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