Wouter Kusters: A Philosophy of Madness: The Experience of Psychotic Thinking

A Philosophy of Madness: The Experience of Psychotic Thinking Book Cover A Philosophy of Madness: The Experience of Psychotic Thinking
Wouter Kusters. Translated by Nancy Forest-Flier
The MIT Press
2020
Hardback $39.95
768

Reviewed by: Thomas Froy

Wouter Kusters’ ‘Philosophy of Madness’ is difficult to classify. This is probably the point. This enormous work – the full text reaches 738 pages – draws from sources diverse as Plotinus, Sartre, Eastern mysticism, personal testimonies, free associative prose and more; some canonical, some obscure, some empirical, some fictional. It’s difficult, too, among this mass of material, to discern the author’s intentions. Kusters states his explicit intentions quite often, but these statements often contradict each other, remain unfulfilled and unexplained. Gradually, what becomes clear, however – and this is perhaps the overarching theme of the book – is that Kusters’ doesn’t want to be classified.

Insofar as the author and his work reject classification, this book positions itself in a certain post-Foucauldian, anti-psychiatric tradition, which includes figures such as R.D Laing and Thoms Szaz. Psychiatry, writes Kusters, is largely “unable or unwilling to understand madness … [psychiatrists] hold it in contempt or even fear it while at the same time boasting about their “expertise” because they are thought to be able to explain or effectively subdue it” (Kusters 2020: 64). The inability or unwillingness to understand madness which Kusters identifies in psychiatrists and the psychiatric tradition as a whole is thus counterposed to the author’s own comprehensive and emancipatory ambitions: at one point, Kusters writes that the book aims to “alleviate psychosis and emancipate the psychotic person from medical classifications” (Ibid., xv). This work thus shares with many others in the anti-psychiatric genre an allegiance to what might be considered the more Romantic aspects of Foucault’s early work on madness: philosophy and madness are uniquely positioned to emancipate each other from their institutional imprisonments.

Kusters subject, then, is madness, and his aim is emancipation. ‘Madness’ is a rough translation of the Dutch ‘waanzin’; Kusters’ previous works include (as yet untranslated) Pure waanzin (2013) which recounts his personal experiences of psychosis, episodes to which he returns frequently, both as source for philosophical reflection and direct citation (Kusters is no stranger to self-citation, including sizeable passages from previous work, semi-fictional prose and passages which appear to be expressions of his own paranoid fears). Philosophy, for Kusters, is uniquely positioned to gain insights into the experience of madness, and madness into philosophy. The book can thus be understood as a dialogue between madness and reason, in which both slowly unwind and unhinge the other. The process of unwinding and unhinging will gradually lead each toward emancipation from their origins toward freedom.

The opposition between madness and reason – as well as his emancipatory aspirations – does not, however, lead Kusters to a confrontation with the concerns raised, about Foucault’s work, by Jacques Derrida. ‘Cogito and the History of Madness’ (Derrida: 1978), an essay originally delivered as a lecture, warns that any author, including Foucault, who aspires to emancipation from their chains risks reinterning the mad in the institution of philosophy. Already 60 years ago, then, the difficulties associated with semi-Romantic aspirations toward emancipation from the institution of psychiatry have been available to the reader, and presumably to Kusters himself. The consequence of Derrida’s confrontation with Foucault, consequently, are that if Kusters sets his sights on liberation from the prison of psychiatry – with its associated “medical jargon … supposedly objective labels and descriptions, and behind risk management, fear, and attitudes” (xvi) – he will have to be cautious not to reproduce that other trick of reconfinement. Emancipation demands, on the one hand, a rigorous distinction between, on the one hand, the domain from which the emancipated will escape (psychiatry) and on the other hand, the domain into which the mad will arrive. If no rigorous distinction is established, it may remain unclear whether liberation has occurred, and where the liberated find themselves as a result. Consequently, the risk is that madness may be liberated from psychiatry, but reinterned with philosophy.

Indeed, Kusters constructs a yawning chasm between the domains of madness and philosophy. “Madness is kept out of bounds as a nadir of meaninglessness, a breeding ground for unreal apparitions, chimeras, and sham” (2). However, this chasm does not present any obstacles to repeated definitions, in highly philosophical terms, of the essence of madness. On the contrary, despite Kusters’ repeated and clearly stated opposition to psychiatric definitions of madness, he displays no aversion to a philosophical classification of madness: psychosis is defined as “the desire for “the desire for infinity and absolute freedom” (xvii); madness is the experience of “trying to resolve the most fundamental questions of existence but in an uncontrolled, wildly associative way. You want to know what it’s all about, what good and evil are, what is at the very heart of existence: you want to know the meaning of life and the cosmos” (xxiii), and so on.

Not only does this appear to be in contradiction with the author’s stated opposition to classificatory jargon, but also with his declaration that he does not intend to contribute to classifications of madness (4). Since Kusters does not engage – at least, not explicitly – with the concerns Derrida raises about emancipatory critiques of institutions, it’s difficult to know where Kusters stands. It appears that he takes no issue with liberating madness from psychiatric definitions by means of firmly subjecting madness to philosophical definitions. As such, it remains, from start to finish, difficult – mystifying, perhaps maddeningly so – to divine precisely what Kusters’ aim – in terms of method or subject matter – might be.

This mad road is trod by a series of associations or identifications between philosophical notions and Kusters ideas about madness. For the most part, these associations are drawn from canonical works of Western philosophy – Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre – and form the comparative structure of the book. Oppositions and comparisons are drawn from a huge number of texts in order to define, describe, and refine Kusters idea of the relation between madness and philosophy. The discourse is highly conceptual, dealing primarily with time and space. Aristotelian time, for example, is considered exemplary of the ‘normal’ attitude and can be juxtaposed with “mad crystal time”: normal time is chronological, while mad time might be circular, or perhaps everything happens at once (89-105). Although he states, early on, that madness and philosophy have appeared as each other’s enemies (p2), this does not mean that they cannot speak to each other, and inform our understanding of both; Aristotle may represent a spokesperson of normal experience at one point, and then an exemplar of insanity at another. As the book progresses, Kusters writes, oppositions will collapse and contradictions will multiply meaning that the reader will be “seduced seduced into identifying even more with the madman and letting himself be transported down a ‘stream’ of madness” (18).

In Part One, Kusters’ comparisons are most commonly within in the phenomenological tradition. Chapters One and Two give describe normal and mad experiences of perception, with citations drawn primarily from Edmund Husserl’s The Phenomenology of Internal-Time Consciousness. Beginning with what Kusters takes to be a Husserlian phenomenological description of experience, the normal perception of time can be characterized as Aristotelian – continuous – while the mad experience of time is circular (45-52). Chapters Three and Four subsequently develop phenomenologies of space and time, citing Husserl, Paul Ricoeur’s notion of ‘static time’ (94-6), as well as Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s analysis of schizophrenia (98). Rather than subject each citation to analysis, Kusters’ approach is closer to compilation: long passages are introduced with a brief remark indicating that the text is ‘another example of’ of Kusters’ theory of madness, and rarely followed with any interpretation. Husserl, Ricoeur and Merleau-Ponty are not subjected to interpretation or criticism, but rather contribute insights to the growing understanding of madness. Given this lack critical engagement, it’s difficult to discern Kusters’ own understanding of these texts. The specific texts are not selected for any stated reason, other than the evocation of a certain phenomenological experience: Kusters frequently introduces texts by describing them as “examples” of the conceptual terms or neologisms which characterize madness.

Martin Heidegger’s phenomenological work is given slightly less attention, and this represents something of a missed opportunity. Insofar as the assumption that phenomenological analysis of a subject’s experience can give us insight into their world is one of the key – if unstated – presuppositions of Kusters’ interest in phenomenology, the lack of engagement with Heidegger’s thinking is a shortcoming. Contemporary thinkers, such as Havi Carel, draw extensively from Heidegger’s rethinking of the spatio-temporal essence of being in order to give a clear picture of the situation and experience of an ill person (Carel 2016). Kusters’ constructions of a series of oppositions and comparisons between normal and abnormal experiences precisely mirrors the work done by post-Heideggerian phenomenologists, especially those working on the experience of mental and physical illnesses.

Part II – Chapters Five to Eight – shifts away from, without leaving, the explicitly phenomenological discourse toward Kusters’ interest in mysticism. Mystical experiences, he argues, are highly comparable with experiences of insanity, insofar as both provide an escape from the normal experience of the world. To some extent, Part II is continuous with Part I: those abnormal perceptions evoked by phenomenology are described more richly in Kusters’ selections from the mystical tradition; the experience of time, for example, may not only become non-continuous but also more intense. Kusters names four processes – ‘Detachment’, ‘Demagination’, ‘Dethinking’, ‘Delanguization’ – in which mysticism can lead the reader further along the path of madness. Here, Kusters draws most consistently from Plotinus: various long passages are drawn from his corpus and cited as instances of each process. Again, Kusters leaves Plotinus’ words largely unexamined, preferring to compile texts rather than subject them to analysis.

In Part III, Kusters describes a series of delusions: ‘The Uni-Delusion’, ‘The Esse-Delusion’, ‘The Ω-Delusion’ and ‘The Ø-Delusion’. Like the mystic processes, the removal of delusions will open the door and lead the reader down the path of madness. The ‘opening door’ motif, an explicit reference to Aldous Huxley’s writings on psychedelia, chimes with the earlier engagement with phenomenology: the experience of madness expands and reformulates our understanding in the world by breaking through the normal limits and parameters of thought. In this part of the book, the content shifts from canonical philosophy toward logical paradoxes, reflections on LSD, and extracts from fictional works. Kusters describes his process as being increasingly illogical, both in terms of content and form; the gradual destructuration and unravelling should mirror the experience of going mad.

Part IV extends Part III’s interest in paradoxes, aiming to cement Kusters’ idea that the process of philosophizing – be it about space and time, or the prisoner’s dilemma, or nothing at all – may lead the philosopher into madness. In this regard, Part IV is continuous with the previous parts of the book, insofar as the style is consistently compilatory. A number of the same ideas reappear in each part – madness, perception, space, time – but Kusters does not construct a theory of any of these; he merely cites, compares and collects interesting insights into various aspects of what he considers to be madness. On the one hand, this is clearly deliberate and fulfils his refusal to produce a systematic classification of psychosis; on the other hand, compilatory theory does not clearly present the author’s own position. The enormous range of sources are merely included within the ever expanding portrait of madness: the pieces collect without anything resembling structural relation or connection. The consequence of this is that the reader rarely gets Kusters’ own perspective: canonical texts – Plato, Descartes, Sartre, Husserl – are cited at length and pass without comment. Many readers will already be familiar with this works, and less familiar with Kusters’ own thinking: ‘A Philosophy of Madness’ is generous in material, less so when it comes to the author’s actual perspective, ideas, or interpretations of these widely-read traditional texts.

With this in mind, Part IV represents a substantial step within the work’s development: as noted above, Kusters remains highly elusive – perhaps difficult – in submitting to a simple characterization of his intentions. In addition, although the Chapters interweave and interconnect in both style and content, Kusters rarely gives any sense that his theory is building toward any conclusion or system. Chapter 14’s reading of Charles Taylor’s work – specifically the opposition between the bordered and the porous self – substantially revises this non-systematic approach. The compilatory method remains – Taylor’s thinking is merely another example – but Taylor’s thinking on reenchantment radically reorients the purpose of the book. ‘A Philosophy of Madness’ clearly signals its disinterest in contributing to a classificatory theory of madness, and Chapter 14 is consistent with this insofar as, at this late stage, it suddenly becomes clear that Kusters is writing a book about enchantment.

The portrait of madness Kusters presents is so unsystematic and incoherent – I believe, deliberately so – it’s difficult to think that his intention is to present anything like a new understanding of madness. Instead, ‘madness’ – and all the processes and experiences which come along with it – is a placename for reenchantment. Kusters collects and compares a huge range of oppositions between normal and abnormal experiences: madness represents an opportunity to be led out of our compartmentalized, limited, singular selves into a new understanding of the world and our place in it. Becoming mad opens the self to a massively enriched and enhanced relationship with worldly phenomena, as well as new possibilities for different and rewarding interactions with everything around about.

Kusters introduces Taylor’s porous self – open and in dialogue with the world outside – as a comparative example with madness, and in this regard, makes explicit the analogy between going mad and reenchantment. However, Kusters does not suggest that this is the comparison which should frame the work. Like Taylor, Kusters sees the contemporary world as a difficult and unwelcoming world, unwilling to accept the insights (even the existence) of the mad enchanters.  Yet the advantages of living as a Taylorian porous self are numerous and many are shared with the madman: the world becomes infused with numerous and diverse meanings (531); greater intimacy with one’s feelings (534-5); greater receptivity (547), and so on.

