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A Modest Proposal for the Saponification of Fats: On the Role of Satire in Vilém Flusser’s Work

The starting point of this essay is an interview with Andreas Müller-Pohle and Volker Rapsch (August 1988), in which Flusser defined his writing style as satirical and Vampyroteuthis infernalis as a satirical text. In the interview, Flusser also speaks of academic seriousness as a role to be played, questioning simple notions of authorial objectivity. Flusser’s comment has far reaching consequences for the interpretation of his other writings and raises a series of questions: Was he trying to influence the reception of his new book Angenommen that would be published only one year later, or did he want to reorient the way his books were being read in Germany at the time? Is there an ironical, fabulatory undertone in all his writings even those considered to be straightforward comments on communication and media theory? The first part of the essay discusses some elements of Flusser’s use of satire and compares his short satirical text “Verseifung” (Saponification) with Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal”. The second part deals with Flusser’s satirical use of animal characters (ants, unicorns, the taenia solium, and the imaginary hybrid creature Bibliophagus convictus) in his philosophical fables and their relationship to the Vampyroteuthis infernalis.

A Modest Proposal (PDF 865.42 KB)

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 849.57 KB)


The following is an excerpt from Anne Popiel’s book Of Pixels and Particles. The digital connection between nature and art in Vilém Flusser’s philosophy . Published in 2012, it explores metaphorical connections between sand grains, droplets, bits, pixels and particles, linking the ocean of the Vampyroteuthis to moving sand dunes and the screen of the computer. “Flusser’s response to groundlessness is to create one’s own ground out of thin air, modeled by oceans, squids, spider webs and sand” (Popiel 2012: 14). His “metaphors translating sand grains into pixels and wind turbulence into algorithms highlight the digital structures present in both nature and computer technology that create an environment conducive to the spontaneous emergence of new order” (ibid.:54).

Sand (PDF 338.28 KB)

Vilém Flussers Bild-Theorie. Zur Philosophie des technischen Bildes ausgehend von der Fotografie

Towards a Philosophy of Photography presents all aspects of Flusser’s theory of technical images as well as the images’ ambivalence and paradoxes: the relation of writing and image from a historical and a post-historical perspective, the definition of technical images as images of concepts and as products of the (here: photographic) apparatus. The starting point of this approach to the photographic image is meta-theoretical: Flusser’s philosophical method oscillates between ‘telling stories’, a philosophical argumentation in the tradition of phenomenology, language philosophy and structuralism, a specific use of metaphors – and often together with Flusser’s own reflections of his ‘stories’, of ‘method’ and ‘metaphors’. This article explores Flusser’s philosophy as a field of intertwined ‘layers’ of argumentation that overlap in Flusser’s search for a new philosophy, corresponding with the new kind of images he proposes: a new philosophy in or through images. From this perspective, the shift from writing to image is accomplished by a shift from meta-theory to a ‘dia’ philosophy (Dieter Mersch), referring to the ‘metaphorological’ dimension of Flusser’s texts and his ‘gestures’.

Bild-Theorie (PDF 358.3 KB)