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Thinking Plurality. Vilém Flusser and Michel Serres: A philosophical convergence

This essay compares Vilém Flusser’s and Michel Serres’s notion of plurality. Flusser’s and Serres’s writing and thinking are strikingly similar even if they radically diverge on some points. For both philosophers, thinking is not a linear progression that moves straight ahead along a simple line, but a journey full of meandering and surprising twists and turns, which can lead back on its tracks. To describe this complex contradictory movement, Flusser uses the spatial metaphors of the circle and the spiral. This is best exemplified in his practice of multiple translations and retranslations, and the Jewish method of Pilpul. Serres, on the other hand, uses the metaphors of the randonnée – a random stroll across a landscape –, the wild flight of a wasp and the unfolding and refolding of a plane of dough. Both authors reject a view of reality based on a single centralized point of view, an umbilical vision of the world, as Serres called it. They both question systematic thinking and favor theoretical plurality and openness. In Flusser’s view, synthesis brings points of view together that often radically differ from each other. For Serres synthesis is a cluster of differentiated but organized relations. Flusser’s and Serres´s thinking is non-linear, non-hierarchical and always open-ended, a proliferation of fixed points to infinity. For both thinkers these different points of view are equally valid.

Thinking Plurality (PDF 817.51 KB)

Denken neu denken mit Vilém Flusser

Flusser suggests synthetic images may free us from the tyranny of linear thinking, whilst calling upon us to engage actively in the new ‘Einbildungskraft’ or techno-imagination. The innovative dimension of this new form of synthesizing information might be the transcending, overcoming or undermining of dualistic patterns of thought. ‘Dedicated to synthesis of contrasts’ (1949) Flusser not only translated between cultural poles but strove for a ‘method of cognition [...] with aesthetic qualities’, ‘which extends beyond philosophy’ (1951). His poetically composed philosophy transcends the traditional opposition of art and philosophy. Yet, as ‘every technical revolution induces a new mankind which again designs a new technique’ (1991), the challenge facing us is more than merely thinking and acting in new technical ways, we must deliberately co-design. Thus, the transformation at hand may be discussed as a shift away from the dominance of thinking in dichotomies, indicating an interrelational understanding of the (re)programming of our environments and of ourselves in dialogue.

Denken neu denken (PDF 248.56 KB)

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