Despite the apparent proximity of identity between the mad and the enchanted, Kusters does not dwell on this, nor does he explicitly outline what I understand to be the essential affinity described between the processes of madness and of reenchantment. ‘A Philosophy of Madness’ frequently returns to its disinterest in classification, systematicity and structure; it is possible, however, that this lack of focus may prevent the reader from recognizing some of the greater themes and purposes of the book. I suggest, in light of this, that interpreting Kusters’ thinking on madness as a longer meditation on the possibilities of what might be ‘mad enchantment’ may grant some thematic coherence to the work without sacrificing the stated desire for chaos, contradiction and confusion.

‘A Philosophy of Madness’ presents the reader with some difficulties. Although Kusters’ work is at home in the anti-psychiatric tradition – and Kusters asserts his devotion to the anti-psychiatric field vocally and repeatedly – this opposition is never substantiated. Kusters does not engage, at any length, with psychiatric literature or the history of psychiatry; he writes that his previous work – the as yet untranslated ‘Pure Madness’ – produced a comparison between his own experience of psychosis and the psychiatric reports written on him. There is no confrontation with the medical tradition, with medical professionals, the history of medicine and its relation with psychiatry, or with psychiatric institutions. Such a confrontation would give greater clarity to Kusters’ understanding of psychiatry, what it is, what its aims are, its limitations, and so on; the reader might also get a clearer picture of Kusters’ consideration of the possibilities and dangers associated with liberating the mad from the domain of psychiatry in order to reintern them within philosophy. Perhaps the matter – namely, of psychiatry as an institution, historical phenomenon, contemporary political entity and all those who work within it – is considered settled. Perhaps the translation of ‘Pure Madness’ will grant the English reader greater access to Kusters’ engagement with psychiatry, but until then, the detail is lacking.

In addition, Kusters does not make any engagement with the contemporary young but fast growing field of critical disability studies. Like the anti-psychiatry movement, scholars and thinkers in this field owe a substantial debt to Foucault’s work on institutions as well as a deep suspicion of those who want the ‘cure’ the sick and mad; furthermore, analyses of chronic pain , psychopathy, long-term illnesses and so on share a great many of the concerns and ideas raised in Kusters thinking; finally, many scholars – like Kusters – turn to the phenomenological tradition in order to understand the spatio-temporal qualities of being disabled. Kusters decision not to find points of dialogue with this field represents a missed opportunity.

Finally, Kusters’ decisions with regard to the structure are problematic. The overview presented above is accurate with regard to the theoretical content of the book; however, through a series of ‘Overtures’, ‘Intermezzos’ and interstitial passages apparently reflecting Kusters’ own mental state. The Overture and Intermezzos largely function as introductory and concluding remarks, describing the plan for the work and the relation between different sections. Kusters prose is highly expressive, ironic and rhetorical; for different readers, this may be amusing, witty, or a little bit irritating. But it is the interstitial passages, found especially in the early parts of the book, which are difficult to read. It appears that they function as literal representations of the paranoid fears of a person experiencing psychopathy.

Besides questions of structure, the Intermezzos also contribute an extremely strange first personal account, in which the writer – perhaps Kusters himself, perhaps not – describes, in direct prose, his everyday life in Amsterdam, meeting up with friends, driving around, spending time alone. The writing is frenzied, sometimes fearful, sometimes ecstatic, often difficult to understand or make sense of. It’s difficult to say what the fragments are – Kusters doesn’t introduce or reflect upon them. Most significant, and troubling, however, is that they are occasionally shockingly racist. While reflecting on languages, the author muses “Yiddish is a kind of basic Esperanto, just like Jews are the people without a country and without an identity” (119). This thought isn’t introduced – there’s no context – nor interpreted or analysed – there’s no explanation. It’s not clear what its purpose, meaning or significance is. Why are the Jews a people without a country? What does it mean to be a people? What is it to have a country? Does lacking a country mean lacking an identity? No context, no analysis. A few lines later, writing from the perspective of ‘the Jews’, Kusters writes “We watch over the system behind the system. We’re the backup, the fourth empire” (Ibid.,). Again, no context or explanation; merely, the introduction of classical anti-Semitism as a passing phrase.

A few pages on, Kusters writes “The ones who always do it right are the Holocaust deniers. And they’re still at it. As soon as you start tampering with Auschwitz, they throw you in the madhouse. But that’s where the Enlightened Ones live, those who haven’t been able to keep their big mouths shut. Of course there was no Holocaust!”. Kusters doesn’t direct these racist remarks toward any other ethnic minorities, nor does he return to them at any other point. Does Kusters mean to be ironic, or funny? Should these remarks frame Kusters’ opposition to institutions, or even the book a as a whole? Should they be ignored? It’s not at all clear what purpose these passages serve, if any.

Kusters’ compilatory method is perhaps the defining feature of ‘A Philosophy of Madness’. It’s possible – perhaps preferable – to understand the decision not to subject any of the his interlocutors to sustained or detailed analysis as being consistent with his stated opposition to systematicity and classification. Perhaps this is the right decision: for readers less familiar with the canonical works of European philosophy, this book functions as a useful introduction to texts from Plato, Descartes, Husserl, Sartre and more. Kusters sets his course firmly in the direction of madness, and this colossal book – just short of 800 pages, in all – is by no means a strict, disciplined work of theory. Instead, it’s pure, philosophical chaos.

The reader should not approach ‘A Philosophy of Madness’ with the expectation of finding a contribution to our understanding of what it feels like to experience psychosis, or periods of mental ill health; nor, a close reading or interpretation of a number of texts from the phenomenological tradition, mysticism or the fictional and real writings of ‘the mad’. Instead, Kusters’ presents the reader with a mass of text which, without ever coming together in any moment, points the reader toward possibilities: possibilities for reflection and reconsideration on one’s place in the world. Madness might be ecstatic, joyous, terrifying, upsetting and scary; it might be a normal way to live in a strange world. It might also be an opportunity to approach one’s life and the people in it with a new sense of enchantment. An off-kilter perspective, to be sure, but one filled with madness and magic.

Works Cited:

Derrida, Jacques. 1978. Writing and Difference. University of Chicago Press.

Kusters, Wouter. 2020. A Philosophy of Madness: The Experience of Psychotic Thinking. MIT Press.

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Reviewed by: Steven DeLay (Global Center for Advanced Studies)

Of truth, it was Schopenhauer who said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Thirty years after the publication of Dominique Janicaud’s “The Theological Turn of French Phenomenology,” arguing that the work of Jean-Louis Chrétien, Michel Henry, Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Luc Marion, and Paul Ricœur was a collective betrayal of classical phenomenology, are we nearing truth’s inevitable third stage? The appearance of Adam J. Graves’s The Phenomenology of Revelation in Heidegger, Marion, and Ricœur indicates such is the case.1 For, although some dismiss the theological turn, continuing to pass over it in silence, as if it were unworthy of their attention or response, there is no longer any pretending that a theological turn in phenomenology has not occurred. Far from it constituting a deviation from phenomenology’s true method, attention to the phenomenon of revelation has always been foundational to phenomenological philosophy’s stand against the prevailing naturalistic, empiricist, and scientistic understanding of the modern, disenchanted, technological world. The task, then, is not one of determining whether revelation is a viability for phenomenology, but of assessing its contribution to phenomenology’s promise as an ongoing movement. In response to this task, Graves has given us a work tracing the trajectory of the phenomenon of revelation in Heidegger, Marion, and Ricœur. “Phenomenology’s turn toward the theological,” as Graves says at one point, “did not begin in the nineteen eighties. It was already well underway by the time Heidegger delivered his lecture on ‘Phenomenology and Theology’ in 1928” (23). Not only then does he illustrate why it is justified today to speak openly of a theological turn in phenomenology, or even of a return. This result would be useful enough! More still, Graves offers us a groundbreaking account of revelation itself contributing to the very theological (re)turn it so admirably examines.

To see why Graves views the turn this way, a mindfulness of the philosophical history shaping phenomenology’s concern with the phenomenon of revelation is necessary. “No single theological concept poses a greater challenge to philosophy than that of revelation,” he observes at the beginning of the introduction (xxi). For just as “revelation implies a claim to disclose truth” thereby “allegedly confronting philosophy on its own turf” (xxi), so then it might be viewed as “an affront to reason, an anathema to philosophy” (xxi). One indeed might simply conclude that revelation and reason are opposed to one another, the two “destined from birth to face off as mortal enemies, caught in an endless, take-no-prisoners battle wherein each seeks to reduce the other to itself, to monopolize truth by capturing and colonizing the other’s terrain” (xxi). Such a characterization, however, overexaggerates the antagonism between them, Graves says. As he points out, philosophy has a history of “negotiating a lasting peace” with revelation, even if such a “precarious ceasefire” has separated reason and revelation into two autonomous zones (xxi). This effort to separate revelation and reason is evident at least as early as in Aquinas, who demarcates “rational truths” (the domain of theologia philosophiae) from the so-called “revealed truths” that are inaccessible to the natural light of reason (the domain of theologia sacrae doctinae) (xxii). A “philosophical theory of two truths” (xxii), Aquinas believed, would allow for philosophical reason and theological revelation to complement one another. However, by the end of the modern period, the arrangement had come to undermine revelation’s own understanding of itself as the dispenser of absolute truth. Modern philosophical reason, imbued with the right to question everything, including the authority of tradition, church, and the Bible, considered revelation an “historical relic.” Consequently, the truths of revelation were subordinated to the eternal truths of reason (xxii). Further complicating matters was the fact that this very distinction between the eternal truths of reason and the historical truths of revelation was unstable, itself becoming a matter of contention. The Enlightenment’s conception of reason’s authority and sovereignty proved not to be above criticism. As Graves remarks, “The kind of autonomy and transparency which philosophy had claimed for itself, could only be defined and maintained when juxtaposed against the backdrop of its proper epistemic ‘other,’ as though the eternal truths of reason could only ever shine against the supposedly opaque and impenetrable surface of revelation and its contingent truths” (xxv). The Enlightenment conception of rational truth defining itself in opposition to revelation “could not do away with its other without doing away with itself” (xxv). This story of modern reason’s evolution, and its relation to revelation, is a fascinating issue in its own right.2 Lest, however, it be concluded that it is only a piece of intellectual history, Graves illustrates how modern philosophy’s question of the extent to which the content of revelation might be reducible to reason is at issue again today in the theological turn of phenomenology. “One of the philosophical frontlines in this centuries-old battle between reason and revelation,” as he says, “is located within the field of phenomenology” (xxv). With this historical backdrop in view, a key claim of Graves’s concerning the relation between reason and revelation here emerges: Heidegger, Marion, and Ricœur in their own ways “undermine the enlightenment’s claim that reason is autonomous and wholly transparent” (xxvi). If Enlightenment efforts of self-grounding reason fail, one might conclude philosophy ends in skepticism or nihilism.2 Or, one might instead attempt to rehabilitate philosophy by resuscitating revelation. As Graves will show, this is what Marion, Heidegger, and Ricœur each aims to do, by refiguring revelation phenomenologically. Just as the concept of reason underwent a transformation in the hands of modern philosophy, so now the concept of revelation has in phenomenology.

In what does this transformation of revelation consist? To begin with, it is a broadening of the concept. Revelation no longer is confined to propositional truths only, as was the case for the Scholastics. In the Middle Ages, as Graves himself explains, “the content of the so-called revealed was comprised of a set of the propositional statements, i.e., doctrines that could not be obtained through human reason, but depended upon God’s active revelation” (12). When, however, revelation became “more closely associated with a particular quality of experience, or a particular kind of phenomenon, rather than a mere collection of dogmatic propositions, the stage was set for its philosophical reevaluation” (xxvi). Part of that legacy is alive today in phenomenology, for which revelation is a matter of experiential truth, of what is encountered. But revelation is not simply said to be a particular mode or content of experience. It is the essence of experience. Quoting Marion, Graves notes, “‘Revelation, by virtue of the givenness that it alone performs perfectly, would accomplish the essence of phenomenality’” (5). Not only, then, does phenomenology seek to undermine and escape the constraints once imposed by modern philosophical reason. Moreover, its interest in revelation “stems from its own root concerns and core problems” (5). As the “other” of Enlightenment reason,3 revelation would lie at the heart of phenomenology’s philosophical project to uncover and describe that which appears, and how it appears. So understood, revelation would designate the form of phenomenality as such:

[Phenomenology’s concern with revelation is] not adopting a theological question that would be foreign or even peripheral to its core concerns. On the contrary, it is actually tackling a question about phenomenology itself, about its ability to live up to its own promise of enabling phenomena to appear as they give themselves out to be, as they are given beyond the limits of enlightenment reason—and that means independently of scientific or naturalistic presuppositions, the narrow constraints of the principle of sufficient reason, and the conditions of possibility imposed upon them by the modern subject (5).

