Philosophy, Guitar Pedals and the Postmodern Condition: An Essay Addressing how the Ideal of Local Control over Global Knowledge is the Problem Embedded into Modern Philosophy


I play guitar. In case anyone does not know, there are these small devices, mostly for electric guitars, that go between the guitar and the amplifier that alter the sound of the plain guitar signal.  These devices are called guitar pedals. Guitar pedals are electronic devices that alter the incoming signal of a guitar or other instrument. There are all sorts of them, but the one type I am going to compare to philosophy are of the saturation/distortion kind, the phenomenon of there being so many pedals of this kind. Simply speaking, these pedals “overdrive” the signal; they are the sound you are listening to most of the time when you listen to any type of rock and roll. Early rock and roll and classic rock had less distorted tones, and Heavy Metal and Punk Rock have the heavily distorted sounds.

Bye the way; this is not the same kind of analysis as my earlier post, which was an analogy of sound and philosophical signal (digital and analogue). This post is about content.


We still exist in the post-modern condition.

I would assert that any philosopher who does not recognize this doesn’t know their philosophy. And that’s fine. If they want to discuss this, I am surely open.

Link to the PDF of “The Post Modern Condition”.

The very short short version of that short essay by Jean Francois Lyotard is that knowledge, as a category that attempts to engage with the universe in its broadest sense, is limited by an operation of its own reason to give a proper universe which no longer is concerned with what actually may be given to knowledge by the universe itself. The main point here is that knowledge is no longer about finding truth, or to see what is really there; on the contrary, it is about control of knowledge. From his essay we can draw out a couple necessary subsequent results: A thinker qualified as a free thinker must arise within one of two fronts. And, this is because the control of knowledge is done by “the experts”, who are, in truth, convicted to the self-regulating ability of being human and its reason, which then require that all those who propose upon knowledge represent themselves as “experts”.

Ok. I wont go on with that here. More to show through a picture of things, a comparison how both the current boutique guitar pedal interest is similar to the current philosophical interest.

Boutique Guitar pedals and guitar sound.

The main thing that anyone should know about guitar sound is that you can manipulate it with pedals, and that there are different ways to achive saturation/distortion. Saturation and distortion, by the way, are two different ways to say the same thing; saturation is generally low-level distortion, and distortion is considered high level saturation. Without going into all the technical mumbo-jumbo, a signal becomes distorted when the incoming signal is too much for the processing amplifier. If the incoming signal is just barely too much, you get a slightly saturated signal, and we can turn up the incoming signal until it is so much that all you get is distorted noise with no actual tonal-musical guitar signal. For all you guitar smarties: Yes that is an oversimplification of what is occurring, but the description is correct. In between “barely” and “noise” you can get various types of pleasing, or not so pleasing tones (opinion varies). Also, depending upon the transistor, or signal processing device, different sounding of distortion occurs, but along the same continuum.

The point I will make is that there is only so many distortion sounds you can get, but there are 100’s, (Id bet there is at least 1000 different kinds) of saturation pedals. There are only so many ways to distort a signal, and there are only so many types of signal saturation processors. Now, to be honest, the variation of types of processors that can be made is probably quite infinite, but the key is whether or not we can hear the difference; in a way I guess we could compare it to phenotype an genotype, the former is the observed expression of a trait, and the latter is the invisible actual genetic organization. Its kind of like digital media; the early digital recordings sounded terrible because there was not enough processing power to accommodate the vast amount of information in a sound or visual signal, but they realized after not too long, that the human eye and ear cannot distinguish quality past a certain point; with sound it is probably less than 32 bits. For reference, MP3’s are 16 bit, and they sound pretty damn good. I think online platforms use 24 bit. But we are certainly able to process sound at higher bit rates, but if we just want to hear our music in high quality, the use of that is debatable. there may be hundreds of variations upon a circuit, but can we really hear the difference in practical use?

Go ahead and google “guitar pedal overdrive” and see how many pedals are out there.

