The Fallacy of Objects

‘An object no longer specified by its function is defined by the subject, but in the passionate abstractness of possession all objects are equivalent. And just one object no longer suffices: the fulfillment of the project of possession always means a succession or even a complete series of objects. This is why owning absolutely any object is always so satisfying and so disappointing at the same time: a whole series lies behind any single object, and makes it into a source of anxiety.’

Jean Baudrillard – The System of Objects

Possession is desire. Though abstract in nature, we use the means of possession to alleviate our anxieties, our fear of death, to better understand our sexuality, and to better understand the world we live in. When an object is placed within the hands of a subject, an object is more than just a mere utility, but rather a reflection, a mirror of the subject itself. However, I feel this mirror reflecting our own image is a fallacy.

Consider the last time you purchased a car. Sure you might have been looking for one that was good on gas mileage, had spacious cargo room, or could do 0-60 in 5.3 seconds; but when you remove the initial functionality of the car, what were you looking at? Perhaps you wanted one that was red because red is your favorite color, or you wanted a sporty coupe because you didn’t want to be driving around a soccer mom van. In the end, no matter what car you may have purchased, with utility functions aside, a vast majority of your decision was a reflection of who you are. Or was it?

CHOICE is crucial when understanding our relationship with objects. When we are presented with a vast array of options for a specific object, using a car as the example, we feel as though our decision to pick and choose one car over another is heavily dictated by our own actions. However, let us turn to that sporty red coupe that you just acquired. At the moment of purchase, you may have been thinking that this specific car was tailor made for you. You wanted red, you got red. You wanted a coupe, you got a coupe. However, the options that you chose for your car came from a predetermined set list of options provided by the auto manufacturer; to which anyone else in the world has the ability to pick and choose the exact same make, model, and options for a car as you did. Relatively speaking, nothing is ‘unique’ about the car because all of the options are mass-produced and available to the public. However, possession over the object, i.e. the car, completely abstracts this reality and you inevitably end up feeling good about your purchase and off the lot you go with your new coupe.

Now there is nothing wrong with purchasing a car, and I certainly do love mine, however the question that I have been increasing trying to understand is: are the objects we possess really reflecting who we are, or is everything predetermined?

As someone who collects a vast array of objects, this question has been gnawing at the back of my mind; completely tearing apart my happy-go-lucky attitude toward collecting. I think about the hundreds of Pokémon cards within my personal collection. To me, they are one of a kind, special, unique, valuable, etc. They reflect my love of Pokémon, and my dedication to preserving the nostalgia from when I was a kid. However, I am not the only one in the world who thinks this way about Pokémon cards. Not to mention, the cards are also heavily mass produced; readily available to the public in every shopping center and online store available. Yet, I will probably go out and keep collecting more cards in the future knowing full well that the end of my collection will never come.

Now I do believe that possession is desire, as mentioned early in this post. However, I also feel that possession is an addiction that is constantly being fed by outside sources. If we place so much of our sense of self into the objects we possess, yet the objects made available to us are predetermined by manufacturers, what does that say about our sense of self? Is it real or is it a fallacy?

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