Trying Things Out. A Flusserian Vision for the Future of Science
My goal in this paper is twofold. First, I want to analyze two early texts by Vilém Flusser in order to explore what may have been his conceptualization of the relationship between science and philosophy. My analysis suggests that Flusser thought of both as tools to analyze reality by analyzing language. While he saw science as a (sometimes too vigorous) force forward, he viewed philosophy as what can prevent some of the negative consequences of such progress. In direct comparison, Flusser thought of science as a discourse with the purpose to provide novel information and of philosophy as what can keep objective science in check by moving the discourse into the realm of the subjective. It remains to be explored whether these results also apply to Flusser’s later writings. My second goal is to show the relationship between three aspects of modern science (crisis, contrast, and trying out) and what I see as Flusser’s early (mid 1960s) view of science in relation to philosophy and poetry.
Flusser’s Philosophy of Science
Many of Flusser’s books and essays refer to “science”, “epistemology”, and “knowledge”. His ways of conceptualizing these terms, however, remain to be explored in detail. To my knowledge, there is no secondary literature that analyzes “Flusser’s philosophy of science”. In this paper, I begin outlining such a project. I offer two translations of unpublished manuscripts, “La creation scientifique et artistique” (“Scientific and artistic creativity”) and “Wissenschaft, Weisheit (und Judentum)” (“Science, Wisdom (and Jewishness)). Based on an initial and very superficial analysis, I suggest locating Flusser’s concept of science at the center of a triangle of reciprocal relationships between philosophy, art, and religion.
Im Spielraum der Ironie. Wie Vilém Flusser über Design schrieb
Flusser’s writings on design are mainly characterized by an essayistic and ironic style. In my text, I highlight Flusser’s use of these two styles, since he considered that the conventional approaches of established discourses could not adequately address the existing realities, and their complexities. For Flusser, essays are phenomenological narrations concerned with arbitrary objects, in which the distinction between common and high culture becomes blurred. That explains why his writings on design and ethics, or on design and war, are described as being difficult to access, and are even provocative. But it is not only the content of Flusser’s essays that provokes. His ironic and parodist style of writing is used to make a caricature of the complacency of the design debates of his time, and to point to the evasive question of responsibility in design. He noted that ethical issues were never raised in relation to the designed objects, and thus he portrayed the design of common or mundane objects as being irresponsible, given that designers focused their attention solely on the object, rather than on the people who use it, or on the cultural contexts in which they were used. Accordingly, Flusser identified design as a tool by which culture betrayed itself. To emphasize this point, he employed images and exaggerations in his essays, which he called “karikaturale Vereinfachungen.” Flusser uses an elaborate etymological juggling of words and caricatures, which is key to his writings on design. I argue that without his etymological caricatures and the irony in his writings, Flusser could not have expressed his philosophy of design with precision.
A metamorfose de Kafka em Flusser
The most famous literary metamorphosis is Kafka’s short eponymous tale published in 1915. For more than a hundred years now, the first sentence of The Metamorphosis has been provoking an infinite series of metamorphoses: in culture, literature, as well as in readers and writers. Among the writers most affected by the event, we find Vilém Flusser who turned himself into Brazilian and foreigner in the world at the same time. Flusser transformed philosophy into a philosophical fiction and charged it with the same sardonic irony we associate with Kafka’s fiction. Because of his metamorphoses, he became a fictional character himself, as Rainer Guldin and I pointed out in the biography we wrote about him. Sérgio Paulo Rouanet called Vilém Flusser ironically a Meta-Švejk. Flusser did not consider himself a post-philosopher – a Post-Husserl or Post-Vaihinger – but rather a Post-Kafka. In this sense, his philosophy is a kind of a post-Kafkaesque fiction.
How to Face the Terror of Reason: From Philosophy to Literature
This paper explores the relationship of philosophy and literature, and the role of irony in the search of a possible way out of the hell of the apparatus created by the terror of reason. Franz Kafka’s Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis and Jaroslav Hašek’s Švejk from The Adventures of Brave Soldier Švejk pre-figure the future and are in a way are ironical brothers of Vilém Flusser.
