Infinite regress  

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-:"Pop culture - the folk culture of the modern market, the culture of the instant, at once subsuming past and future and refusing to acknowledge the reality of either - began about [[1948]], in the United States and Great Britain." --''[[Lipstick Traces|Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century]]'', p. 257.+An '''infinite regress''' in a series of propositions arises if the truth of proposition ''P''<sub>1</sub> requires the support of proposition ''P''<sub>2</sub>, and for any proposition in the series ''P''<sub>''n''</sub>, the truth of ''P''<sub>''n''</sub> requires the support of the truth of ''P''<sub>''n''+1</sub>. There would never be adequate support for ''P''<sub>1</sub>, because the [[infinite sequence]] needed to provide such support could not be completed.
-'''Popular culture''', sometimes called '''pop culture''', (literally: "the culture of the people") consists of widespread [[culture|cultural]] elements in any given [[society]]. Such elements are perpetuated through that society's [[vernacular]] language or an established ''[[lingua franca]]''. It comprises the daily interactions, needs and desires and cultural 'moments' that make up the [[everyday life|everyday lives]] of the [[mainstream]]. It can include any number of practices, including those pertaining to [[cooking]], [[clothing]], [[consumption]], [[mass media]] and the many facets of [[entertainment]] such as [[sports]] and [[literature]]. (Compare [[meme]].) Popular culture often contrasts with a more exclusive, even [[elitism|elitist]] "[[high culture]]." +Distinction is made between infinite regresses that are "vicious" and those that are not. One definition given is that a vicious regress is ''"an attempt to solve a problem which re-introduced the same problem in the proposed solution. If one continues along the same lines, the initial problem will recur infinitely and will never be solved. Not all regresses, however, are vicious."''
- +{{GFDL}}
-==Definitions==+
-Defining '[[popular]]' and '[[culture]]', which are [[essentially contested concepts]], is complicated with multiple competing definitions of popular culture. [[John Storey (cultural studies professor and author)|John Storey]], in ''Cultural Theory and Popular Culture'', discusses six definitions. The [[quantitative]] definition, of culture has the problem that much "high" culture (e.g. television dramatisations of [[Jane Austen]]) is widely favoured. "Pop culture" is also defined as the culture that is "left over" when we have decided what "[[high culture]]" is. However, many works straddle or cross the boundaries e.g. [[Shakespeare]], [[Dickens]], [[Puccini]]-[[Verdi]]-[[Pavarotti]]- [[Nessun Dorma]]. Storey draws attention to the forces and relations which sustain this difference such as the educational system.+
- +
-A third definition equates pop culture with Mass Culture. This is seen as a commercial culture, mass produced for mass consumption. From a Western European perspective, this may be compared to American culture. Alternatively, "pop culture" can be defined as an "authentic" culture of the people, but this can be problematic because there are many ways of defining the "people." Storey argues that there is a political dimension to popular culture; neo-[[Gramsci]]an hegemony theory "... sees popular culture as a site of struggle between the 'resistance' of subordinate groups in society and the forces of 'incorporation' operating in the interests of dominant groups in society." A [[postmodern]]ism approach to popular culture would "no longer recognise the distinction between high and popular culture'+
- +
-Storey emphasises that popular culture emerges from the urbanisation of the industrial revolution, which identifies the term with the usual definitions of 'mass culture'. Studies of [[Shakespeare]] (by Weimann, Barber or Bristol, for example) locate much of the characteristic vitality of his drama in its participation in [[Renaissance]] popular culture, while contemporary practitioners like [[Dario Fo]] and [[John McGrath (playwright)|John McGrath]] use popular culture in its Gramscian sense that includes ancient folk traditions (the [[commedia dell'arte]] for example).+
- +
-Popular culture changes constantly and occurs uniquely in place and [[time]]. It forms currents and eddies, and represents a complex of mutually-interdependent perspectives and values that influence society and its institutions in various ways. For example, certain currents of pop culture may originate from, (or diverge into) a [[subculture]], representing perspectives with which the [[mainstream]] popular culture has only limited familiarity. Items of popular culture most typically appeal to a broad spectrum of the [[public]].+