None of this should be considered particularly controversial yet. The phenomenological formulation of revelation as a problem, one will note, involves doing philosophy in light of Husserl’s epoché, insofar as it entails “the fulfillment of Husserl’s original aim, namely, a pure description of the full range of phenomena” (xxvii). Husserl’s “principle of principles” frees the phenomena, notes Graves, such that “everything that appears to consciousness—including religious phenomena—could, at least in principle, become a legitimate object of phenomenological description and thus philosophical investigation” (3). Revelation, then, would appear to be fair game.

However, things are not quite so straightforward, owing to a tension within Husserl himself that the rest of phenomenology inherits. Does not Husserl call for a suspension of theological presuppositions? The same Husserlian method that might be claimed to allow God to appear could also be said to foreclose the appearing of God. “One might wonder,” as Graves observes, how Husserl’s epoché and reductions “could possibly serve as the best method for developing a philosophical account of revelation” (xxvii). Others for this reason have viewed with suspicion the attempt to formulate revelation as a phenomenological problem, calling into question its methodological moves and underlying motives (xxvii). One here again calls to mind Janicaud’s original contention, according to which the theological turn had abandoned an “interrogation of the visible in favor of a blind and imprudent affirmation of radical transcendence” (xxviii). As Graves himself notes, “One may ask whether the turn’s new and peculiar reinterpretation of key phenomenological principles—such as horizon, reduction, intentionality, world, etc.—signals the culmination of the phenomenological enterprise or whether it signals a departure from and deterioration of phenomenology as such” (xxix). “What cannot be disputed,” he says, “is the significance of this ‘turn’ as a purely historical event” (xxix). It here becomes apparent why Graves has elected to open his study of revelation by placing things in historical context. He says,

If some have claimed phenomenology has remained the most powerful and enduring force on the Parisian philosophical scene since its initial reception in the middle of the last century, then the phenomenological appropriation of the category of revelation may be said to represent—for better or worse—the single most significant even in recent French philosophy. How did this event come to pass? What concrete challenge has it raised, and what paths have phenomenologists taken in order to meet those challenges? How has this event altered the phenomenological enterprise itself—its methods, its objectives, and its own self-understanding? How has it altered or informed our understanding of the nature of revelation, or perhaps even of the nature of philosophical reason? (xxx).

Sensitive to the fact that many might find this claim of French phenomenological philosophy’s importance hyperbolic, Graves points out that the problem of revelation, and the corresponding question concerning the methodological relation between phenomenology and theology, is not an issue parochial to French phenomenology. For one thing, theology and the religious life were fundamental concerns of Heidegger’s during the lead-up to Being and Time. Heidegger’s thought (particularly his departing 1928 Marburg lecture), Graves will claim, “is the single most important source for understanding the nature and diversity of the most recent interest in the phenomenology of revelation among French philosophers” (3). How did the Parisian concern with revelation originate in Marburg and Freiburg? As Graves recounts,

On February 14, 1928, Heidegger stood before his colleagues at the University of Marburg to deliver what would be his final lecture before returning—triumphantly, as it were—to Freiburg, where he was to take over as the successor to his former mentor, Edmund Husserl. The topic Heidegger chose for his parting address was “Phenomenology and Theology” (1).

The lecture’s significance can only be understood when appreciated in terms of its place within the overall philosophical project Heidegger was engaged in at the time. In courses on the religious life from earlier that decade, Heidegger had claimed “primal Christian experience becomes concealed through Greek conceptuality,” a thesis prefiguring his “later description of the history of the forgetfulness of Being—the all-important Seinsvergessenheit” (2). For Heidegger, overcoming the history of philosophy’s forgetfulness of being would require a deconstruction of Christianity’s own self-understanding. Here, Graves notes that Heidegger’s approach to revelation highlights two contrasting attitudes toward the role of language in revelation that will structure phenomenology’s subsequent handling of the problem: “the ‘radical’ and the ‘hermeneutical’ attitudes” (6). The radical attitude, he says, “begins to take shape in the works of early Heidegger, whose Destruktion of the metaphysical tradition involved a return to ‘the beginning, the primal, the originary,’ and thus moves in the direction of what might be called the pre-linguistic” (6). As Graves continues, “this partly explains why Heidegger’s destructive (destruktiv) project was leveled against ordinary language—everyday chatter or idle talk (Gerede)—as much as it was against the distinctively philosophical language of modernity” (7). That is to say, Heidegger’s quest for the meaning of being necessitates a return to a primordial experience which “precedes (or cuts beneath)” certain forms of linguistic articulation and sedimentation (7). Now, contrast this radical attitude with the other, the hermeneutic attitude.

Whereas radical phenomenology seeks to overcome metaphysics by sidestepping language in its ceaseless quest for the primordial givenness, hermeneutical phenomenology challenges enlightenment paradigms through language itself, or by insisting upon a richer conception of linguisticality and the inexorable connection between language and being (9).

Thus emerges a further key claim of Graves’s study. Strictly speaking, he will claim, there is “no such thing as the phenomenology of revelation” (9). Rather, we must address “two essentially dichotomous phenomenological views of revelation as they emerge in the works of Heidegger, Marion, and Ricœur” (10). Another central claim of Graves’s work follows. For as he clarifies, the purpose of the study “is not merely to present an account of these opposed approaches from the disinterested standpoint of a spectator or intellectual historian” (10). His aim, rather, is to show that the radical approach (typified by both Heidegger and Marion) divests revelation of its meaning and content, leaving a merely formal concept of revelation—“a revelation without Revelation,” unless it is supplemented with a hermeneutic approach (10). What does Graves mean—what is the problem? Typically, the worry concerning phenomenology turning to the problem of revelation is that it by doing so comprises its philosophical rigor and neutrality—this is the so-called “contamination” problem, as Graves terms it. Phenomenology importing theological content can be a problem, Graves is happy to admit. But he has a different concern in view, what he terms the problem of “counter-contamination.” Fearful of illicitly importing theological content into one’s phenomenological method, one formalizes the phenomenon of revelation to the point whereby it is attenuated completely, bereft of any meaningful content. When this happens, says Graves, an analysis of revelation finds itself having “lost sight” of “the material content of revelation itself” (15), such that whatever remains is “characterized by formalism itself, by a certain lack of determinate content” (15). This process of “attenuation-formalization” (16) leads phenomenological analysis astray in the case of revelation. As Graves asks, how will it be possible for phenomenology to account for the structure of revelation without having to draw from the well of theological discourse? (16). Is not phenomenology “inevitably dependent upon its engagement with religions language?” (16). It may be that phenomenological accounts of revelation are inescapably “contaminated” by a certain theological orientation or bias (16). But this, argues Graves, is in a way inevitable—for the idea of a philosophy somehow starting without presuppositions is a fantasy. In a qualified sense, then, such presuppositions can be a good thing. After all, were phenomenology unable to draw upon theological content when addressing the phenomenon of revelation, what would be left for the phenomenologist to investigate?4 As Graves says,

What would the phenomenological meaning of revelation mean in the absence of any reference to concrete religious experience? Would it represent an empty figure, a mere shadow? Or, would it mark the ultimate essence of revelation as such, beyond any of its particular historical, linguistic, or textual instantiations? (16).

The polar threats of “contamination” and “de-contamination” are related to the twofold sense of revelation itself. On the one hand, revelation can designate “the means or the process by which God is revealed to human beings” (13). On the other hand, it can denote “the nature of the content that is revealed” (13). According to Graves, the problems of ontic contamination and counter-contamination are both apparent in Heidegger’s 1928 lecture. This is largely explainable due to Heidegger’s commitment to what he at the time took to be the scientificity of philosophy. Philosophy and theology, Heidegger claims, are “two sciences rather than two competing worldviews” (25). There are two general types of science—ontic science and ontological science, a distinction grafted onto the ontological difference, the difference between beings (entities) and being (the being of entities). Science for Heidegger, taken in its most general sense, is defined by “‘the founding disclosure, for the sake of disclosure, of a self-contained region of beings, or of Being as such’” (27). The division between ontic and ontological sciences accordingly “derives from these two radically different manners of disclosure—ontic sciences are founded upon a disclosure of a being or a region of beings, whereas ontology involves the disclosure of Being as such” (27). Said another way, ontic sciences never engage the question of being as such. What they do instead, says Heidegger, is conceptualize, objectify, or thematize a set of beings that have already been disclosed in a prescientific manner (28). As Graves explains, “ontic-positive sciences are thereby engaged in second-order operations—experiments, data collection, etc.—that are propped up upon and sustained by the ‘rough’ and ‘naïve’ interpretations of their respective fields—interpretations which they inadvertently inherit from ordinary, pre-scientific experience without ever radically calling them into question” (28). Philosophy is not an ontic science. It is an ontological science—philosophy asks the question of the meaning of being as such. Phenomenology is thus the Urwissenschaft—as fundamental ontology, it is a questioning and clarifying of the meaning of being (29).

How does this concern the problem of revelation? As Graves observes, Heidegger’s distinction between ontical sciences and the ontological science corresponds to a distinction between revelation (Offenbarung) and revealability (Offenbarkeit) (23). Revealability is a formalization of revelation, one that Graves argues threatens to distort the concrete character of revelation itself (24). According to him, Heidegger attempts to illegitimately superimpose the formal character of revealability back upon revelation itself, so that the latter is purged of any ontic content that might threaten to contaminate the ontological character of the analytic of Dasein that is built upon it (24-25). But has not Heidegger thereby hollowed out revelation itself? Graves thinks Heidegger has. Heidegger, he says, “simply folds the ‘purity’ or ‘formality’ constitutive of revealability over into the ontic-positive domain of revelation” (50), such that revelation gets recast as a “pure, formal structure,” while revealability becomes “the structure of a structure” (50). Consequently, Heidegger’s formalization of revelation renders it “merely an empty shell, a mere abstraction” (50-51) That is to say, Heidegger commits the phenomenological sin of counter-contamination: “revealability (Offenbarkeit) intrudes upon and violates revelation (Offenbarung)” (50-51).

Why does Heidegger do this? Graves attributes Heidegger’s error to what Jacques Derrida calls the “logic of presupposition” (30). Heidegger’s prioritization of fundamental ontology over ontic inquiry claims to “reveal deeper structures of experience, which are more primordial than the modes of experience unearthed by ontic-positive analysis” (32). These primordial structures purportedly lie beneath the domains of language, culture, and religion in general (33). According to Graves, however, Heidegger’s ambition of uncovering fundamental or “originary” structures ultimately renders the resulting phenomenon of revelation devoid of any determinate content.

Even if one were to dispute Graves’s claim that revelation in Heidegger is attenuated and formalized to the point of no longer being anything but the structure of a structure, there is another problem which Graves mentions as well. The ontological science—the science of being—like any inquiry is said by Heidegger to be oriented toward particular entities. But if all inquiry implies that ontology’s quest for being must itself begin with some entity, then phenomenology would no longer appear to be a non-oriented, ontological science. Heidegger’s famous solution, as Graves notes, is to emphasize that phenomenology’s difference from the positive ontic sciences is that the kind of being through which a genuine science of being passes is a being with an understanding of being. As Graves says, “On account of the peculiar character of Dasein, Heidegger suggests, his analysis can be delimited and directed toward a particular being (namely, Dasein) without fear of losing sight of the ontological question (namely, of the meaning of Being as such)” (38). The existential analytic, thus, aims to function as a preliminary point of departure for fundamental ontology.

What, though, of the analytic of Dasein’s relationship to theology? Many of the key features of Heidegger’s existential analytic in Being and Time—historicity, facticity, care, fundamental temporality, anxiety—were prefigured by his early lecture courses on religion (45). Thus, there is the potential problem of theological contamination. In an attempt to avoid it, Heidegger will claim that phenomenology resembles theology only because the object of theology (faith, revelation, Christlichkeit) conceals within itself a kind of abstract, formal character which falls to phenomenology to uncover. Heidegger contends that Christlichkeit is derivative—it is founded upon a deeper, more primordial pre-Christian structure (65). Finitude, sin, anxiety, conscience—such phenomena are to be purified of their traditional theological garb, revealing their true ontological significance. The concept of sin, for example, can only be explained in terms of a more fundamental ontological concept of guilt (66). As Graves notes, “none of the determinate content of the way of being of faith remains—it has already been removed as part of the excavation process that served to expose its more radical foundations in the ontology of Dasein” (66). Although Heidegger’s development of his philosophy of being was inextricably tied to his theological interests (41), including Luther’s theology of the cross and Pauline eschatology, the analytic of Dasein “has already been subject to a counter-contamination” (62).

