I would like to begin by asking, what does Baudrillard mean by ‘disappearance’ in his text? The answer is not so obvious, since he argues that in a way nothing disappears, or that disappearance is inseparable from appearance. Appearance and disappearance are in a reciprocal relationship, so that we cannot have one without the other or one is merely an alternative form of the other. Just as appearance implies a kind of disappearance – this is what Baudrillard means by ‘the real vanishing into the concept’ – so disappearance must be considered another form of appearance – this is what he means by ‘concepts and ideas vanishing into their very fulfilment’. But Baudrillard’s real question is, what allows this commutativity, which

of course is that of simulation? What is this ‘disappearance’ that allows the exchange between appearance and disappearance? In other words, what has disappeared even when nothing appears to have disappeared? Or, better, what has disappeared to ensure that nothing disappears, that disappearance is merely another form of appearance? It is this disappearance that Baudrillard describes as a ‘game, the possibility of playing with [values, the real, ideology and ultimate ends – and even their dissolution]’, or an ‘act … like a martial [arts] act’. And it is this disappearance that might allow a ‘domain of pure appearance, of the world as it is (and not the real world, which is only ever the world of representation)’. Again, however, we might ask, what does Baudrillard mean by this second

form of disappearance? What could it mean to say that it is a disappearance that takes place even though nothing has disappeared? In order to answer these questions, we might turn to the particular form of disappearance Baudrillard considers in his essay: his imagining of a world in which humans have disappeared. It is something that takes place every time we take a photograph (hence the attraction of photography for Baudrillard): ‘the desire to see what the world looks like in our absence or to see … if there is still an occurrence of the world’. But, needless to say, this ambition to see the world in our absence can never be realised. We could never know what the world

would be like were we not there: our very presence on the scene would invalidate what we had come to see. And yet, of course, this desire remains as a fantasy, perhaps as the primal

fantasy, the one for which all the others stand in. Indeed, we see another version of this fantasy in Baudrillard’s essay in something that appears initially unrelated to it: the attempt to transform the world by means of science and technology, which is only possible, as Hannah Arendt originally noted, ‘with the invention of an Archimedean point outside of the world … by which the natural world is definitively alienated’. For in the same kind of way – which is why Baudrillard uses the word ‘alienated’ – here too is the fantasy that with the technologisation of the world those processes initially unleashed by man will eventually run by themselves. What lies at the origin of technology is the vision of a society in which machines replace man, in which humans are unnecessary. We see this vision coming true in those self-enclosed and self-perpetuating systems of simulation that Baudrillard analyses, which have no outside and no need to be explained by an other, and whose best model would be that bicycle proposed by Alfred Jarry, which still continues to pedal long after its riders have passed away with fatigue. This would be a world from which nothing is missing – not even the sub-

ject, for if the subject as ‘agent of will, of freedom, of representation’ disappears, it leaves behind a ‘diffuse, flowing, insubstantial subjectivity, an ectoplasm that envelops everything’. And yet, if we can put it this way, it is just at this point that something does go missing: human absence or the absence that humans introduce. Everything that Baudrillard says is possible, man is able to disappear from the world in realising it; but this disappearance itself could be realised only from some ‘Archimedian point’ outside of the world. It is for this reason that Baudrillard writes that it is ‘characteristic of human beings not to realise all their possibilities’: because these possibilities impose a kind of necessary limit to human beings’ disappearance. The human lives on as that place from where its own disappearance is remarked. It is that ‘disappearance’ – the always missing place of enunciation – that allows its disappearance to appear, to exist within signification. And it is this, to conclude, that opens up the ‘two-pronged’ aspect of

theory, the possibility of ‘disappearing before dying and instead of dying’. For in a way the aim of theory – like photography, like technology – is to imagine a state without humans, a world in which we do not exist. And yet it is just at this point that a kind of limit is reached, that we become aware of that prior ‘disappearance’ that allows this disappearance to be imagined: the absent point of narration or representation for which this fantasy stands in. (And for Marx, as Baudrillard says, to theorise this end without including its point of enunciation is merely the ‘idealist stage of interpretation’.) It is exactly in this sense that thinking is always pushing up against its own limits, always trying to rid itself of that which makes it possible; but it is also in this

sense that it imposes an absolute limit on technology and its attempt to realise the world – for its ‘advances’ are only thinkable, that is, they only exist, insofar as they are not complete, have not reached the end. What might it mean to say that in this text Baudrillard reveals himself as a

kind of ‘humanist’, arguing for the irreducible persistence of the human, like the grin of the Cheshire Cat or indeed the judgement of God after God has disappeared? It is the human as the irreducible limit to this world realising itself or becoming real because this reality would never be able to be taken in as a whole – and here we come back to something like Kant’s cosmological antinomies – without some point outside of it.