Dialectic is not one of Flusser’s basic concepts, and yet it can be described as one of his methodological premises. Vilém Flusser’s “dialectical conflict” (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 21; translated from the German) – because of his origins and as a multilingual intellectual – leads to his philosophy. Flusser writes as an émigré about the inner dialectic of the assimilation process and of his ironic distance resulting from it. Taking his experience of exile in Brazil as his starting point, Flusser develops his critique of linearity and his analysis of the decline of the culture of writing using the example of the Portuguese language. In the process, he declares his mastering of Brazilian Portuguese and bilingualism to be the subjective side of the dialectic (ibid., p. 79). According to Flusser, that side is opposed by the objective side of the dialectic, where the Portuguese language has to be treated using different methods than those for English or German.
The dialectic of surface and line, of image and concept (Lob der Oberächlichkeit, 1993, p. 68), of image and text as the springboard of Western history becomes his theme. According to Flusser, images suffer from an internal dialectic. Technical images such as photographs are, for him, texts. The gesture of photography becomes the metaphor for the dual dialectic of intention and various viewpoints; it corresponds to the gesture of doubt and hence to philosophy (Gesten, 1991, p. 135).
Flusser’s philosophy of communication is based on the interplay of dialogue and discourse. Unlike in Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment (German original 1944/1947), for Flusser these two models are complementary. Discourse stores and disseminates data, and dialogue ensures that new information is introduced into a system. Dialogue is understood as a process in which information distributed among different memories is synthesized into new information in a dialectic sense (“Dialogische Medien,” in: Kommunikologie, 1996, pp. 286–299). Philosophy works out forms of thought by combining the dialectic of observation and experiment.
Original article by Angela Lammert in Flusseriana