Animals, especially marine creatures, always fascinated Vilém Flusser. Probably the most famous of these is the main character of his unusual book, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis (2011–2012), a gigantic squid that lives in abysmal caves on the bottom of the ocean and uses bioluminescence to move about in absolute darkness. Flusser’s interest in animality emerged at the latest in 1964. In his article “Um Mundo Fabuloso” [A Fabulous World], published in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo (1964, reprinted in: Ficções Filosóficas, 1998), experience with animals is presented in a way that would become characteristic of Flusser’s work as a whole: as a dialogue between a human individual and diverse possible antipodes. When compared in a debate about evolutionary superiority, the squid, the tapeworm, and the human embryo display qualities that could earn each one of them the distinction of supreme perfection. Using mechanisms of the logical converse and by constantly addressing the characteristics of animal life, the philosopher questions a series of humanist conditions that have characterized Western thinking throughout much of its history.
In his book Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, Flusser uses the squid as an allegory of a possible human future altered by technology. Biology is transformed into a philosophical instrument, “because it provides us with an almost mythical model of life’s unrealized possibilities” (Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, 2012, p. 73). The animal thus appears as a figuration of future and technological (posthuman) possibilities as well as an otherness that demands our respect and admiration. In this sense, one could say that Flusser was working on questions that only became part of the general repertoire of theory in the late 1990s: posthumanism and animal studies.