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responsibility

Responsibility

Our world order is not an objective given; it is determined by us. That is why we can no longer view ourselves as subjects using culturally transmitted skills to relate and adapt to the world’s objects. It follows that self-knowledge is no longer defined by knowledge of an objective world, but by acknowledgement of the other. For Vilém Flusser, responsibility is the decision to be, in one’s projections of oneself and the world, open and answerable to other people (The Shape of Things, 1999, p. 59).

As a site of responsibility, however, this concrete “we” of a consciously self-oblivious and creative dialogue seems to be short-lived (Vom Subjekt zum Projekt, 1994, p. 126). The self-designing, self-projecting self seems untenable. But for Flusser, self-transcendence does not mean the elimination of the self: freedom without firm ground (bodenlos) lies not in “cutting ties to others” (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 253; translated from the German), but in connections consciously taken up, in responsibility freely taken on. Self-oblivion, absorption into the “we,” is not a losing of the self, but rather a conscious overcoming of the belief in a sealed-off “I” sanctified by objective givenness: a playful finding of the self in the other.

For Flusser it is precisely the realization that all the organizing principles underlying the appropriation of the world are “projections from a temporary consensus” (Vom Subjekt zum Projekt, p. 27; translated from the German) that contains the freedom to engage in the process of formulating communal meaning in relationships of responsibility. Because it is technologically possible to reverse the flow of information, he says, we can no longer rely on authority as a supposedly enduring, objective bearer of responsibility; a new form of responsibility is now to be found in networking with our fellow humans in various groups, contributing our individual capabilities in specific ways and continually expanding them through the give and take of answerability.

Original article by Steffi Winkler in Flusseriana

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responsibility.txt · Last modified: 2023/03/12 17:32 (external edit)