My position is that for all the supposed different sounds you can get from each different pedal, after so many, I for one cannot tell the difference, and two, playing a live show and making recordings, no one can really tell the difference. You’ll get, say, 10 different blues bands, say, with guitar players each using a different amp and different pedals, and they pretty much all sound the same. Only the people who are invested in being able to hear the distinctions would be able to tell, and then I would say they could only generalize into “that’s a tube screamer, and that is…” whatever other category. I doubt, given a category of, say, hard rock/metal guitarists, any one listening could be able to tell what pedals 20 different guitarists are using.

I play guitar, and I have a pretty good (Id say modestly) handle on tone. And to me, punk sounds punk, metal sounds metal, dgent sound smetal, classic rock sound blusey, blues sounds blusey…etc…

Ill generalize and say that for 99% of people who like music, the minute, subtle differences in the hundreds of saturation pedals and amps out there, are lost and basically pointless for distinction. Only sitting on my room, comparing the pedals one by one can I, with a honed ear, tell the difference between pedals. The fashion is a phenomenon of pure marketing.

Now; do all those subtle variances mean that there is actually a significant difference in guitar tone? To those who are so anal retentive and audiophile yes. But I would ask, then, what is the point of playing music? Is it so I can sit at home and masturbate with my guitar and pedals? Sometimes yes; it is enjoyable. Yet one would have to admit that I am not playing music for myself; I actually want people to listen to it. I play music not for the musicians, really, but for the people who enjoy music. And very few of them can tell what pedal I am using, nor does the pedal I am using make a difference of whether people enjoy my music.

So. I would say that what is actually significant about the tone of my guitar is that people hear the same tone pretty much no matter what pedal I use because the variation in tone is so subtle (for a given style of music), that it makes no difference in the real world. One blues guy uses that pedal, another uses that one: Its all blues to me and the tone of their guitars all sound like Eric Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughn now, and may some like BB King.


So now to the philosophy part.

If the philosopher (of ontology, which is usually the case: philosophers want to consider small things through first grounding them in large ontological truths) is speaking of big r “Reality” or big b “Being”, then why should not everyone be able to consider it? Why should the big t Truth, the truth of philosophy that no good philosopher would ever admit is a big t Truth, be something that you have to have a PhD to understand?

I mean this in a very normal manner: Philosophy is supposed to be about Everyone’s reality, THE world, THE Being, thought, mind, etc.. A medical doctor is not concerning these kinds of things, and so is justified in knowing stuff I should have to have a PHdD for. In fact, philosophy is the only discipline that supposes to be talking about a common Thing, Reality Being whatever, that speaks in such a way that requires anyone to whom it is supposed to concern must invest time in learning it. Physics doesn’t presume to be speaking of my reality; it speaks unapologetically of THE reality. Philospohy is the pnly one that supposed as part of its domain Every domain. Yet not Every domain is allowed to understand it.

If you ask a philosopher about what they mean by any point of contention, you will find that they will invariably not give you a straight answer. They simply cannot tell you what they mean, and I would say, because they themselves are caught in a meaning that they must avoid admitting. Philosophy, as a career but also as a self-righteousness, is the only discipline that must hold something back from the question to answer the question. I admit this because I am a philosopher; I know this to be true.

So I have to wonder what this is for, this philosophy.

What is the purpose of philosophy?  The question is not “what is philosophy”, we already know that, and it doesn’t really have to do with what individual philosophers tell us because they are not answering us directly. So I ask a direct question which short circuits the conventional philosopher’s method of never answering the question by continually putting the answer back onto the questioner:

Is it for mental masturbation or disciplinary group sex, or self-aggradizement?  Or is it for the purpose of involving everyone, of contributing?