Having examined the problems of contamination and counter-contamination, the logic of presupposition, and the distinction between ontic sciences and ontological science, Graves poses a question meant to highlight a tension in Heidegger’s attempt to purge revelation of any traditional theological content in the name of uncovering “originary” or fundamental ontological structures:

Is Heidegger’s interpretation of primal Christianity (Urchristentum) meant merely to serve as one concrete, historical example that helps illuminate the fundamental existential structures—that is, as one example among other possible examples? If so, he would have to explain why Christian experience appears to supply the example par excellence for his fundamental existentials (an explanation which he never provides). Or, on the contrary, does the primal Christian experience constitute a privileged event (a particular “revelation,” as it were), one that would prove indispensable for Heidegger’s later fundamental ontology—that is, an event in the absence of which the fundamental structures of Being and Time could not have been thought? (45).

Despite the internal vacillation apparent in Heidegger’s text, the ultimate goal of an existential analytic of religious life is to render explicit the general structure of revealability. The traditional theological content serves as mere “formal indications (formale Anzeige)” (42)—signposts on the way to uncovering “the unique temporal modality implicit within the primal Christian eschatological experience” (43). By insisting on the priority of revealability over and above revelation (48), Heidegger tries to “secure a method capable of grasping this experience” (42). To do so, it is necessary to chart a middle course, neither committing an “ontic contamination” of the ontological nor a premature formalization of the ontical. The problem of contamination threatens the philosophical status of phenomenology, the problem of counter-contamination the phenomenology of revelation qua revelation (55). Eager to preempt any accusation that his ontology is contaminated by Christian revelation, Heidegger tries to avoid the first problem by preserving the autonomy and priority of fundamental ontology. He attempts to do this, by hollowing out Christian eschatological experience to such an extent that theology begins to resemble phenomenology and the positum of theology begins to resemble factical life experience itself (55-56). The formalization of the ontical content of revelation enables Heidegger to maintain the priority of phenomenological ontology (the science of being) over theological science (the science of revelation) (56). Consequently, as Graves summarizes,

Heidegger’s obsession with ontological concerns and his constant quest for increasingly radical foundations or conditions of possibility eventually led him to view faith, Christlichkeit, and revelation (Offenbarung) as merely derivative phenomena. But this conclusion came only after a long period of philosophical labor in which the religious concepts underwent (or were subjected to) a series of progressive formalizations and radicalazations, which effectively purged them of their determinate contents (67).

Although Graves does not say it here explicitly, one clearly is meant to conclude that the desirability of what Heidegger’s process of formalization leaves us is dubious.

Does Jean-Luc Marion’s phenomenology of revelation qua revelation fare better? This is the question of Graves’s next chapter. Having first examined Heidegger, here he turns to Husserl. Marion’s phenomenology of revelation, particularly the formulation of the saturated phenomenon, relies on a reworking of the phenomenological reduction in both Husserl and Heidegger. For Heidegger, phenomenology as fundamental ontology is an attempt to deconstruct the history of philosophy, by properly thematizing the question of the meaning of being. It is thus a critique of metaphysics, as metaphysics (on Heidegger’s understanding of the term) fails to understand the being of Dasein and formulate the question of the meaning of being in general. For Marion also, phenomenology is a critique of metaphysics, but here it will be necessary to move beyond even Heidegger’s fundamental ontology and formulation of the ontological difference. In reformulating the phenomenological critique of metaphysics, Marion will argue it is imperative to surpass Husserl and Heidegger, by exploiting a breakthrough in Husserl’s phenomenology that Husserl himself never properly developed. Marion’s goal is to free givenness from all prior constraints. As Marion says, “‘In a metaphysical system, the possibility of appearing never belongs to what appears, nor phenomenality to the phenomenon” (80). As Graves himself explains, “Marion marks a crucial development in Husserl’s thought—namely the widening of the notion of intuition” (81) While Husserlian phenomenology marks an important break with the metaphysical tradition in this respect, Marion claims that the standard interpretation of Husserl misses what is most essential, by focusing solely on Husserl’s extension of intuition (82). Marion has in view two competing ways of interpreting Husserl’s broadening of the concept of intuition, the Derridian and the Heideggerian. On the Heideggerian interpretation, Husserl’s elevation of intuition marks a promising break with metaphysics and supplies a new ground for the question of being (Heidegger is fond of Husserl’s sixth logical investigation on categorial intuition). On the Derridian interpretation, this promotion of intuition marks the fatal step which leads Husserl back into a metaphysics of presence. Marion’s potential innovation, as Graves explains, is to suggest that these two competing perspectives on Husserl can be reconciled within a single interpretation, which would be informed and supported by both (83). “On Marion’s reading,” says Graves, “Husserl felt a need to broaden the field of signification beyond the already extended field of intuition” (83). Husserl’s desire to extend signification beyond intuition, Marion claims, is driven by a vague (and ultimately suppressed) recognition of a givenness which precedes both intuition and signification. Hence, Marion sees the true breakthrough of Husserl’s Logical Investigations not as the broadening of the field of intuition or signification, but as the implicit uncovering of the “unconditional primacy” of givenness itself (84). As Graves summarizes,

If Marion regards Husserl’s breakthrough as the discovery of the unconditional primacy of givenness, he nevertheless admits that this discovery was only partial—the instant givenness is unearthed by Husserl, it is immediately covered over by a classical (i.e., “metaphysical”) theory of intuition (84).

By reducing all givenness to what can be given “objectively,” or according to the horizon of the object (86), Husserl fails to thematize givenness radically. It is here that Marion’s own reduction—the “third” reduction, the reduction to givenness—is deployed. This reformulation of the reduction situates Marion’s account of the saturated phenomenon. Here again, the introduction of the saturated phenomenon is understood by Marion as a break from metaphysics. “Marion’s quasi-teleological interpretive framework,” says Graves, “according to which the development of phenomenology consists of a series of radicalizations culminating in his theory of givenness, seems to hinge upon Husserl’s original break with metaphysics” (79). Not only is it a matter of freeing the phenomenon from Husserlian objectivity. More fundamentally, it is a question of breaking free from Kant’s account of the conditions of possibility for the experience of objects. “The Kantian conditions of possible experience,” as Graves notes, “are not given by phenomena themselves but are rather imposed upon phenomena by the subjective faculties of sensibility and understanding” (79-80). In addition to Kant and Husserl, Marion’s reduction in part break with Heidegger too. Although Heidegger had himself radicalized Husserl’s approach with an existential reduction to being as such (88), he remains beholden to the ontological difference. “The saturated phenomenon,” observes Graves, “is characterized by an excess of intuition […] It cannot be controlled or neutralized by a conscious subject, and it cannot be reduced to or proceeded by any horizon—not even by the horizon of Being (Heidegger), let alone that of objectivity (Husserl)” (108). This is not to say, however, that there are not important overlaps between Heidegger and Marion. Like Heidegger before him, Marion also appears interested in retrieving “originary” and fundamental structures of experience. As Graves says, “Marion’s central idea of the saturated phenomena is based on a recognition that the given often outstrips the conceptual and linguistic categories used to understand or interpret it” (7). Like Heidegger, Marion’s phenomenology of revelation is a radical one.

And like Heidegger also, Marion takes great pains to insist that his phenomenological method is rigorous, strictly philosophical, and not contaminated by theology. In order to distinguish the phenomenology of givenness from theology, Marion employs “a distinction between revelation as possibility, and Revelation as actuality” (79).

According to Marion, [phenomenology] is properly concerned only with possibilities, not actualities. With respect to the phenomenon of revelation, the sole task of the phenomenologist would be to account for the mere possibility of such an experience, without having to presuppose or posit its actuality (108).

Yet Marion’s radical phenomenology, which seeks philosophical purity and rigor, “ultimately [leads] him to recapitulate the Heideggerian strategy,” namely “the protective strategy” of counter-contamination (78-79). Marion’s phenomenological figure of revelation (as possibility) “winds up imposing its own indeterminate status upon Revelation itself” (79). “Revelation,” as Graves says, “is described as a purely formal givenness” (79). In Reduction and Givenness, for example, Marion maintains that the “pure form of the call” is anonymous, “one that defies all names” (7). Such a call is said to be given “before any act of determination or nomination, before any Name can be ‘imposed upon it’” (79). Hence, the call of revelation remains indeterminate. As Graves notes, Marion’s radical attitude entails that revelation be defined in terms of a conceptual indeterminateness and resistance to linguistic determination, predication, or nomination (7). Understandably, part of Marion’s motivation for insisting upon a distinction between revelation as possibility and Revelation as actual is to forestall theological contamination, and the accusation that he is guilty of crypto-theology. But part of it is also an attempt to avoid conceptual idolatry, to avoid a philosophical discourse that would idolatrize God. This is something Marion addressed in God without Being, and Graves offers a fantastic account of that work’s account of the idol and the icon. Of relevance here is the fact that Marion’s phenomenology of givenness is said to overcome metaphysics (and nihilism’s so-called “death of God”), by liberating God from an idolatrous discourse. For Marion, as Graves says,

The problem of God for modernity has less to do with God’s negation, with atheism, than with the reemergence of idolatry at the level of the concept—we are, above all, prevented from respecting God not because God is rejected but because the conceptual idol blinds us to God (138).

The type of idolatry Marion is interested in resisting, hence, is conceptual. According to Marion, every conceptual discourse on God “involves a certain degree of idolatry” (95). How, we might ask, could one formulate a non-idolatrous conceptual discourse on God? (95). As Graves explains, here Marion finds it necessary to go further than Heidegger. In Heidegger, metaphysical thinking’s conceptual idolatry of God is named onto-theology. In onto-theology, God is given the definition of causa sui. Heidegger admonishes onto-theology for its forgetfulness of being and the ontological difference (96). Recalling Graves’s earlier discussion of Heidegger’s 1928 lecture is important here. Graves had shown that in an attempt to preserve the methodological rigor of phenomenology as fundamental ontology, Heidegger fell prey to the problem of “counter-contamination.” Here, Graves notes that Marion, who agrees with Heidegger that onto-theology leads to conceptual idolatry, claims Heidegger ignores a further form of idolatry. As Graves explains,

God’s revelation is contained or conditioned by “the dimension of Being,” by “revealability,” by the existential structures of Dasein. God may be above and beyond all matters of Being and ontology, but if God is to be revealed to Dasein, this revelation (Offenbarung) must conform to the ontological conditions of experience, that is, to revealability (Offenbarkeit) (99).

Consigning God to the ontological difference, and thereby confining revelation to the horizon of being, Marion believes that the Heideggerian divorce between being and God comes at too high a price. As a result of it, any talk of God as such is excluded from philosophical discourse (100). As Graves says, for Heidegger, “since the ontological difference is determinative of philosophical discourse, this implies that we must forever keep silent before God” (101). Or again, “By casting God as such outside ontological discourse, Heidegger essentially abandons theo-logical discourse (discourse about God as such) to the dogs, so to speak” (101). In Marion’s estimation, this silence of Heidegger’s on God avoids the onto-theological concept of “God” as causa sui or supreme being. Such silence, as Graves himself notes, embodies a certain reverence toward God. But the second silence, the silence insisting that nothing at all further can be said of God, “bars reverential silence from becoming the object of thought” (101).

