Flusser Studies 23 – June 2017
Até a terceira e a quarta geração / Bis ins dritte und vierte Geschlecht / Unto the Third and Fourth Generation
In this issue of Flusser Studies, we want to introduce two extracts from Vilém Flusser’s still unpublished book Até a Terceira e a quarta geração (Unto the Third and Fourth Generation), which was written in Portuguese in the first half of the 1960ies. The first extract, contains besides the table of contents and the introduction, two subchapters – School and Alchemy –, from the first chapter – Holy See. The second extract are two subchapters from chapter nine – Eternal Return and Model.
In this book, the author seeks to understand the problem of Nazism and the Holocaust as a problem related to the fundamental transformation of values in Western Civilization starting with the Renaissance. Flusser, who is well known for his use of new provocative points of view, opted in this case for a religious discourse with a strong ethical appeal. Flusser introduces the reader to the religious atmosphere of guilt, punishment and repentance. Mankind turned its back to the transcendental world of the Middle Ages, looking for an immanent world, which was a fertile ground for the emergence of the Modern Age. In the first chapter, Holy See, Flusser outlines the main characteristics of the Middle Ages and points out the moments, which led to its destruction, allowing for its radical transformation in the course to Renaissance. In the first two subchapters, the author specifically deals with two important aspect of Middle Age culture: scholasticism and magic.
The other two selected extracts show the radical change in the author’s methodology. The main topic of the Eternal Return is 1940, the year of the Hitler and Stalin alliance. Flusser comments bitterly on this moment, which he sees as the very culmination of the progress of our civilization. In Model Flusser develops his concept of apparatus, so important in the work of the 1980ies. Reality has lost its transcendental dimension and become pure fiction.
Até a terceira e a quarta geração: a experiência do holocausto como fundamento das teorias de Vilém Flusser / Unto the Third and Fourth Generation. The Experience of the Holocaust as the Basis of Vilém Flusser’s Philosophy / Do třetího i čtvrtého pokolení
This essay focuses on the fundamental significance of the Holocaust in Vilém Flusser’s life and thinking. In his still unpublished Até a terceira e a quarta geração (Unto the Third and Fourth Generation) written in the early 1960ies, the problem of Nazism is explicitly thematized and linked to the development of Western society. The abandonment of a religious view of the world in the Renaissance led to the loss of a grounding sense of reality, which was filled up by science (the new religion) and later on by nationalism. These developments eventually led to the First and the Second World War, as well as to Auschwitz and Adolf Eichmann as the ideal representatives of the apparatus and the functionary.
O homen sem chão: a biografia de Vilém Flusser, Vilém Flusser (1920-1991). Ein Leben in der Bodenlosigkeit. Biographie
O homen sem chão: a biografia de Vilém Flusser and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991). Ein Leben in der Bodenlosigkeit. Biographie are the Portuguese and the German version of a common biographical project that was conceived in Miguel Flusser’s country estate in Itatiba near São Paulo in November 2014. The two books will be published this fall by Annablume editora in São Paulo and transcript Verlag in Bielefeld (http://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-4064-9/vilem-flusser-19201991), respectively. This bilingual attempt is the first book-length biography of Vilém and Edith Flusser.
Telematic Freedom and Information Paradox
The text discusses the relations between the notions of freedom and information in Vilém Flusser’s philosophy and aims at systematizing this complex problem. Flusser’s ideas on freedom in the ages of programs are deeply indebted to modern science, in particular to thermodynamics (Léon Brillouin), biochemistry (Jacques Monod), and information theory (Claude E. Shannon). In this article I present this indebtedness, contextualize it within a wider scope of Flusser’s oeuvre, and argue that the notion of information – borrowed from the hard sciences – does not provide firm grounds for his existentialism or his philosophy of communication. On the contrary, information (understood by Flusser in a twofold and contradictory way as entropy and negentropy) introduces foundational ambivalence and ambiguity to his philosophical project. I conclude that information – as defined by mathematicians and physicists – allows us to express freedom in the technoscientific era of programs in a non-reductionist fashion.
The Free Will Impasse
This essay discusses the concepts of entropy and negentropy used by Vilém Flusser in his philosophy of photography to delineate connections between science and art. If the act of finding order within chaos has always been a quality specific to human beings, the overwhelming role machines hold in our society casts shadows on human agency. Since the Enlightenment, humankind has carried on a regimentation of nature with the goal of finding a way of theorizing everything within it. In the same way, empirical sciences have studied and portrayed the world of phenomena according to the laws of the moment. Shifting from prejudice to prejudice, however, they have never succeeded in finding an all-inclusive theory. Their way of systematization was adapted to all other areas of life, imposing itself through the norms of capitalism and production, leaving little space for human beings. In this scenario, human beings become puppets or tools. In this context, the arts are called upon to develop viable strategies to counteract the overwhelming power of social and technological control.