The Novel Called “Science” / Der Roman der Wissenschaft
In these two essays that were originally written for the French journal Crises, Flusser discusses the relationship between science and fiction. Both texts are preceded by an epigraph that reappears in Angenommen (1989), Isaac Newton’s “Hypotheses non fingo.” This means that they were probably written in the late 1980s within the context of Angenommen. The history of science can be conceived as a powerful drama, an irresistible constantly swelling river flowing towards the all-encompassing ocean of knowledge. But this history can also be described as a series of answers to fundamental questions: what for, why and how. It has become increasingly clear that the only important questions are not final or causal questions, but formal questions. The universe of scientific discourse is a fiction, a game, which is ultimately an absurd game. “Newton was still able to say that he did not invent his hypotheses freely. Such metaphysical faith in a concrete reality which sustains science has become untenable ever since Kant. […] An inversion of the vectors of significance is in the making: no longer does scientific discourse mean the world, but the concrete world now means the universe of formal discourse. […] Such a view shows science to be a novel in two different meanings of that term: Its history is a novel of questioning, and its result is the transformation of concrete reality into science fiction.”
Angenommen (Vermutung, jetzt!) /Angenommen – Kurz und gut / Now suppose / Angenommen. Einleitende Bedenken / Angenommen. Einleitung / Suppose that. Preliminary doubts / Suponhamos. Dùvidas preliminaries /Suppose that. Introductory considerations / ...
The first text published here, “Angenommen (Vermutung jetzt!)”, is a German translation of “Now suppose” with an introductory comment by William Hanff. It is possibly one of the seeds from which the other texts we are publishing here originated and at the same time the initial spark for the idea of a special issue about Flusser’s book Angenommen. The Portuguese and the English versions of Angenommen, which consist only of nine scenarios, were not finished. On the other hand, Flusser wrote two German versions, a first incomplete one and a second one with the final twenty-two scenarios. In preparation for the book edition of Angenommen, Flusser wrote several short essays and opening chapters in German, English, and Portuguese, constantly changing the title, the subtitle, and the content. Some of these texts bear an epigraph by Isaac Newton – “Hypotheses non fingo” – some do not. This quote was later included in the first German edition of the book published in 1989. The first two essays of this series are probably “Angenommen” and “Now suppose”. They are longer than most of the following texts and have the same beginning. However, the English version, that is slightly shorter and was most probably written after the German one, introduces on the second page the notion of an armed terrorist running towards the future. In the following versions, this image was moved to the beginning. Two more German versions, “Angenommen. Einleitung” and “Angenommen. Einleitende Bedenken” followed, along with two related English versions, “Suppose that. Preliminary doubts” and “Suppose that. Introductory considerations”, as well as a Portuguese variant, “Suponhamos. Dùvidas preliminaries”. Add to this the short essay “What if? A series of scenarios in search of images” and two other related texts “Randerscheinungen” and “Kurz und gut” which was published in “zeitmitschrift. Journal für Ästhetik & Politik” (7/1, 1990: 16–22). A polyglot parallel reading of all the different variants of the opening chapter and the other related texts that finally led to the publication of Angenommen in 1989 allows a fascinating insight into the hesitations and complexities of Flusser’s self-translating writing process.
Poetisches Ent-werfen. Vilém Flussers Bildungsbegriff?
This paper examines Vilém Flusser´s work for its an educational view. The untranslatable German term Bildung will be the point of reference for this paper. Following this approach, the question is how humanity can be humanity, how humanity can conserve or transform the idea of humanity in a culture of digitality. In the first chapter, the terms “critique” and “doubt” are discussed since these serve as a basis for Bildung. In the context of Flusser's thought, critique and doubt even serve as the basis of human beings in general. The ability to criticize one´s society is what constitutes a human. The second chapter then introduces Flusser's ideas of project, a matter of “ent‑werfen” – loosely, “pro-jecting” oneself into society. Flusser is following Heidegger's idea of “ent‑werfen,” which is in turn related to the idea of poesis. Poesis as a project will then be discussed as a means human beings have of changing their society. Poesis means to create the world. The conclusion focuses on the German idea of Bildung with a reference to Flusser. It shows the outstanding relevance of his thinking as well as the special relevance of Flussers works for the concept of Bildung.