In turn, Graves goes on to show how Marion attempts to open a discourse on God precisely where Heidegger had not. For although the ontological difference marks the borderline beyond which a non-idolatrous thought of God might finally become articulable (103), Heidegger himself does not attempt to think it. Instead, he remains completely silent. Marion suggests that, to think God reverentially, an escape from ontological difference is necessary (103). A phenomenological critique of metaphysics “must remain essentially indifferent to the ontological difference itself” (104), if God is to be discussed non-idolatrously, rather than simply passed over in total silence. To begin sketching how this might be possible, Marion highlights three biblical texts (Romans 4:17 is the text upon which Graves focuses) that he argues enable phenomenology to formulate an anterior instance to the ontological difference (104). In the passage in question from Romans, God is referred to as the one “who gives life to the dead and who calls the non-beings as the beings” (104), indicating God is prior to the ontological difference between being and entities. As Marion puts it, “‘The gift delivers Being/being’” (105). The problem, however, is that this dimension of givenness (or revelation) prior to the ontological difference is an attenuated, formalized structure. Consequently, Graves sees Marion’s attempt to move beyond Heidegger’s ontological difference as something ultimately still beholden to it, insofar as Marion falls prey to the same problem of counter-contamination:

Our thesis regarding Marion remains structurally analogous to the one we advanced in the preceding chapter: Like Heidegger, Marion’s effort to overcome charges of theological contamination leads him to adopt a strategy whereby revelation is divested of its material content. The process of “hollowing out” revelation leads to a merely formal conception of revelation—one that is essentially devoid of any reference to the historical, linguistic, and textual richness of revelation in its religious or theological acceptations. Rather than describing this procedure in terms of a divestment or “hollowing out,” Marion portrays it in terms of a purification of revelation—that is, in terms of a reduction to the “pure” call or the call as such (i.e., revelation) (107).

To be sure, Marion’s claim that “revelation (as gift) proceeds, founds, delivers, brings into play both beings and being itself” (105) invites the objection that this apparent recourse to revealed theology violates the neutrality of phenomenological method. However, Graves is interested in a different objection that others have not made. As he notes, what Marion terms the gift (or the call) is “materially indeterminate” (198). The indeterminateness arises, says Graves, due to the phenomenological method Marion develops in the course of sketching the saturated phenomenon. “Marion insists it is possible,” says Graves, “to provide a strictly phenomenological articulation of it, under the rubric of the saturated phenomenon par excellence—revelation” (108). But this phenomenon—the call, the gift, or revelation, must remain essentially indeterminate and anonymous, claims Marion. This means that those who allege Marion’s phenomenology is crypto-theology have missed the crucial point. This common criticism, which accuses Marion of identifying God as the caller, is in fact prohibited by Marion’s own philosophical analysis in works such as Reduction and Givenness. As Graves reminds us, the call in Marion “is ‘pure’ insofar as the caller remains undetermined; but this lack of determination is a highly ambiguous one” (116). The real objection against Marion, then, says Graves, is not that Marion defines the call theologically (for Marion does not), but that he renders it indeterminate. But if Marion’s account of revelation renders Revelation itself indeterminate, then as with Heidegger, we have another instance of counter-contamination.

It is unsurprising that counter-contamination should occur here, since it is generally committed in the course of defending oneself against the charge of theological contamination or of holding theological biases (115). Heidegger had done so in the 1920s when developing his existential analytic, and here Marion has as well. As Graves summarizes, “While Marion had previously characterized the task of phenomenology as offering a mere description of revelation as possibility, toward the end of Being Given it begins to sound as if Revelation (as event) is only ever given in actuality to the phenomenologist, to the one who rigorously avoids naming it, the one who is willing to live with the indecision of the gift” (117). Part of the indeterminacy Graves highlights is traceable to Marion’s radical approach to language. Marion clears the path for a pure form of a call which remains “entirely anonymous and indeterminate, since the call reaches the subject before the subject can wield any concept, horizon, or names that might serve to delimit the call, or give it a particular determination” (114). The fundamental problem facing Marion’s phenomenology of revelation, thus, is not the potential intrusion of theological presuppositions or contents, but rather a philosophical bias, which in the name of maintaining rigor and neutrality, distorts the actual givenness of Revelation. As Graves says, what results is an “attenuated conception of Revelation” (115). In an effort to defend the methodological rigor of his analysis, Marion misconstrues the religious phenomenon itself (115). Such is Graves’s claim.

It is worth revisiting Marion’s distinction between revelation (as possibility) and Revelation (as actual). For Marion, Revelation is thought in terms of its form rather than its content—as Graves says, it is “construed formally precisely because it refuses any determinant content” (118). But the status of this indeterminateness is ambiguous. Revelation might be said to be so, because it remains at the level of a sheer possibility, a formal possibility (122). In this respect, it is indeterminate insofar as the phenomenologist makes no decision about whether the phenomenon has actually taken place. Marion defends the philosophical legitimacy of his analysis of revelation on the grounds that it holds such determination, designation, or denomination in suspense (122). The philosophical rigor of the analysis is said to be safeguarded by bracketing the question about the actuality of revelation (122). However, Graves notes a further potential kind of indeterminacy. In addition to the formal (or methodological) indeterminacy just noted is another type, “material” indeterminacy:

Marion’s work suggests another kind of indeterminacy, one that belongs to the content or material of the phenomenon itself. Here, the actual content remains indeterminate precisely because this content exceeds or overwhelms all signification and concepts—in short, all efforts to comprehend it, to say it, or to give it a linguistic articulation. We might call this material-indeterminacy since it refers to that which is materially (i.e., actually) given, but given in a way that eludes our (linguistic) understanding of it. That which is given remains indeterminate not because it is non-actual or not-yet-give—as in the case of the formal-indeterminacy—but because this actuality frustrates and exceeds every attempt to pin it down, to make determinations, and to describe its contents. Whereas formal-indeterminacy clearly pertains to revelation (as possibility), material-indeterminacy belongs to Revelation (as actually given)—and thus, it would make no sense to speak of the formal-indeterminacy of Revelation or the material-indeterminacy of revelation (123).

When Marion speaks of a pure givenness or a pure call, which type of indeterminacy does he mean—formal or material? To determine or name the call would involve a theological interpretation which would violate Marion’s own phenomenological description. Under pressure to justify his phenomenological approach on strictly philosophical grounds, Marion has subjected the phenomenon of Revelation to a process of counter-contamination in his work (125). The resulting material indeterminacy of Revelation is related to Marion’s related handling of language and hermeneutics, Graves claims. For has not Marion in effect extricated Revelation from its proper textual-linguistic milieu? (125). In Graves’s estimation, the saturated phenomenon renders any hermeneutic interpretation of it an afterthought, as an activity that works upon an already given phenomenon (126). This is because Marion operates on the assumption that the success of his phenomenology of givenness depends upon a radical suspension of the subject’s capacity to constitute, conceptualize, or name the given (127). In the name of liberating the phenomenon from metaphysics (and hence the conditions of possibility of the transcendental subject), Revelation is left lacking any determinate material content. For although it is true that Marion will insist the saturated phenomenon necessitates an “endless hermeneutic” on the part of the recipient, this is ultimately because no set of finite concepts will ever prove sufficient or adequate to it. In the last analysis, Graves concludes that Marion’s phenomenology of revelation fails to describe Revelation. The decision to formulate the merely formal possibility of revelation, without presupposing an actual event of determinate Revelation, entails that the actual event of Revelation itself is left indeterminate (143). On the one hand, Marion seems to want to insist that linguistic determinations always originate on the side of the finite subject (in his or her effort to interpret the indeterminate given).  On the other hand, he wants to say that the finite subject is constituted by (or receives itself from) the given itself.  In Graves’s view, this presents a problem concerning how to account for determinacy in the first place.

At last, we come to Ricœur, whose approach to revelation is the one Graves most prefers. For it is Ricœur who is said to provide a way forward, by having taken a path that the radical approaches of both Heidegger and Marion did not. It all has to do with language. Contrary to the radical attitude toward linguistic mediation which maintains that any given phenomenon will require interpretation (and hence an imposition on what is fundamentally in itself indeterminate), Ricœur’s hermeneutic approach stresses that all phenomena are always already interpreted. Language is no longer regarded as an inert medium which simply mediates what has already been given by superimposing its determinateness upon it, but rather as a genuine source of revelation in its own right (133). Rather than language obstructing or occluding revelation, revelation takes place in language. For, according to Graves, it is Ricœur who rightly acknowledges that the given is always already linguistically determined (not pure).

This promise of language to resolve the problems of formalization/attenuation, ontic contamination, and counter-contamination besetting the radical approach has gone unnoticed, says Graves, because until recently, Ricœur’s work had been largely overlooked within the secondary literature on the theological turn. For whereas Marion under the threat of ontic contamination—like Heidegger before him—wound up advancing a purely formal figure of Revelation, one that is said to precede any possible description, designation, or act of naming, and one that is therefore anterior to linguistic expression and textual mediation (146), Ricœur instead treats language as the originary site of revelation. For him, revelation involves a transformation of the self during the course of reading or interpreting concrete texts—specifically texts that are deemed sacred (147). To the extent there is an indeterminacy at work in revelation, it has less to do with a prior, pre-linguistic givenness than with an over-determinacy rooted in the domain of language itself (147). The saturation does not reside in an “originary” domain beyond the ken of language and the concept, but in the superabundance of meaning within the text itself.

Ricœur’s discussion of the relationship between phenomenology and hermeneutics does not begin with Heidegger, nor even with Husserl, but rather with a consideration of the epistemological problems that plagued nineteenth-century hermeneutic theory and, specifically, those relation to issues within the Geisteswissenschaft (150). Dilthey, for instance, believed that the primary challenge was to show hermeneutics possessed a methodology that could compete with the natural sciences—a methodology “which could be held together on the basis of a coherent theory of understanding” (150). This required that the diverse procedures of classical hermeneutics such as classical philology and biblical exegesis be subordinated to a more general, unified theory of historical knowledge (150). Ricœur contends that Dilthey’s attempt to describe this process left his hermeneutic theory “forever oscillating between a desire for a general theory of historical knowledge, on the one hand, and a Lebensphilosophie rooted in a regional psychological paradigm, on the other” (151-52). Ricœur notes that if hermeneutics should not be understood in terms of the search for the psychological intentions of the author concealed behind the text, and if it not to be reduced to interpretation designed to the dismantling of the text’s structures, then what remains to be interpreted? (155-56). As Graves says, Ricœur’s answer is the “world of the text”—no textual discourse is so fictional that it does not connect up with reality (157). The world of the text is irreducible to the mental life of its author or to the immanent structure of the work itself (156). The text, hence, opens the pathway to revelation. After all, if revelation is an encounter with the divine which somehow “transcends, shatters, or pierces through the humdrum of everyday reality,” then the text is the most appropriate site for such an encounter (158). For Marion, language and concepts are viewed as a kind of filament imposed upon the given. But for Ricœur, the given is always already linguistic in character (179). The latter’s notion of revelation as the revelation of the world of the text consequently weaves together a hermeneutic theory of textual mediation and a phenomenological theory of being-in-the-world. This avoids the problem of counter-contamination. But in doing so, there is another potential problem.

In characterizing the world of the text as he does, has not Ricœur destroyed any basis for distinguishing sacred texts from secular texts? If every literary or poetic text possesses the power to carry one beyond the everyday world of manipulable objects, what is unique about the Bible? (159). The standard answer is to appeal to inspiration. In the case of a revealed text, there is said to be a double authorship, insofar as God is behind the voice of its human author. However, because Ricœur strongly rejects this conception of revelation as inspiration (166), the problem of distinguishing a sacred from secular text remains. While Ricœur’s hermeneutic theory of revelation represents a gain, insofar as it avoids the pitfalls of psychologism or subjectivism, how is one to know it is God speaking in the text? (170) Here, the temptation would be to appeal to some originary or fundamental phenomenon said to lie behind or beyond the text, yet Ricœur has expressly ruled out that option.

This all comes to a head in Ricœur’s own example of the phenomenon of conscience. As Graves explains, Ricœur’s “long route” differs from Heidegger. Whereas Heidegger’s ontological project entailed a logic of presupposition in which phenomenology would be autonomous from the positive sciences, Ricœur insists on maintaining a creative tension between ontology and the so-called ontico-positive sciences (177). In principle, this would seem to allow Ricœur to avail himself of theology in ways that Heidegger cannot. This would be important, because no matter how long the route one takes, any phenomenological account must eventually face the question of how it is to name the phenomenon that has encountered it. In the case of conscience, Ricœur notes the peculiar modality of otherness belonging to it: its “voice” seems to be coming from another. This is the phenomenon’s enigma: its call issues both from within me and beyond and above me (182). Contrary, however, to what one might expect, here Ricœur, like Heidegger, claims what or who exactly the other is cannot be determined (182), and thus he bars any straightforward identification between God and the call of conscience even at the level of a theology (183). For even Ricœur, the problem of revelation (at least insofar as it concerns the phenomenon of conscience) ends in indeterminacy. As Graves notes, however, setting the particularity of conscience aside, the hermeneutic approach to revelation generally maintains the possibility that the call is already named, that revelation is already determined by the historical, cultural, and textual conditions through which one encounters it.

