In Vilém Flusser’s _Does Writing Have a Future?, _he redefines “writing” in a way that allows both he and the reader to acknowledge writing as “writing about writing” (5). In this way, he is able to argue for writing as a way of organizing, arranging, and ordering thoughts and ideas. By further detailing and explaining his position as he defines a new set of terminology, Flusser ultimately argues, “The goal of historical consciousness is unattainable…” (160) and because according to Flusser, “Writing consciousness should be referred to as historical consciousness” (7), the goal of writing must also be “unattainable.”
The set of terminology that Flusser (re)defines for the reader allows the reader to better understand his argument. For example, Flusser (re)defines “superscript” and “subscript.” According to Flusser, “Thinking and writing about writing should really be called superscript” (5). By providing the reader with this new definition, Flusser is now able to continue describing writing, specifically “superscript,” in terms of the ways in which it orders, leads, and directs. As he distinguishes between “mythical thinking” and “logical thinking” (6), he argues that “written signs are quotation marks,” (6) but in different ways for the two types of thinking.
Another important aspect from Flusser ‘s book–the argument for “writing consciousness” to be equivalent with “historical consciousness” (7)–is made possible by the aforementioned terminology. Flusser explains, “…rather writing, this linear alignment of signs, made historical consciousness possible in the first place” (7). In order for Flusser to make the claim that the goal of writing is unattainable, he must first establish writing consciousness as equal to historical consciousness.
Yet another (re)definition that allows the reader to fully comprehend Flusser’s argument is in his definition of “program.” Flusser defines, “If program is to be understood as writing directed not toward human beings but toward apparatuses, then people have been programming since writing was invented–before there were any apparatuses” (56). Flusser uses this (re)definition to explain that “…instructions were made by people manipulating other people” (57). Furthermore, Flusser believes that any behavior can be programmed or automated in a sense, and he argues that because of this, humans can be free to behave as they wish only as much as they are giving meaning to themselves and the world around them because “to program is to give meaning” (59).
I was a little bit confused about the differences between realists and nominalists when it came to Flusser’s example of “furnitureness” (48). I guess I just don’t understand how he started with realists and nominalists and ended up at “Through disciplined actions, I can find God and save my soul” (49)? I understand that he was exploring existential questions, logic, and universals, but I just got lost.
I also do not understand what Flusser means when he says, “…information was to be pressed into books but also mechanically into textiles, metal, and plastic” (51). How can information be pressed into textiles, metal, and plastic? I guess it can be “pressed” into writings published on these materials, but how is there information when there are not words (words do not make up textiles, metal, and plastic)? How can information be processed without words, either spoken verbally, thought internally, or written/typed?
Question to the author: Ultimately, I believe that you are arguing that the goal of writing is unattainable. However, who is to say that everyone has the same “goal of writing”? At the close of the section on subscript, you do acknowledge three possible goals of writing, but what if there are even more goals than this? Then, is “the goal of writing” still unattainable?