orders, allowing us to bypass reality through belief. Richards explains that revelation means the apocalypse was always here, we just now see it. Envisioning catastrophe drives us to abstraction and belief to avoid reality’s terror.  

Richards contends we tend to use escapist fantasy to disregard reality. We envision disaster only to then deny it (doubling down on our beliefs), creating necessary blindness to humanity’s failings. This gives rise to dangerous “universals” (rules) as we care desperately about transcending reality, unable to face our smallness. We turn our gaze to the abstract horizon, only acknowledging squalid reality from on high.

Step 80: Transcendent Escapism

Thank you!

Ryder summarizes that we use catastrophe fantasies to construct universal rules validating our desires and bypassing reality.

Future episodes will reveal how Kant’s “transcendental self” tricks us into sovereignty, avoiding aspects of reality. Richards then promises to discuss tools to correct our assumptions, noting the slippery nature of language allows dangerous abstractions.


Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard, 1981

Sex and the Failed Absolute, Slavoj Zizek

From Catastrophe to Apocalypse… and Back, Slavoj Zizek, 2022

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