This has been a very long review. However, in digging into the details to the extent I have, I have still only scratched the surface of what Graves’s book contains. Let me conclude with some final comments regarding the questions that remain to be answered in light of the new ground broken by Graves in his excellent study. As someone sympathetic to radical phenomenology myself, I can say that Graves has developed a number of very important, and compelling, challenges to Heidegger and Marion. In response, I wonder whether turning to Michel Henry might go some way to addressing those problems. This is certainly an odd suggestion, I recognize, as one might think that whatever problems beset Marion’s radical phenomenology are likely to even more so plague Henry’s own. This is because Henry is far more dismissive than Marion of the need of hermeneutical interpretation and textual mediation for revelation. For Henry, there is no call or response structure said to be at work—the revelation of Christ is immediate, ineffable, and unavoidable within the interiority of life. In Marion’s case, Graves correctly emphasizes that the distinction between revelation (as possibility) and Revelation (as actual) leads to the problems of counter-contamination and material indeterminacy. Graves attributes both of these to Marion’s conception of the relation between language and revelation, a view which implies that language does little more than impose meaning on a phenomenon which forever defies any such imposition. In short, the claim is that Marion’s attempt to accommodate the need for hermeneutic interpretation of the saturated phenomenon ultimately fails, because the given itself is always inherently indeterminate, and indeterminate because it is thought to be non-linguistic. In his most recent work, however, Marion has arguably taken a different approach. In D’Ailleurs, la révélation, he assigns a central role to the parable—according to Marion, the revelation that takes place through the words of Christ in the form of parables is a distinctly linguistic phenomenon. The parabolic discourses first disclose a mystery, which is in turn resolved by those who have “ears to hear” and “eyes to see.” It would be interesting to hear from Graves about the extent to which, if at all, he thinks Marion’s analysis of the parable (and in turn the Trinity) addresses the previous problem of Revelation’s material indeterminacy.5 For with the parable, initially Revelation proves mysterious, yet ultimately determinate—Christ reveals himself to be the Son of God.

Of course, Marion’s employment of the parables will elicit the familiar objection that he is guilty after all of doing theology rather than phenomenology, but this is fine, if one thinks, as Graves does, that the ideal of philosophical rigor guiding such an objection, one that had previously led Marion to insist upon the distinction between revelation (as possibility) and Revelation (as actual), is not worth preserving. The question Marion asks in light of the mystery put forth by the parable is a good one: why do some of those who encounter these words of Christ recognize him to be the Son of God, while others do not? Notice that the problem of revelation here is not only linguistic—the problem is not whether one knows (or how one knows that one knows) that the Bible is indeed the word of God. The problem, therefore, is not limited simply to those who encounter the parables in the context of what Ricœur says is considered to be a sacred text by believers. For the problem was already salient for those said to have been directly contemporaneous to Christ. While the problem of revelation is perhaps further complicated by textual mediation, this later complication is only derivative of the more primary problem, one which confronted those who encountered Christ face to face just as much as it does anyone today. If Graves opens his study by recounting the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century critiques of revelation, here it is fitting to mention two figures who sought to defend it: Hamann and Kierkegaard. For Hamann and Kierkegaard, when read in the spirit of Christ, Scripture will address one as the word of God, and the inspired status of its meaning, which is otherwise veiled, becomes accessible. If one fails to do so, no revelation takes place. How, then, does one know it is God speaking in and through the text? Ultimately, it is not possible to demonstrate this to others, nor to deduce it by discursive reason, historical evidence, or any other such public criterion. This is because, even in the case of a revelation that would appear to be mediated linguistically, it is the Word who speaks. This was Henry’s point, and I think it is an unavoidable one, no matter how long a hermeneutic route Ricœur or others first travel in order to finally work up to it. Although it causes philosophical offense, radical phenomenology, I think, is right to insist that revelation always requires a salto mortale.6   


1 One should also mention the recent publication of another text in this same vein, Joseph Rivera’s Phenomenology and the Horizon of Experience: Spiritual Themes in Henry, Marion, and Lacoste (London: Routledge, 2022).

2 Such was the conclusion F. H. Jacobi drew amid the pantheism controversy. It was he who introduced the term “nihilism” into the philosophical lexicon.

3 To speak of a single Enlightenment, as if it were one unified intellectual and geographical movement, would be an oversimplification. There were French, German, Scottish, and English Enlightenments. And although today we tend to treat Enlightenment and deliberate secularization as synonymous, in the case of the seventeenth-century English Enlightenment, at least, disputes regarding the relationship between reason and faith originated within a religious milieu seeking to clarify the so-called “rule of faith”: whether it was the church, Scripture, or inspiration possessing the last word on what constituted religious truth. There was hope reason might adjudicate the issue. That the elevation of reason for this specific purpose would precipitate the broader atheistic and secularist developments it later did was something the Great Tewmen or Cambridge Platonists did not foresee or intend. See Frederick C. Beiser, The Sovereignty of Reason: The Defense of Rationality in the Early English Enlightenment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).

4 For an excellent examination of the way in which Heidegger attempts to formulate a phenomenological method successfully navigating the danger of theological “contamination,” see Ryan Coyne’s Heidegger’s Confessions: The Remains of Saint Augustine in Being and Time and Beyond (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Tarek R. Dika has argued that this attempt of Heidegger’s ultimately fails; the theological content of the existential analytic’s fundamental categories is ineliminable, Dika argues. See “Finitude, Phenomenology, and Theology in Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit.” Harvard Theological Review 110 (4) 2017: 476–494.

5 Although some of the material in question was already available in other sources, such as his 2014 “Givenness and Revelation” Gifford Lectures, D’Ailleurs, la révélation itself only appeared in print after Graves had completed his own study. For a discussion of the way in which the parable is said to accomplish Revelation, see Marion, D’Ailleurs, la révélation (Paris: Grasset, 2020), 336-51. An English translation of D’Ailleurs is currently in preparation by Stephanie Rumpza and Stephen E. Lewis.

6 I would like to thank Adam Graves for extending me the invitation to write this review.

Aaron Jaffe, Michael F. Miller, Rodrigo Martini (Eds.): Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism

Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism Book Cover Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism
Aaron Jaffe (Anthology Editor), Michael F. Miller (Anthology Editor), Rodrigo Martini (Anthology Editor)
Bloomsbury Academic
2021
ebook $93.60 Hardback $117.00
368

Reviewed by: Sarvesh Wahie (University of Jena)

Vilém Flusser’s Consciousness in ‘Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism’

Considering the scarceness of Vilém Flusser’s citability, Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism is a much-needed current toward reiterating a Flusserian significance in the contemporary philosophical discourses. The reasons for such a scarcity may vary from diversification of philosophical themes to canonical sympathies in specific disciplines, but all variation ultimately condenses down to a simple thesis of Flusser’s own writing elegance. The epilogue to the Volume rightfully calls this elegance “thinking in freestyle.”[i] One may therefore question: How to approach a freestyle thought along disciplined axes? Spontaneously, two possibilities come to mind: Either reading Flusser’s oeuvre ‘for itself’ or interpreting Flusser ‘through’ other thinkers. The editors or the book, Aaron Jaffe, Michael F. Miller, and Rodrigo Martini, seem to subscribe to a rather agnostic approach where a majority of contributions engage handpicked themes from Flusser’s writings. This neither-nor approach diversifies itself into three meta-sections: ‘Processing Flusser’, ‘Flusser’s Expanded’ Modernism, and ‘Flusser’s Toolkit’. This grounds the overarching thesis of the volume: the collection is understood as a regulating principle between straining Flusser’s speculations on the one end and emanating a specific Modernism on the other end[ii]. With an assortment of short, long, provocative, and specialized essays, each of these sections are oriented toward opening up dialogical spaces between the ever-concretizing disposition of Flusser as a media-theorist and the fresh amplitude of him as a prolific Modernist. Going by this editorial introduction to the book, such an agnostic approach seems to be well suited for Flusser’s own writing style because the departing atmosphere for Flusser is neither philosophy, anthropology, physics and biology nor language, media, information, digitalism, existentialism and translation. Quite the reverse, the atmosphere of departure for Flusser has been text, where philosophy, anthropology, physics, biology, language, media, information, digitalism, existentialism, and translation appear as themes. Therefore, the 2021 published essay-collection on Vilém Flusser in the series Understanding Philosophy, Understanding Modernism is undoubtedly a textual atmosphere of conversation between philosophical and Modernist currents colored in Flusserian inks.

The goal of this essay-collection is not a Flusser hagiography or an introduction of kinds. Thus, as mentioned by the editors, one of the striking features of the volume is to treat Flusser as an event, as opposed to a biographical subject[iii]. This stance immediately sets Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism apart from other books on Flusser such as Rainer Guldin & Gustav Bernanado’s Vilém Flusser, Ein Leben in der Bodenlosigkeit (2017),  Oliver Bidlo’s  Vilém Flusser: Einführung (2008), and Nils Röller & Silvia Wagnermaier’s Absolute Vilém Flusser (2003). Such a contrast translates into a reading of Flusser as an occurrence in the prevalent academic discourses. Specifically, these discourses are situated in the scene of German Media-theory, where Flusser arrived with his philosophy of communication (Kommunikologie) and gained a reputation of a prophetic media-theorist. This situatedness of event Flusser in German media theory is the departing atmosphere for the essay-collection. However, Modernism is also explored along with this situation. This is apparent in the structure of the book in the first two sections. Section one processes Flusser in the German media theoretical situatedness and section two introduces an expanded Flusserian view of Modernism. To put it simply, the essay-collection is an account of German media-theoretical handling of event Flusser as received by researchers in the Anglophone world. Therefore, it can be said, that this essay-collection is meant for a reader that desires to be informed about Flusser research on a transnational paradigm. Conversely, the volume also demands the reader to self-study and be familiar with Flusser’s writings because the essays in the collection rarely clarify Flusserian concepts as they work on a discursive plane with them. This verdict does not hold true for the third section of the book entitled ‘Flusser’s Toolkit’ though. This section is dedicated to explicating Flusserian concepts relevant for this book. Thus, on the structural scheme of things, Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism suggests also an opening to a reader not familiar with Flusser’s writings.

The section, Processing Flusser, opens with an import of Flusserian question ‘Does writing have a future?’ into the present day scenario of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The essay ‘Does AI have a future?’ seeks to locate the prominence of AI in Flusser’s writings and with it to analyze the futures invoked in asking this question. The essay posits Flusser’s prophetic writing tone as a function of the implicit temporality of apparatus like linear writing, images, and programs. Thus, from a vantage point of such temporalities the essay argues, one is able to make a prognosis about a future. In the case of this essay, the future is invoked by dealing with the question, whether AI enhances or destroys a historical future. This historical future is by extension Post-history. As propounded by Flusser, with the advent of programming and computers, history calls for a reconsideration of its values: it can no longer be thought of as unidirectional movement of a subject. On the contrary, multidirectional and multidimensional models must be thought in movement. Certainly, an AI, an automation, can do this job of making multi-directional movement faster than humans would do. But, it is not only linear history at stake, AI can be employed in various walks of life, like garden mowing, making business deals, running economy, and even writing poems. Humans can concentrate on something else then – pain and suffering. Thus, the human paradigm features as uncritically alienated in this essay. However, the confident tone that Flusser always broadcasts in his writings appears at the end of the essay as well. A creative dialogical consciousness is suggested as a feature of post-historical apparatus and therefore it promises a potentiality that can be realized in either direction of total control or total freedom. The ideas played out in this essay also function as debate-openers for the entire first section. The later contributors of the essay-collection touch upon these ideas in myriad capacities.