Die Briefe zwischen Vilém Flusser und Felix Philipp Ingold, 1981–1990
This article examines the correspondence between Vilém Flusser and Felix Philipp Ingold, a professor of cultural and social history of Russia, besides being a well-known poet, writer, and translator. In this extensive correspondence (1981–1990), both scholars reflect upon and criticize each other’s work, in a very productive manner. Especially Flusser, who was challenged to be more precise about central terms of his cultural philosophy, and media/communication theory. The article gives an overview of the last topics discussed by them. However, because it could not equality examine all concepts in depth, it focus upon the correspondence that helped Flusser clarify his concept of technical/synthetic image – which remains, nevertheless, an ambivalent term.
Saul segundo Flusser
This paper will focus on the first text of Vilém Flusser maintained until today. It is the play Saul, written by the thinker at the age of fifteen or sixteen, in 1935 or 1936. The drama, filled with an anguishing existential atmosphere, was written in Prague, the city dangerously neighboring Germany, where the Nuremberg anti-Semitic Race Laws had just began to come into force. In his first work, the author had already built up a dialectical structure, characteristic of his later texts. His very peculiar dialectics, however, does not generate a synthesis, much to the contrary; it generates another dialectics, which instead of limiting, broadens the reflection. In Saul, darkness is opposed to light, Saul to David, the Bible to the twentieth-century. In Flusser’s play, the elements obtain unconventional meanings: darkness is connected with feminine, with nature, with mythos and reconciliation; in turn light, which represents the Universal God, is related to violence and suffering. Saul is an errant character with flaws, weakness, and is deeply human, while David, with his perfection, is perverse. In the last scene, the biblical poetic world of lamentations and hymns cedes place to the prosaic universe of the twentieth-century. The dry, ironic and scientifically objective style of the dialogues between a physician and a man “in leisure clothes” dominates the stage on which lies Saul’s body. This brief text presents excerpts from the play and contextualizes it in light of Flusser’s later works.
Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: l’alterità capovolta
The Vampyroteuthis Infernalis is a text that defies labels by layering scientific, philosophical, and anthropological perspectives. We should read it “lengthwise” in order to share the vision of this brilliant metaphorical story and post-human fairy tale. Flusser eradicates points of view that are rusty, ancient and anthropocentric. In this, he sheds a beam of light not only on the ideas but also on the method, and the point of view. Throughout the book, the literary device turns out to be a kind of powerful “antivirus” against the rhetoric and the morals of our “a priori”. The Vampyroteuthis emerges where we dive: it is the dark side, the sleep of reason and the monster of dreams; it is the common unconscious, the fear of the unknown, the repression of drives; it is what is submerged by science and religion; it is the black, the different, the other; it is what we would like to suppress in ourselves, but actually, if this emergence is slow and conscious, the subsequent integration will be healthy and productive. It will be the utopia of new humans who look out and see themselves.
O misterioso Romy Fink, personagem de “Bodenlos”
Romy Fink (1912-1972) was a lawyer, an art dealer and an English mystic who lived in Brazil. Flusser understood Fink’s life as expressing the moral and existential values of Judaism.
A positividade da negação: o exílio de Flusser no Brasil
This text contextualizes Vilém Flusser’s exile in Brazil during the turbulent period of the civil-military uprising of the 1960s, both historiographically and philosophically. It focuses upon the Flusserian network and the discussions of his intellectual constellation. Flusser’s philosophical thoughts are examined through earlier writings including the books History of the Devil and Phenomenology of the Brazilian, in addition to essays published in newspapers, and to his personal correspondence. Interdiscoursive relations are further examined in reference to the writings of Ernesto Grassi and Ernst Jünger. Although Grassi and Jünger arrived in Brazil under different circumstances, they nevertheless introduced concepts that were somehow compatible with Flusser’s narrative of Brazilian history. Special attention is drawn to Flusser’s notion of “progress” and “history” in relation to the Cold War period.