Abstract- Simone Osthoff

(full paper) http://hdl.handle.net/10002/444

Philosophizing in Translation: Vilém Flusser’s Brazilian Writings of the 1960s

Of the thirty-two years the original and controversial philosopher Vilém Flusser lived in Brazil—from 1940 to 1972 when he left the country to lead a truly nomadic international life of lectures and publications—the 1960s decade marked the incorporation of Portuguese into his philosophical practice, as well as his activist engagement with the effervescent cultural context of the era. Flusser’s first interest in the philosophy of language and communication is expressed by his first four books written in Portuguese and published in São Paulo between 1963 and 1967, as well as a number of articles for São Paulo newspapers, lectures, and his presence in philosophical and academic organizations in that city. His media philosophy and original visual thinking, made famous by his book Für eine Philosophie der Fotografie first published in Germany in 1983, theorized a larger epochal shift from industrial to information-digital culture, while advancing and urging an equally radical new Philosophy.
Contrary to the popular Brazilian belief (and colonialist mindset) that one philosophizes better in the German language, Flusser’s multidimensional philosophy, based on the fluidity of thought among multiple languages, states just the opposite. He found Portuguese—the language of his first involuntary exile, for instance—to be non-contaminated by traditional metaphysical terminology, and thus capable of becoming a true language for philosophy in the future. Flusser wrote primarily in German, Portuguese, English, and French, without privileging any of them as foundational. Bodenlos, meaning lack of foundation, is the title of his philosophical autobiography written in the early 1970s, but published after his death in Germany in 1992.
By exploring Flusser’s 1960s production, this paper seeks to further the links between his phenomenological approach to language and culture and his media theory, hopefully contributing with original material and insights to the growing scholarship on his ideas being simultaneously developed in Brazil, Europe, and the US.