Take, for instance, the second and third essays. If a creative dialogical consciousness correlates to post-historical apparatuses, then it makes sense to question the design and shape of such apparatuses. This question is discussed with Flusser’s philosophy of design in the second essay of the collection, titled ‘Design/Shape’. Design for Flusser is both, process and projection into the future. The essay is in line with the Flusserian argument, but also introduces a thought that Flusser’s Design philosophy is ultimately a philosophy of language. Of course, language is not design, but is Flusser’s ‘model of all models’ that he uses to design his philosophy. Thus, by virtue of a methodological identicalness language becomes a tool for designing the future. As depicted by the essay this identification results not only in designing objects of use and programs after Auschwitz, but also in projecting a new humanness. With this understanding, the essay touches upon a Modernist point-of-view, by locating Flusser’s Design philosophy in the trajectory of an unfinished modernization from Martin Heidegger through Sigfried Giedion and toward Bruno Latour. However, in the limited scope of the essay, this trajectory is not discussed in detail. Nevertheless, the Flusserian idea of designing objects becomes known: A designed object is an object of use (Gebrauchsgegenstand) as opposed to being an object (Gegenstand) that resists communication. Immediately, one can think of guns as objects of ‘use’. The question of an intentional communication remains unanswered in the thesis portrayed in the essay. This thesis moreover stays as simple as it is. Toward the end of the essay, the very attitudes that design objects of use, except featuring a choice of value creation, remain uncommented on a theoretical plane. The third essay picks up this node of designing communication by engaging in dialogues on the plane of video images. The essay mentions Flusser’s famous video collaboration with the artist Fred Forest in 1972-74, in which Flusser appears in the video, philosophizing and attempting dialogues. This essay is a treat for anyone who desires to get informed about various collaborations that Flusser was a part of with other artists, such as from the Fluxus movement. Flusser shared sympathies for creating a participatory art experience, which would also translate to a creative dialogical consciousness. Thus, “dialogical video” as a term came out of Forest’s collaboration with Flusser. This is opposed to Film because a dialogical video involves a telepresence as evinced by Zoom-Meetings or Skype today. Other than exhibiting the term dialogical video, which in fact was coined by Forest, the essay provides a detailed view of Flusser’s engagement with artists, but shies away from describing a sound theoretical intervention.

In a similar vein, the fourth essay of the collection depicts Flusser’s involvement with the intellectuals in Europe. Specifically, the Ars Electronica Symposium of 1988 in Linz, Austria where media theorists such as Heinz von Foerster, Jean Baudrillard, Freidrich Kittler, Peter Weibel, and Hannes Böhringer each presented their theories. This was an important symposium as far as chalking out contrasts between the perspectives of these theorists is concerned and the essay takes up this job willingly. Staying true to the ethos of the volume, the essay portrays Flusser as an event where perspectives of other theorists intersect. The point of intersection is cybernetics: Flusser perhaps the strongest proponent, Baudrillard the detractor, and others drenched in the cybernetic discourse as shown by the essay. Thus, the essay argues Flusser’s influence in shaping the media theory as one knows it today. It is important to note that this essay also brushes on the questions raised by the first essay of the volume: namely, the creative dialogical consciousness and the post historical apparatus. The essay briefly puts forward the Flusserian concept of gestures as a capacity of impressing information onto objects. This feature brings together, if one wants, the philosophy of design. Since, designing is an activity of processing and projecting, it can be argued that designing memories (also Flusser’s topic at the symposium. In German: Gedächtnisse) at the subatomic level, for instance in computer chips, is an ontology of impressing information onto objects. With this, an undercurrent of modernity comes to the forefront. For Flusser this changes thinking subjects acting on objects by virtue of work to thinking of Projects projecting models/shapes/designs onto objects in order to transform them into objects of use. This is the post historical apparatus, memories to use Flusser’s term, which is programmed by multidirectional designs. To design dialogically or creatively is then to program imaginatively enough to bring about a cybernetics of conversation. For this reason, a programmer for Flusser is no less than an artist, or trickster in his words. In a theoretical discourse of the dialectic between the program and the functionary, Flusser’s theory establishes a sharp contrast because it seeks to theorize the very act of creating a program. However, it is important to note that the act of creating a program cannot be thought of in terms of individual or global for Flusser, because by virtue of its ontological credence designing objects of use is an intersubjective atmosphere. The next essay entitled ‘Flusser in the light of radiation’ explicates this atmosphere with the metaphor of radiation, but still works in the individual and global realms. Not only can programers create computers for communicating between humans and machines, but they can also create self-destructive nuclear weapons. Once again, this essay strikes back with the ethics of programing against the backdrop of Flusser’s essay-series called “Curie’s Children” written for the Artforum magazine from 1986. Apart from interpreting these writings as an apocalyptic warning, the essay introduces Flusserian concept of ‘backlash’ from an unpublished essay that bears the same name. Designing objects of use or tools according to Flusser has the capacity to strike back or backlash at the programer. For instance, the invention of a lever backlashed at the arm to make it function like a lever. Surely, the thesis is contestable, but as a fair warning to a programmer/human, it definitely makes its case. What kind of a human does the post historical radiation enlighten?

‘On being human in the universe of technical images’ is the next essay in the collection that takes up this question and inserts ‘game and play’ as prospective answers.  If one thinks of ‘play’ in general, then Freidrich Schiller promptly comes to mind. ‘Game’ thought in linguistic terms summons Ludwig Wittgenstein. The essay considers both of these traditions, but also briefly discusses Flusser’s other influences in Brazil that affected his thought toward writing Ins Universum der technichen Bilder (1985). The essay argues that in his writings Flusser uses ‘game’ as a noun – to look at an object from non-participatory distance – and he uses ‘play’ as a verb – to emphasize a first-person or an involved perspective. The differentiation between game and play, the essay also suggests, is possible in the English language, which perhaps made Flusser use the capacity to chart out a conceptual difference in a short piece called ‘Games’. In ‘Games’ Flusser seeks to define human existence as Homo ludens, which the essay expertly points out is a Flusserian acknowledgement of Johan Huizinga’s conceptualization. For Flusser, the essay shows, Homo ludens is not only involved in playing, but also the very capacity of play is able to differentiate between the player and the game. This is the link to Schiller, where this differentiation results in an aesthetic experience of humanness. The essay further states that experiencing aesthetics of humanness speaks to Flusser because it is rooted in the phenomenological description from the perspective of the player (first-person perspective). The essay is aware of the boldness of this statement and readily mentions that Schiller wrote in a time where a Husserlian Phenomenology was still a century away. Nevertheless, the essay brings to forefront that in order to understand the experience of playing, Phenomenology is categorically crucial to Flusserian thought. Talking about game, the essay describes Flusser’s piece ‘Games’ in detail and firmly concedes that for Flusser there is no outside of a game, but there are open and closed games. Language, for instance, is an open game because it has no fixed ending and it continues to gain and lose components in its movement of play. Chess, on the other hand, is an example of a closed game, because its scope of elements are fixed and it has a definite end.  A game then, like most Flusserian concepts, relate to a communicative structure of discourses and dialogues among others like philosophy, anthropology, and translation. Thus, a player is always already rooted in myriad games, playing with and against the program of the game. In further sections of the essay, this ontology of play explores possibilities in designing, projecting, and creating alternative worlds digitally, thereby reinstating the atmosphere of post-history where all objects have disappeared “into whirling particles”[iv] and left the human subject isolated. The future then opens to humans as projects, designing alternative worlds in the universe of technical images.

At this point into the reading of the book, one may surely question the coherency of Flusser’s references and influences. Seasoned readers of Flusserian thought already know Flusser’s reluctance on citing or quoting his sources. One may also see that Flusser writes from his own experience or from a first person perspective. This, of course, is not always true. But, on several occasions, Flusser clearly remarks that subjects and objects are extrapolations or abstractions elevated from a field of concrete relations. Does this make a case for Flusser’s phenomenological praxis? “Flusser’s Philosophical Backgrounds,” the next essay in the collection, surely makes a ground for Flusser’s phenomenological orientation. The essay concretely not only mentions Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger as phenomenologists to Flusser’s inspirations, but also contested phenomenologists such as Martin Buber and José Ortega y Gasset. Other than these thinkers, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Franz Kafka make for pivotal changes in Flusserian thought as shown by the essay.

Considering the background of the radical contention between media-theory and phenomenology in the German academia[v], reading Flusser as a phenomenologist is a venture doomed to isolation. On the one hand, media theorists have welcomed Flusser prophetically as the deciding element in shaping the future of media theory in general – the Ars Electronica Symposium is a good example in this regard. On the other hand, Flusser has been dubbed as a phenomenographist by key phenomenologists[vi] in Germany. For the context, Phenomenology literally orients itself to the ‘logic of the phenomenon in question and Phenomenography is a mere ‘description’ of any phenomenon. The eighth essay in the collection, ‘Vilém Flusser’s Quasi-Phenomenology’, however responds to this debate and agrees on reading Flusser both as a genuine phenomenologist and as a phenomenographer, but rejects reading Flusser as a media-theorist as half-truth. The essay splits Flusser’s oeuvre into phenomenographic writings such as Gestures and Things and Non-Things and phenomenological writings such as Kommunikologie (communicology). The reasons for this split, as argued by the essay, is Flusser’s inability to break the dialectics of thesis and anti-thesis in order to reach at a universal synthesis. A universal synthesis is claimed by the essay to be prevalent in Flusser’s philosophy of communication. Despite engaging with Flusserian brand of Phenomenology at an intricate level, the essay does not comment of the debate between media theory and phenomenology, where the point of contention is essentially regarding the quality of experience – mediated experience (reading books, watching television, scrolling social media etc.) as opposed to immediate experience (writing books, painting images, programming computers etc.). Flusser, surely talks about both of these experiences. An open question that arises then: What is a phenomenology of mediation?

Ironically enough, playing on post-historical consciousness where it focuses on other things such as pain and suffering, the next essay in the collection invokes Georg W.F. Hegel’s dialectics of an unhappy consciousness into ‘Processing Flusser’. The essay however argues that Flusser posits the figure of a Migrant against the Hegelian unhappy consciousness to overcome the dialectics of losing/finding oneself and finding/losing the world. A migrant, in analysis of the essay, projects herself into the uncertain future openly. The logic of this act is then not to find oneself or the world, but to find home. The essays further quotes Flusser in commenting on Hegel, where he suggests that without a home a self would be unconscious and therefore home (also dwelling in Flusser) is primary to self-consciousness and world-consciousness. Surely, this can be interpreted as being-in-the-world, but the essay does not go along this Heideggerian terrain. Instead, the essay explores Flusserian irony as a gesture of freedom. Irony for Flusser is sort of rising-above contingence and moving away from irony is engaging contingence in order to change it. Both these acts, engagement and disengagement, result in freedom for Flusser. Teleological, if one so desires, irony is itself ironical. The essay further sees potential in this kind of irony as a mode of criticism in a post-historical scenario, because Flusserian irony suggests a free being-in-the-world, which is always already capacitated to critique various determinisms or searches for freedom. A similar point is made again by the next essay entitled ‘Vampyroteuthis infernalis as Media Theory’. For the context, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, originally written in German and published in 1987, is undoubtedly Flusser’s weirdest book. It seeks to describe humanness in mode of a fable by means of an inversion from the perspective of a deep-sea organism called The Vampire Squid from Hell (Vampyroteuthis infernalis). The essay comments on media theories by stating that they must confront their “inner Hegel”[vii] This inner Hegel is another name for determinisms and searches of freedoms. In the scope of the essay, determinisms such as Darwinism are discussed. The Vampire Squid (Vampy) then becomes a metaphor for a new kind or Flusserian media theory where the human project is posited as free and is required to design inter-subjective communicative apparatus. Thus, Flusser’s goal, as interpreted by the essay, is to review mediated immediacy of technology through the fable of Vampy. This translates into reviewing projects like designing a residue-free communication, total coordination in dialogue, and unison in conversations. It is precisely these kind of projects that the essay identifies not only as vampyroteuthic, but also as third kind of super-organisms like de-individualized anthills or swarm of bees. The danger posed then is clear: The movement of technology toward becoming immediate or residue-free. To the essay, this danger is of media-literate super-fascist regimes and in doing so, the essay has transformed the inner Hegel into a super-Hegel. The last essay of the section also echoes this danger with its references to the Covid-19 outbreak in the contemporary world. As such, the questions concerning freedom remain unresolved.

In a nutshell, the first section ‘Processing Flusser’ is more of an unpacking of event Flusser than a processing. Since a plethora of themes is exploded under the common denominator of post-history, a concrete processed Flusser still manages to escape a formal vantage point. Perhaps, providing such a vantage point was not the intention of the section in the first place. Perhaps, all the essays in the section feature as a multidirectional standpoint. Nevertheless, it remains unpacking of event Flusser because at least three mutually exclusive currents can be summarized from the section: media theory, phenomenology, and critical media theory. Media theory and phenomenology already show indifference on the quality of experience and a critical media theory does not speak of phenomenology at all. Hence, these three currents lie unpacked on the table for the reader to decide herself on weaving a process out of them.

