This text is the third chapter of David Levis Strauss’ Photography and Belief, an examination of past and present convictions about the reality, authenticity, trustworthiness of the photographic image. Following on from considerations of the subjectivity of a photograph as developed by Benjamin, Barthes, and Berger, the photograph’s status as a sign and the implications of its indexicality, this chapter positions photography in a far broader context. For Flusser recognises the photograph as the onset of a shift in human communications as vast as the invention of writing, introducing visual codes that undermine those of alphabetic writing, and opening completely different means of generating and storing information. Although Flusser spoke little of belief as such, he did speak often of doubt. If we accept that doubt is not the opposite of belief, but of certainty, his approach touches continually on questions of belief. For Flusser remains uncertain whether the new society based on technical images – the first being the photograph – will be the most creatively exciting, humane society the world has ever known, or its very opposite, a mindless network of functionaries.
Flusser and Descartes. The Unremitting Mindfulness of Thinking and Being
Of all modern scholars, Descartes is probably the one who has met with most criticism, and even though his formulation of the cogito sounds pretty obvious, Hobbes, Locke, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre and Žižek have repeatedly tried to poke holes in his ideas. The lifelong effects of the Cartesian doubt worried Vilém Flusser too. To him, Cartesianism is Christianity through and through. What exactly, in Flusser’s view, is so unacceptable about the Cartesian doubt, then? Why does Flusser identify Descartes with Christianity? Can we appreciate Flusser’s concern with the Cartesian doubt without losing the excitement and intimacy of grappling with Descartes’ metaphysics? Of course, Flusser’s critique is not mainstream; and we can even hear traces of Heidegger’s voice in the background. Still, Flusser’s objection is unique and interesting, making it a refreshing alternative in the scholarly discussion of Descartes. One aim of the paper is to turn the sword of Flusser’s critique of the Cartesian doubt against Descartes’ own detractors.
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.
Meu bem, você não entendeu nada: a generosidade cética de Vilém Flusser
The sentence “My dear, you didn’t understand nothing” was one of the preferred sentences of Vilém Flusser in his dialogs with scholars and visitors. But this judgment was not used as a vain statement of superiority. On the contrary: Flusser wanted to demonstrate the impossibility of any final truth, underlining the necessity of doubt and of the fictional structure of all our perception. Flusser’s famous sentence, apparently destructive, was not less than an unsuspected generosity, giving the scholars and visitors back what most kinds of opinion eliminate, that is, the doubt and the phenomenological view to see things from more than one perspective.