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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) is, perhaps, the philosopher whose influence can be found most prominently throughout Vilém Flusser’s entire work, both explicitly and implicitly. An entire book written during Flusser’s first creative period, The History of the Devil (2014; Portuguese original 1965), is implicitly influenced by Hegel, and many aspects of its structure are reminiscent of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (German original 1807). In Flusser’s work, however, the phenomenology does not clearly indicate a progression of moments towards achieving absolute knowledge, because the figures that follow one another – in this case, the seven deadly sins: lust, anger, gluttony, envy, greed, pride, and laziness – suggest a more and more subjective spirituality, which culminates in a kind of absolute nonknowledge. The implicit Hegelian influence is clear insofar as Flusser’s reasoning suggests a dialectical progression of sins in which the preceding sin, faced with the danger of disappearing, turns into the sin that follows it. This conforms (admittedly quite loosely) to the threefold Hegelian structure: idea – standpoint – overcoming (in Hegel’s terms: intuition – understanding – self-consciousness, Anschauung – Verstand – Selbstbewusstsein).

Besides the almost entirely implicit presence of Hegel in Flusser’s work and his many direct references to the philosopher, there are many instances that manifestly bear all the hallmarks of Hegel, especially in relation to Flusser’s concept of culture as a consequence of work, perceived as a confrontation between humankind and nature. Two good examples (and from different periods) are provided by Bodenlos [No Firm Ground] (first version from 1973; published in 1992) and Vampyroteuthis Infernalis (first published in German in 1987).

In Bodenlos, Flusser refers to the confrontation between humankind and nature to lend dignity to the Brazilians: “Yet the comfortless result of this attempt to strike roots greatly contributed to the later commitment to Brazilian culture. Namely, people understood under ‘Brazilian culture’ the fight against Brazilian nature and this, above all, was the aspect of culture that attracted people the most.” (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 70; translated from the German). As for Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, the above-mentioned confrontation is an important differentiator between the octopods and humankind: “[…] although we may come to despise the objective world as much as Vampyroteuthis despises it […], we emerge, as opposed to him, from a struggle against objects that has taken tens of thousands of years. This struggle and the experiences acquired during it are stored in our memory but not in his. We have engaged in this struggle against objects in cooperation with all other men, and have been able to emerge victorious only due to this cooperation.” (Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, 2011, pp. 115–116).

There is a pattern of explicit citations to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit throughout Flusser’s entire work, which refers exactly to the precise notion of work described in Hegel’s work, mentioned above, as well as emphasizing the danger that the I–world dialectic, or the I losing the world, or getting lost in the world holds.

Original article by Lucia Leão

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