On such considerations, a reader not familiar with Flusser’s Philosophy is definitely out of the scope of the volume. The section ‘Flusser’s expanded Modernism’ makes this issue even more complicated. As a Flusserian reader, one is compelled to go back to Flusserian writings in order to make sense of the essays in this section. For instance, both the essays ‘“Naked little spasms of the self ” In search of an authentic gesture in posthistorical times’ and ‘The ‘Pataphysical Span: Alfred Jarry and Vilém Flusser’, work with the Flusserian concept of Gestures and even employ similar quotes from Flusser’s writings to comment on Modernity but miss out on a phenomenological relevance of the theme. Phenomenology as a term is mentioned in various contexts in these two essays, but a theoretical working out of the concept Gesture in attunement with phenomenology is not to be read. Hence, a reader wonders what statements like “a phenomenology of phenomenology”[viii] and “historical stages of phenomenological consciousness”[ix] actually seek to deliver. Partly this confusion is a result of using the English translation of Gestures as the reference text for these essays. In the English version, Gestures (2014) the opening text of the book, where Flusser’s seeks to contrast attunement with gestures in order to define them, ‘attunement’ has been replaced by ‘affect’[x]. In the German version Gesten, Versuch einer Phänomenologie (1991) attunement is called ‚Gestimmtheit‘(a mood, in which a person/thing positions themselves – attunement). The Spanish translation, Los Gestos (1994) uses ‘acordamiento[xi] (accord/agreement). Flusser’s own English variant was ‘sentimentality’[xii]. The translator of the English version mentions Flusser’s variant and also acknowledges that ‘attunement’ has already appeared as a word in translation for German philosophy in English to emphasize the idea of intentionality (directedness of consciousness) in Husserlian Phenomenology. Yet, ‘affect’ is preferred over ‘attunement’, so that it opens the scope of Flusser’s theory across various disciplines and with that, the word is supposed to retain the quality of uniting the internal and external worlds. Of course, the German writing can also not be considered as the so-called original text because Flusser himself wrote the text in French and during the first publication of the book in 1991, it was translated into German with the title ‘Geste und Gestimmtheit. Einübung in die Phänomenologie der Gesten’. Keeping this in mind, it cannot be argued if ‘affect’ as translation of ‘Gestimmtheit’ is correct or not. But, what can be argued is how much the translation affects the relevance of Phenomenology in Flusser’s theory of gestures. In the mentioned essay Flusser argues, Gestures are bodily movements that express an intention[xiii] and goes on to revise the definition by introducing a symbolic communication[xiv] to gestures. Now, if gestures are to express an intention, it is necessary that the mode of expression be attuned to the symbolic intention a gesture communicates. A simple gesture of an eye contact made by a person wearing spectacles can bring out the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘attunement’. If my spectacles merely affect my intention to make an eye contact, it would mean that my glasses affect my eyes in a way that helps me make an eye contact. As such, the affect my glasses have on my eyes link the inner intention of looking the other person into the eyes and the outer objectivity of an eye contact. Phenomenologically, if ‘affect’ is understood as ‘affection’ (Affektion) it would make a direct reference to Husserlian Phenomenology and Gestures would be understood as intentional acts. However, my spectacles do not merely affect my eyes; the affect is encoded in a specific intentionality that lets me see the world according to the strength of my eyes in the first place. This means that my glasses feature the same nature of intentionality that I would be directed toward without glasses (that is if my eyes were not weak) – making an eye contact.  Hence, an attunement, so that my glasses work in accordance with the strength of my eyes, is primary to express an intention in my gesture of an eye contact. If the glasses are not attuned, I must forget about an eye contact because the world would appear in a haze of colors[xv].  Both the mentioned essays in the collection Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism do not engage with this difference of translations and hence spin-off at the tangent of interpreting Flusser’s theory of gestures in the light speculative journalism and negentropic movement in post-history. As such, these essays call for a closer reviewing of Flusser’s concept of Gesture.

On the contrary, the collection also features essays that comment on a phenomenological relevance of Flusser’s philosophy. Take, for instance, the essays titled ‘An Intersubjective Style’, ‘Flusser’s New Weird’, and ‘A Philosophy of Refraction’. Each of these essays not only grounds phenomenology in Flusser’s writings, but also comments on how Modernism can be understood through Flusser’s spectacles. “Flusser understood intersubjectivity to be both the substrate and goal of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology”[xvi], immediately clarifies that Flusser sees the ground of concrete relations as being intersubjective and thereby critiques the technological tendency of media becoming objective. Such a reference speaks volume for the debate if Flusser at all can be considered as phenomenologist. The most controversial work from Flusser, Vampyroteuthis infernalis that has unbearable fixation for the entire volume is also contested to be phenomenological in nature. “The important thing for Flusser is that the cephalopod’s message is intentional: it is preceded by an experience; the creature’s attitude, reaction, or concept of that experience; the desire to transmit that information; and finally the information’s encoding and transmission via chromatophoric inscription on the skin.”[xvii] Of course, from a phenomenological view, it can be argued, if at all ‘other’s’ experience as one’s own can be spoken of when the other is not located in an immediate proximity. Vampy dwells the oceanic depths where an immediate experience for a human phenomenologist is impossible. Nevertheless, the following quotation makes this argument debatable. “Heidegger not only provides some of the conceptual raw material for Flusser’s fable, as it rests heavily on the notion of Dasein, but Flusser also takes up ideas from Heidegger’s metaphysics that address the question of whether or not we, as humans, can transpose our being onto the place of another.”[xviii] On such grounds, cutting into Flusser’s work with phenomenology, may not necessarily prove Flusser to be a “phenomenologist”[xix] but Flusser’s writings can definitely provide a discourse for Phenomenology to consider media technologies in the Lifeworld. Among others, these mentioned essays speak of Husserl, Heidegger, Gasset, and Buber – a valid contribution of the book to the contemporary academic discourse that perhaps results in understanding Flusser’s Modernism.

However, the essay ‘On Synthesis and Synthetic Reality’ argues that the entirety of Flusser’s work cannot simply be called Modernist or Post-Modernist because similar to the contradictions and similarities between the two positions Flusser’s writings feature a self-contradictory style of thinking. This self-contradictory nature has been described by illustrating the concepts of Synthesis and Synthetic reality – both that run through the length of Flusser’s work. Synthesis, close to etymological sense for Flusser, is way of bringing differences and contradictions between various philosophical positions into a kind of amalgamation – a Modernist penchant for unity. Synthetic Reality, according to the essay, first appeared to describe the notion of technical images – a post-Modernist confession toward the artificiality of reality. Both synthesis and synthetic reality imply a mutual-inclusion of Sinngebung[xx] (sense giving) by virtue of Flusserian concept of projecting models onto the world. Thus, the essay argues, Flusser shares a similarity with Slavoj Žižek’s philosophy because both positions describe all reality as virtual. This sets Flusser immediately apart from Jean Baudrillard, for whom reality is hidden by simulation. This notion is again clarified in ‘Surface and Simulation Vilém Flusser and Jean Baudrillard’ in the toolkit section, where Flusser is posited as a phenomenologist as opposed to Baudrillard’s disposition as a post-structuralist. This piece also features Flusser’s direct remark on Baudrillard from an unpublished interview where Flusser holds the concept of simulation for a nonsensical proposition because of the lack of availability of an ontological tool to differentiate simulation from non-simulation. Despite this remark, Flusser agrees on a differentiation between concentricity and abstractness[xxi]. Thus, one may think of concentricity as a Modernist affinity toward unification and abstractness as a post-Modernist assertion of artificiality. Yes, Flusserian thought feature both of these positions, which by extension also bring out the difference between phenomenological concrete relations and media theoretical abstractness.

Conclusively, it can be said that section two and three of Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism make for a more engaged reading of the research on Flusser’s work. Section two, ‘Flusser’s Expanded Modernism’, also illustrates Flusser’s works in literary heritage of Modernism relating it to the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jules Verne. This has not been discussed in the scope of this review, but as such, they surely open new paradigms of Flusser-research in literary studies. In line with this assertion, the epilogue, ‘Between Languages and Without Discipline: A Twentieth-Century Intellect Drafted for the Twenty-First Century’ illustrates five non-disciplinary aspects into uncovering Flusser’s Modernism. The fall of classical Modernism and humanism (Eurocentric) after the Auschwitz, result in ‘No Fatherland’, ‘No Mother Tongue’, ‘Dialogical existence’, ‘Thinking in Freestyle’, and ‘Philosophy in Motion’[xxii]. Taken together with Phenomenology, Media-theory, and Literary studies all these aspects may be seen as the departing atmosphere of an expanded Modernism that the book desires to communicate. Over-simply put, after the fall of classical Modernism, Flusser’s consciousness synthesizes a project of humanity in a Post/Modern synthetic reality.

Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism is definitely a keystone for a scholar who desires to deepen the arc of disciplined and non-disciplined research. Nevertheless, this deepening requires reviewing and self-study of the positions engaged in this book because ultimately the collection is not open to a reader not familiar with Flusserian consciousness.


[i] Siegfried Zielinski. 2021. “Between Languages and Without Discipline: A Twentieth-Century Intellect Drafted for the Twenty-First Century”, translation Daniel Raschke. In: Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, edited by Aaron Jaffe, Michael F. Miller, and Rodrigo Martini, 323, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing.

[ii] ———. 2021. “Introduction” In: Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, edited by Aaron Jaffe, Michael F. Miller, and Rodrigo Martini, 9, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing.

[iii] Ibid., 7.

[iv] Nancy Roth. 2021. “Games and Play On Being Human in the Universe of Technical Images”, Ibid,. 64.

[v] Friedrich A. Kittler. “Phänomenologie versus Medienwissenschaft”, Accessed May 20, 2022. http://hydra.humanities.uci.edu/kittler/istambul.html

[vi] Andreas Max Ströhl. 2021.” Vilém Flusser’s Quasi-Phenomenology”, In: Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, edited by Aaron Jaffe, Michael F. Miller, and Rodrigo Martini, 79, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing.

[vii] Geoffrey Winthrop-Young. 2021. “Vampyroteuthis Infernalis as Media Theory”, Ibid,. 98.

[viii] Judith Roof. 2021. “The ‘Pataphysical Span Alfred Jarry and Vilém Flusser”, Ibid,.148.

[ix] Ibid,. 146.

[x] Nancy Roth. 2014. “Gestures and Affect the Practice of Phenomenology of Gestures”, In: Vilém Flusser. 2014 “Gestures”, translated by Nancy Roth, 1- 9, USA: University of Minnesota Press.

[xi] Claudio Gancho. 1994. “Gesto y acordiamento Ejercitación en la fenomenología de los gestos”, In: Vilém Flusser. 1994. “Los Gestos: fenomenología y comunicación”, translated by Claudio Gancho, 7-18, Spain: Herder.

[xii] Nancy Roth. 2014. “Translator’s Notes”, In: Vilém Flusser. 2014 “Gestures”, translated by Nancy Roth, 178, USA: University of Minnesota Press.

[xiii] Vilém Flusser. 1994. “Geste und Gestimmtheit Einübung in die Phänomenologie der Gesten”, In: Flusser. 1994. “Gesten Versuch einer Phänomenologie”, 7, Germany: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.

[xiv] Ibid,. 11.

[xv] See: Die Frage lautet nicht, ob das Darstellen einer Stimmung lügnerisch ist, und noch weniger, ob eine dargestellte Stimmung wahrheitsfähig ist, sondern ob sie den Betrachter berührt.” Ibid,. 14.

See also: “The question is not whether the representation of a state of mind is false, still less whether a represented state of mind has the capacity to be true. Rather, it concerns whether the observer is touched.” In: Nancy Roth. 2014. “Gestures and Affect the Practice of Phenomenology of Gestures”, In: Vilém Flusser. 2014 “Gestures”, translated by Nancy Roth, 6, USA: University of Minnesota Press.

[xvi] Frances McDonald. 2021. “An Intersubjective Style”, In: Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, edited by Aaron Jaffe, Michael F. Miller, and Rodrigo Martini, 123, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing.

[xvii] Keith Leslie Johnson. 2021. “Flusser’s New Weird”, Ibid,. 154.

[xviii] David Bering-Porter. 2021. “A Philosophy of Refraction Vilém Flusser’s Speculative Biology and the Study of Paramedia”, Ibid,. 166.

[xix] See: “Without hesitation, Edith Flusser replied that Vilem had always considered himself a phenomenologist more than anything else.” Andreas Max Ströhl. 2021. “Vilém Flusser’s Quasi-Phenomenology”, Ibid,. 77.

[xx] Rainer Guldin. 2021. “On Synthesis and Synthetic Reality Post/Modernism in Flusser’s Thinking”, Ibid,. 199.

[xxi] Thomas Tooley. 2021. “Surface and Simulation Vilém Flusser and Jean Baudrillard”, Ibid,. 300.

[xxii] Siegfried Zielinski. 2021. “Between Languages and Without Discipline: A Twentieth-Century Intellect Drafted for the Twenty-First Century”, translation Daniel Raschke. Ibid. 314 – 328.