Vilém Flusser declines his concepts – “models”
of time, in his words – following his media paradigms.
Thus, for those writing with historical
consciousness, the referent is linear time. It
ows from the past into the future – in a torrent
that “sweeps all things along with it” (Krise der
Linearität, 1992, p. 17; translated from the German).
During prehistory, when images predominated,
time still circled futurelessly in eternal
recurrence. Following a gradual process of abstraction,
the post-historical universe of dots
introduces a future that is an adventure awaiting
us, an inundation of possibilities.
Had Flusser, the translator and juggler of languages
and media practices, lived to see his future
– the 1990s and the start of the twenty-first
century – and, with it, the first peaks in the futures
market, he would have found an opening,
playing off Thales of Miletus and his futures
trading, to consider the origins of philosophy
and its commingling with economics in its human-
despising aspect. Speculative commodity
trading causes food prices to rise, driving millions
into poverty and many of those millions into
Through the voids of the possibilities realized in
the Flusserian future – the advent, the adventure
– death can be seen. Visible therein is the other
and what Flusser calls responsibility. Futures, on
the other hand, reveal that the wealth of inundant
possibilities shall remain denied to the other. By
contrast, the gaps between, in which death is realized
with painful ubiquity, are enormous.
One of Flusser’s contemporaries, Emmanuel Levinas, another thinker in the diaspora, described the future as “[…] what is not grasped, what befalls us […]. The other is the future.” (Levinas, Time and the Other, 1987, p. 77) In his own future, Flusser would have called for philosophy to take a step back from speculative narcissism, for a philosophy that does not squander itself as an end in itself, but rather fulfills its responsibility to make the future of the other possible.
Original article by Silvia Wagnermaier