- +
-===Institutional propagation===+
- +
-The [[news media]] mines the work of [[scientist]]s and [[scholar]]s and conveys it to the [[general public]], often emphasizing elements that have inherent appeal or the power to amaze. For instance, [[giant panda]]s (a species in remote Chinese woodlands) have become well-known items of popular culture; [[intestinal parasite|parasitic worms]], though of greater practical importance, have not. Both scholarly facts and news stories get modified through popular transmission, often to the point of outright falsehoods.+
- +
-[[Hannah Arendt]]'s 1961 essay "[[The Crisis in Culture]]" suggested that a "market-driven media would lead to the displacement of culture by the dictates of entertainment." [[Susan Sontag]] argues that in our culture, the most "...intelligible, persuasive values are [increasingly] drawn from the entertainment industries", which is "undermining of standards of seriousness." As a result, "tepid, the glib, and the senselessly cruel" topics are becoming the norm.+
- +
-Some critics argue that popular culture is “dumbing down”: "...newspapers that once ran foreign news now feature celebrity gossip, pictures of scantily dressed young ladies...television has replaced high-quality drama with gardening, cookery, and other “lifestyle” programmes...[and] reality TV and asinine soaps," to the point that people are constantly immersed in trivia about celebrity culture.+
- +
-In Rosenberg and White's book ''[[Mass Culture]]'', MacDonald argues that "Popular culture is a debased, trivial culture that voids both the deep realities (sex, death, failure, tragedy) and also the simple spontaneous pleasures. . . . The masses, debauched by several generations of this sort of thing, in turn come to demand trivial and comfortable cultural products." Van den Haag argues that "...all mass media in the end alienate people from personal experience and though appearing to offset it, intensify their moral isolation from each other, from reality and from themselves."+
- +
-Critics have lamented the "... replacement of high art and authentic folk culture by tasteless industrialised artefacts produced on a mass scale in order to satisfy the lowest common denominator." This "mass culture emerged after the Second World War and have led to the concentration of mass-culture power in ever larger global media conglomerates." The popular press decreased the amount of news or information that and replaced it with entertainment or titillation that reinforces "... fears, prejudice, scapegoating processes, paranoia, and aggression."+
- +
-Critics of television and film have argued that the quality of TV output has been diluted as stations relentlessly pursue "populism and ratings" by focusing on the "glitzy, the superficial, and the popular." In film, "Hollywood culture and values" are increasingly dominating film production in other countries. Hollywood films have changed from focusing on scriptwriting and dialogue to creating formulaic films which emphasize "...shock-value and superficial thrill[s]" and special effects, with themes that focus on the "...basic instincts of aggression, revenge, violence, [and] greed." The plots "...often seem simplistic, a standardised template taken from the shelf, and dialogue is minimal." The "characters are shallow and unconvincing, the dialogue is also simple, unreal, and badly constructed."+
- +
-===Folklore===+
- +
-[[Folklore]] provides a second and very different source of popular culture. In pre-industrial times, [[mass culture]] equaled [[folk culture]]. This earlier layer of culture still persists today, sometimes in the form of [[joke]]s or [[slang]], which spread through the population<!-- Presumably, the (WP:CSB) 'net-connected parts of it. --> by [[word of mouth]] and via the [[Internet]]. By providing a new channel for transmission, cyberspace has renewed the strength of this element of popular culture.+
- +
-Although the folkloric element of popular culture engages heavily with the [[commerce|commercial]] element, the public has its own tastes and it may not embrace every cultural item sold. Moreover, beliefs and opinions about the products of commercial culture (for example: "My favorite character is [[SpongeBob SquarePants (character)|SpongeBob SquarePants]]") spread by [[word of mouth|word-of-mouth]], and become modified in the process in the same manner that folklore evolves.+
- +
-==Popular culture in popular culture==+
-Owing to the pervasive and increasingly interconnected nature of popular culture, especially its intermingling of complementary distribution sources, some cultural anthropologists have identified the use of "popular culture within popular culture" as a distinct phenomenon. Literary and cultural critics have identified this as following the well-recognized but variegated concept of [[Intertextuality#Intertextuality in pop culture|intertextuality]].+