An Improbable Science Fiction
The essay explores Flusser’s thoughts on both the literary genre of science fiction, as understood by Suvin and Jameson, and the employment of fiction in science, an idea that can be traced back to Vaihinger’s scientific fictions. Texts such as The History of the Devil, “O bicho de sete cabeças” [The seven-headed beast], and “Science Fiction” are analyzed and compared, attentive to the philosophic and scientific insights informing them. Flusser believed most science fiction is banal (The History of the Devil) and, following information theory, proposed the genre should turn towards the possible, yet unlikely. He believed science fiction could be more than a mere empty diversion, a “turning aside from the original course”, and could actually become a window for us to see our future (“O bicho de sete cabeças”). In “Science Fiction”, he frames his topic more as a gray zone between science and imagination than as a literary genre. Fiction as epistemology. In this understanding of the term, the philosopher also links science fiction with the question of technical images, for he believes we are more likely to find it in synthetic images and computer algorithms than in texts. The present essay goes on to throw some light on the relationship between science fiction and real science, as well as between science fiction and the future. The impossibility of predicting the future is identified as a question pertinent to both science fiction and philosophy of science, and is explored through works of Hume, Meillassoux, Taleb, Bergson, and Berardi.
“Documentar algo que no existe”: los modelos discursivos como apparatus en Vampyroteuthis Infernalis
The concept of “apparatus”, proposed by Vilém Flusser in his Towards a Philosophy of Photography, implies an analysis of the “production logic” of the artistic work, which Flusser proposed thinking about photography. However, this concept also offers a possibility of reading his Vamyproteuhis Infernalis as a rebellion against the discursive rules that themselves work as an “apparatus” . By questioning the rules of scientific, philosophical, didactic and literary discourses, Flusser plays with the mechanisms of the discourse and deactivates their automatisms. This leads to questions like the boundaries of art, creation as a form of knowledge, or imitation and scientific study of reality as a need in artistic, literary creation, and methodologies of “scientific creation”.
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.
Fiktions des Wissenschaft – Is Science Fiction Translatable? or is Translation a Science Fiction?
Vilém Flusser’s 1988 short essay Science Fiction explores two strategies of science and fiction as science, and provides clues to his process of translating and retranslating his own work. Flusser explains two different praxes that lead to an essential paradox, and that this two-sided approach is equivalent to Leonardo da Vinci’s fantasia essata, an ‘exacting fantasy’. For Flusser, Science Fiction is a ‘Technik’ in the truest sense of the word, and his theory and praxis of science fiction can be applied to his use of translation. While he allows for an ‘inexactitude’ in science, science fiction and translation – an ‘Ungenauigkeit’ that allows a space for exploration – he still engaged in translation, using this practice throughout his career. It is odd then, that he did not take the time to translate and reevaluate his 1988 lecture Science Fiction. Both translation and science fiction can exist as a kind of Technofantasy as proposed by Don Ihde, but one where Flusser’s two fiction-in-science strategies to approaching truth (“Wahrheit”) in science (“Wissenschaft”) are analogous to Hans Vaihinger’s two categories of fictions: ‘figments’ as imaginary fantasy, and ‘fictions’ as falsifiable conjecture. Both allow for a more nuanced sliding suspension of disbelief that is liminal and active in the human practice of finding meaning in information. This is not a subliminal hidden individual practice, nor is it hyper-liminal collective-unconscious of an overall audience knowledge – but both. This double-edged practice is baked into how narrative and scientific method’s dialectic have evolved and replicated across history particularly through translation. Using both Vaihinger’s Philosophy of ‘As-If’ and Ihde’s conceptions of Postphenomenology this research seeks approaches to translation and science fictions in Flusser’s works. It will then reconnect to the original 1988 essay linking Flusser’s ideas of science fiction and translation and the struggle with translating thought, science and fictions.
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.
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.
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.