Logic, what an illusion – as if the world were really logical. We have lost faith in this, wrote the young Vilém Flusser to his friend Alex Bloch in 1951. The attempt to reduce our comprehension of the world to logical formulas, he says, has brought Europeans to the brink of an abyss of “emptiness in the face of structural beauty” (Briefe an Alex Bloch, 2000, p. 13; translated from the German), revealing our intent to create structure and making us both “the most decadent preservers” and “the very first pioneers” (ibid.; translated from the German). In seeking the order underlying the world, we have become aware of our own acts of ordering. There can be no identification of ultimate, objective truths about the way the world is. What remains, instead, is merely the certainty that our world is our own creation, a shared interpretation against chaos and transience (Kommunikologie, 1996, p. 259).
On the one hand, Flusser views the Aristotelian logical method as unassailable, since the act of thinking in sentence-forming language is syllogistic; in this sense, logic is needed because “everything follows automatically from the definition [of terms]” (Briefe an Alex Bloch, p. 37; translated from the German). This self-referential mirroring would signify a loss of faith, however, if, “at the foundations” of the world, science merely discovered “the rules of its own texts – that is, logic and mathematics” (“Ikonoklastie,” in: Hanke and Winkler, Vom Begriff zum Bild, 2013, p. 25; translated from the German). On the other hand, it is clear that logic is only one way of gaining access to the world. Flusser agrees with Ludwig Wittgenstein: there are limits to the sayable, limits to what can be reasonably expressed in the code of writing.
But Flusser sees a radically new option emerging: Thanks to computational imagination, “we are now capable of turning our thoughts into images” (“Krise der Linearität,” lecture, Kunstmuseum Bern, March 20, 1988; translated from the German) – whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must no longer remain silent. In the epochal shift from mythos to logos, alphabetic writing disciplined language much as formal logic disciplined thinking – suppressing other capacities for thought in the process. In this, Flusser sees a parallel to our own situation: We, too, are living through a revolution of our communicative codes. This makes us pioneers.
Original article by Steffi Winkler in Flusseriana