- +
-Angela McRobbie in ''[[Postmodernism and Popular Culture]]'' has suggested this "[[self-referentiality]]" reflects the advancing [[encroachment]] of popular culture into every realm of collective experience. "Instead of referring to the real world, much media output devotes itself to referring to other images, other narratives; self-referentiality is all-embracing, although it is rarely taken account of."+
- +
-Many cultural critics have dismissed this as merely a symptom or side-effect of mass [[consumerism]], however alternate explanations and critique have also been offered. One critic asserts that it reflects a fundamental paradox: the increase in technological and cultural sophistication, combined with an increase in superficiality and dehumanization.+
- +
-===Examples from American television===+
-According to television studies scholars specializing in [[quality television]], such as [[Kristin Thompson]], self-referentiality in mainstream American television (especially comedy) reflects and exemplifies the type of progression characterized previously.+
-Thompson argues shows such as ''[[The Simpsons]]'' use a "...flurry of cultural references, intentionally inconsistent characterization, and considerable self-reflexivity about television conventions and the status of the programme as a television show." Extreme examples approach a kind of thematic [[infinite regress]] wherein distinctions between art and life, commerce and critique, ridicule and homage become intractably blurred.+
- +
-Examples include:+
- +
-*''[[Seinfeld]]'', a show premised on the concept that it is a "show about nothing." The main character of the show has the same name as the actor who plays that character. In one episode, the character George mocks this very premise directly by asking "Who will go for that crap?" Such self-derision represents an especially salient and humorous critique considering the relative success of the show.+
- +
-* ''[[The Simpsons]]'' routinely alludes to mainstream media properties, as well as the commercial content of the show itself. In one episode, Bart complains about the crass commercialism of the [[Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade]] while watching television. When he turns his head away from the television, he is shown floating by as an oversized inflatable balloon. The show also invokes liberal reference to contemporary issues as depicted in the mainstream, and often merges such references with unconventional and even esoteric associations to classical and postmodernist works of literature, entertainment and art. {{Fact|date=August 2008}}+
- +
-== Parent categories ==+
-[[popular]] - [[culture]] - [[folk culture]]+
- +
-By medium: [[popular culture theory]] - [[popular fiction]] - [[popular film]] - [[popular music]]+
- +
-Related: [[bestseller]] - [[circus]] - [[city]] - [[commercial]] - [[cheap]] - [[comics]] - [[conventional]] - [[common]] - [[entertainment]] - [[ephemera]] - [[escapism]] - [[genre fiction]] - [[Hit single|hit (music)]] - [[kitsch]] - [[low culture|"low" culture]] - [[mass]] - [[media]] - [[melodrama]] - [[magazine]] - [[music hall]] - [[proletariat]] - [[pulp fiction]] - [[romance]] - [[sentimentalism]] - [[stereotype]] - [[television]] - [[vaudeville]] - [[vulgar]]+
- +
-Compare: elite culture+
- +
-== Opposites ==+
- +
-Opposites include the [[underground]] and [[high art]] and [[non mainstream]].+
- +
-== Synonyms==+
- +
-The [[mainstream]]+
- +
-==See also==+
-*[[Fads]]+
-*[[Low culture]]+
-*[[High culture]]+
-*[[MTV Generation]]+
-*[[Pop icon]]+
-*[[Cultural icon]]+
-*[[Pop-culture tourism]]+
-*[[Popular culture studies]]+
-*[[General-audience description]]{{GFDL}}+

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

An infinite regress in a series of propositions arises if the truth of proposition P1 requires the support of proposition P2, and for any proposition in the series Pn, the truth of Pn requires the support of the truth of Pn+1. There would never be adequate support for P1, because the infinite sequence needed to provide such support could not be completed.

Distinction is made between infinite regresses that are "vicious" and those that are not. One definition given is that a vicious regress is "an attempt to solve a problem which re-introduced the same problem in the proposed solution. If one continues along the same lines, the initial problem will recur infinitely and will never be solved. Not all regresses, however, are vicious."



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Infinite regress" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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