Vilém Flusser’s thinking is fundamentally informed
by philosophical existentialism (Karl
Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus) and
existential philosophy (Martin Heidegger). At the
same time, his work springs from the tragic experience
of exile. Like other Jewish philosophers
of the twentieth century (Hannah Arendt, Max
Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, and others),
Flusser placed the Holocaust at the center of his
thinking and treated the expulsion of the Jews
as one of the major features of that thinking.
His autobiography, Bodenlos [No Firm Ground]
(1992), is an avowal of existentialism’s insights in
relation to the loss of all ties, the utter absurdity
of what had taken place, the thoughts of suicide,
and the need to decide between engagement and
Flusser’s 1967 essay collection Da Religiosidade [On Religiosity] contains thematic intimations of all these problems, and the brief autobiographical sketch “Em Busca de Significado” (1969), published in English in 2002 as “In Search of Meaning (Philosophical Self-Portrait),” touches on the very early existential influence of José Ortega y Gasset and of Franz Kafka, who, like Flusser in his book The History of the Devil (2014), sought to reach God by way of Satan (Da Religiosidade, 1967, p. 53). Flusser’s existentialist worldview is also underscored by his highlighting of post-history as “an existence in a world of absurd chance” (Nachgeschichte, 1993, p. 195; translated from the German)*.
Throughout his life Flusser remained a thinker of the absurd; of doubt; of the impossibility and, therefore, the dignity of freedom (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 190); of the religiousness which arises, he says, from the lack of firm ground (Bodenlosigkeit) (ibid., p. 10); and of the anchorlessness that, according to his theory of writing, is characteristic of the telematic society. The continuing retreat of the hand – the transition from things (forms) to nonthings (information) – is a further indication of the existential content of Flusserian thought.
* Editorial note: This passage does not exist in the English edition.
Original article by Dirk-Michael Hennrich in Flusseriana