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Martin Buber

The term “Buberty” was originally intended as pejorative. The historian of Judaism Gershom Scholem coined it to describe the rst stage of his enthusiasm for Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogic thinking. Vilém Flusser applies Buber’s theory to the technology-dependent communication of the twentieth century. In an interview with Patrik Tschudin, Flusser recalls a lecture Buber gave in Prague: “It became clear to me in that lecture what Buber meant by “I and thou,” what he meant by dialogic life. And so I gained an insight into the Judeo-Christian wisdom in which charity or altruism is the only path to God. Thanks to Buber, I also understood the prohibition against graven images in Judaism […]. The human being is a likeness of God. When I see the face of the other and open myself to the face of the other, it is the only form in which I can understand God. If I make other images alongside it, I block my path to the other and hence to the ‘entirely other.’” (Zwiegespräche, 1996, p. 203; translated from the German)

In this view, all images – whether photographs, films, or computer-generated images – block our view of the other. They prevent “serving God.” But it only seems so. For Flusser deliberately kept the concept of the symbol so ambivalent that symbols can indeed open up to the face of the other. On the one hand, Flusser understood a symbol to be one element in the encoding of an apparatus. In this sense, lm producers operate as technocrats when they put together images to stimulate consumption. On the other hand, the symbol also has a disruptive potential, which upsets consumers’ habits and calls for distancing oneself from habitual contexts. This distancing occurs in the act of the epoché. It is, on the one hand, a philosophical technique, but, on the other hand, it always sets in when an individual encounter takes place against the backdrop of the mass of all possible human contacts (Röller, “Kinotheorie in der ‘Bubertät,’” in: Schnitt, no. 24, 2001, p. 22).

Original article by Nils Röller

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