What Is the Difference Between Mascara, Eye-Liner and Concealer? Six Philosophical Inquiries

“My job, as CEO, is to hire the right people. My job is to know a lot of engineers, editors, venture capitalists, and salespeople — and to bring them together. Knowing the difference between mascara, concealer, and eye-liner is not my job.”

-Bryan Goldberg, founder and CEO of the new women’s website Bustle


“What, in truth, is a thing insofar as it is a thing? When we ask this question we wish to know the thing-being (the thingliness) of the thing. The point is to learn the thingliness of the thing. To this end we must become acquainted with the sphere within which are to be found all those beings which we have long called things.

“A mere thing is, to take an example, a tube of mascara. It is long, thin, plastic, blue, cylindrical, small, and it says “VOLUM’ EXPRESS THE MEGA PLUSH” on its side in silver lettering. We can notice all these features in the mascara. We take note of its characteristics. Yet such characteristics represent something proper to the mascara. They are its properties. The thing has them. The thing? What are we thinking of if we now call the thing — the tube of mascara — to mind? Obviously the thing is not merely a collection of characteristics, and neither is it the aggregate of those properties through which the collection arises. The thing, as everyone thinks she knows, is that around which the properties have gathered. One speaks, then, of the core of the thing — the core of the mascara.”


“In Hegel’s famous woman-and-mascara parable, a hidden dialectic follows the same pattern. Before encountering the mascara, the woman is potentially free but not actually so, for she has never been exposed to the freeing possibility of eyelash enhancement. The mascara symbolizes God, and when the woman becomes dependent on VOLUM’ EXPRESS THE MEGA PLUSH the woman becomes the master, gaining ‘freedom.’”


“It is assumed, then, that the parties do not know certain kinds of particular facts. First of all, no one knows the shade of the mascara, the brand of the tube; nor does she know the cost of the cosmetic, whether or not it is waterproof, and the like. Nor, again, does anyone know the same for the compact of concealer or the tube of eye-liner. More than this, I assume that the parties do not know the particular circumstances of their own eyelashes. They do not know, for example, the particular situation with the eyelashes — have they been curled? — at this moment in time. The parties must also not know the contingencies that conspired to create this tube of mascara.

“It may be protested that the condition of the veil of ignorance is irrational. The restrictions on particular information are of fundamental importance, however. Without them we would not be able to work out any definite theory of mascara at all. We would have to be content with a vague formula stating that this mascara, VOLUM’ EXPRESS THE MEGA PLUSH, is better than the other mascara, and we would not, at present anyway, be able to determine it.”


“If one considers an article of manufacture as, for example, a tube of mascara or a compact of concealer — one sees that it has been made by an artisan who had a conception of it; and he has paid attention, equally, to the conception of a tube of mascara and to the pre-existent technique of production which is a part of that conception and is, at bottom, a formula. Thus the tube of mascara is at the same time an article producible in a certain manner and one which, on the other hand, serves a definite purpose, for one cannot suppose that a man would produce a tube of VOLUM’ EXPRESS THE MEGA PLUSH without knowing what it was for. Let us say, then, of the tube of mascara that its essence — that is to say the sum of the formulae and the qualities which made its production and its definition possible — precedes its existence. The presence of such-and-such a tube of mascara or compact of concealer is thus determined before my eyes. Here, then, we are viewing the world from a technical standpoint, and we can say that production of VOLUM’ EXPRESS THE MEGA PLUSH precedes its existence.”


“If her functioning as a female is not enough to define woman, if we decline also to explain her through ‘the eternal feminine,’ and if nevertheless we admit, provisionally, that women do exist, then we must face the question, ‘what is a woman?’”


VOLUM’ EXPRESS THE MEGA PLUSH does not exist. Nothing exists.

We very much look forward to Bustle’s contribution to this ongoing discussion, and others.