As early as Da Religiosidade [On Religiosity], Vilém Flusser declares that existentialism has failed since it is incapable of formulating values (Da Religiosidade, 1967, p. 76). Flusser thus positions himself as a thinker who both recognizes and seeks to overcome the problem of any type of ethics in an era devoid of firm ground (Bodenlosigkeit). His unceasing engagement with religion points to an unease about a world without values.
In this context, the thinking and axiology of Miguel Reale must also be mentioned as an important influence (Reale, Pluralismo e Liberdade, 1963). Both Reale and Flusser deal with the fundamental concepts of all systems of ethics: with “historicity,” “responsibility,” and “liberty” (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 189; translated from the German). In addition to these, Flusser also focuses on the concepts of “having no rm ground,” “altruism,” and “commitment” as further coordinates; he does not, however, develop a self-contained ethics of values, since he distrusts all systems and totalitarianisms. Rather, his ethics must be understood as an ethics of the shipwrecked in the age of telematic navigation.
In the anchorless and groundless universe of the technological imagination, the altruism to which Flusser draws our attention plays the central role. The ability to freely choose one’s fellow man and assume total responsibility for him remains the critical factor. This entails a nonterminable willingness to engage in dialogue, as well as mutual recognition in a network of dialogues. The ethical content of Flusser’s thinking also includes his emphasis on doubt and irony, qualities that shine through in his philosophical fictions. Doubt frees humans from their prejudices, while irony provides cohesion in the midst of drift.
Original article by Dirk-Michael Hennrich in Flusseriana