Below is a quote concerning a term by Giles Deleuze. I pick on Delueze because I feel his philosophy is often misused as it is misrepresented. But there is a whole industry of congregants who consider themselves philosophers, who, in my opinion, are somehow involved in a different kind of philosophy than I am. I can explain it, but who would listen. lol

I don’t mean to pick on this particular blogger philosopher, because he definitely contributes, so I won’t cite who it is (unless he reads it and wants me to):

“Deterritorialising does not efface our cognitive map but opens it up to permanent revision and self-revision, making its use heuristic rather than dogmatic. It subtracts vertical transcendence.”

My question is, are we even allowed to ask what this means?

For you philosophers reading this, can you tell me what this means? Can you do it without referring to another compendium of philosophical discourses?

I am even having trouble telling myself what it means. lol.

First is the Deluezian “deterritorialization”. I would bet 100 out of 100 people who knows what this idea is, if you ask them what is means, will spout out a bunch a things Deleuze said, and will often even preface it with “to Deluze, it means…”

My question is if Deleuze is saying something important, why must it be referred back into the essay that he wrote about it to understand what it means? If I say “cat” I don’t have to pull out a veterinarian encyclopedia to know what it is.

And the thing is, if I give a definition of what “deterritorialization” means, I will most probably get a number of people who will say that I am incorrect in whatever way because…Deleuze says this about it. This is why I ask if I am even allowed to understand what he is saying without referencing back to what he is saying. If what he is saying is important, should it not stand on its own? which is to say, without having to constantly refer back to what he says about it? should not it be evident what he is saying such that it applies to various things so that I can actually tell someone the meaning of the term without having to refer them to his whole essay?

Here’s mine: deterritorialization is that existence that defies the territory of identity. In fact, as an ongoing critique of Deleuze, I would offer that the very concept defies the meaning of it, as I say, it gives as it takes away.

But some philosophers are so entrenched in the identity of terms to their objects that they will argue with me over my definition, where as if you read Deleuze concerning this very idea, the meaning of it, inscribes itself by taking itself out of the definitional equation, contradicting itself through the definition of what it means. There is simply no other way to say it.

So, that statement up there is saying that this deterritorialization does not suggest that cognition should be thrown away or is an invalid manner to understand things.

Of course it isn’t. Why would we even have to say that? When the concept itself is included in the concept that removes itself. To the reflective philosopher: Here I am reading it; how could it even be possible to think that the idea I had should be thrown away, somehow, even before I read it.

“but opens itself up to permanent revision”  Is that not a giving and a taking away? a permanent impermanence. That clause right there make me have to ask what the point of saying it is?

“..To constant revision..” There is is again.

“…making it meaningful instead of dogmatic…”

so really the idea of deterritorialization is the process of making meaning (a territory) that is permanently impermanent and under constant revision (difficult if not entirely contrary to the idea of territory) rather than according to some rules (of territoriality). But isn’t that very statement an assertion of the rule of how deterritorialization is supposed to be understood?

“It subtracts veridical transcendence.” ( did he mean vertical or veridical?) a transcendence that is “from up to down” is now not true, and or , the truth of transcendence is not true. Is that again not a giving and a taking away? The rule that I just gave you about how deterritorialization is to be understood, should be thrown away.


Sounds to me like everybody missed Wittgenstein so they could keep having something self important to talk about.


So. My question really just what such a philosophy is about, one that appears to reform itself in different terms that are taken to, at once, say something new or explain it, and yet, get us no further that what the original statement meant?

Why are we still going on about it? if we cannot agree about what it is? Because it seems to me this kind of conventional philosophy does its best to avoid having to account for itself.

It seems to me there are 1000 different manners of constructing sentences that are all really saying the same thing about the same thing. Yeah each one of those people, each one of those thousand ways see themselves as saying something significantly different than all the rest. Are we allowed to even say or suggest that we should dispense with all their identity politics? At least in philosophy? Granted there will always be those who insist that each identity is important and saying something unique, but cannot we also give credence to the fact that they’re all saying the same thing about the same thing without negating their privilege of being able to be unique? Would not a more constructive approach to truth and the existence of things take into account that the multitudes and variation of appearances can be categorized into saying something very particular and specific? Might with then be able to move forward?

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