Candy Bars and Sugar Pills

Amity Kurt, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

Cyberspace & Critical

We have all faked sick every now and then, but it is hard to say when we have experienced a simulated illness. Would you even know if you were causing your own headache? Perhaps every time we go to the doctor and the doctor claims that a virus is attacking our body and there is no medicine that can help, he is really talking about how we made ourselves sick, and therefore there is no cure? Baudrillard discusses the effects of a simulated illness in "Simulacra and Simulations"

Someone who simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms" (Littre). Thus, feigning or dissimulating leaves the reality principle intact: the difference is always clear, it is only masked; whereas simulation threatens the difference between "true" and "false", between "real" and "imaginary". Since the simulator produces "true" symptoms, is he or she ill or not? The simulator cannot be treated objectively either as ill, or as not ill. Psychology and medicine stop at this point, before a thereafter undiscoverable truth of the illness. For if any symptom can be "produced," and can no longer be accepted as a fact of nature, then every illness may be considered as simulatable and simulated, and medicine loses its meaning since it only knows how to treat "true" illnesses by their objective causes. Psychosomatics evolves in a dubious way on the edge of the illness principle. As for psychoanalysis, it transfers the symptom from the organic to the unconscious order: once again, the latter is held to be real, more real than the former; but why should simulation stop at the portals of the unconscious? Why couldn't the "work" of the unconscious be "produced" in the same way as any other symptom in classical medicine?


1. Baudrillard discusses the body and mind connection by writing about how the mind can simulate and illness to an extent where the body will actually get symptoms. How far can this mind body connection extend? How sick could one feel through a simulated disease?

2. Buadrillard argues that to actually procure symptoms one must be unconscious of that fact that he or she is simulating a sickness. Can one be in so much control of his or her own simulation that a real sickness can occur when the simulator is aware that he is construction his own illness?

3. Would Case feeling Molly's pain when she broke her leg be considered a simulation?

4. Is a simulated illness more or less dangerous than an illness that has physically real symptoms?


Baudrillard, Jean. "Simulacra and Simulations" in Selected Writings Ed. Mark Poster. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. 166-184.

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Last modified 13 October 2005