Fiction in Contemporary Cultural Theory and Science

ESSCS Winter Seminar 2017
Deadline for proposals: October 2nd

At least since the publication, in 1911, of Die Philosophie des Als Ob (The Philosophy of 'As if'), by Hans Vaihinger, the role of fiction in philosophy and in theoretical thinking has been discussed intensely. Vaihinger argued that fiction is necessary in science because we can never fully know the underlying reality and must therefore construct systems and models of thought “as if” reality matches our models. Vaihinger’s Fictionalism suggested that concepts like Newton’s “force of gravity”, Freud’s “unconscious” and Marx’ “social class” would all be considered phenomena that we suppose to exist without ever being able to observe them directly. For the Czech born philosopher Vilém Flusser, fiction is thus a necessary tool in the effort of grasping truth through theoretical hypothesis. For Flusser we need to reinvent the world through fiction to be able to think it, “fiction is reality", he claims hence provoking a clash between ontology and phenomenology. In the essay, Vampiroteuthis Infernalis, written together with the French biologist and artist Louis Bec, and published in German in 1987, the authors create a philosophical fiction, a sort of “fabulatory epistemology”, that permits them to contemplate humanity, our own existential structure, from the most distant of viewpoints, a non-human perspective of what Ian Bogost would call an “Alien Phenomenology”. For Flusser this kind of theoretical experiment were disclosing the role of fiction in scientific thinking and discourse, not in the way of traditional “Science Fiction” where science is converted into phantasies and nightmares but as a “fictional science” aiming beyond scientific objectivity and serving the extension of human knowledge. For the last decades, Flusser has been studied as an original contributor to new media theory but recent studies of his extensive archives have disclosed a very rich and original contribution to contemporary thinking on material culture and the non-human. In Brazil, recent discussions has i.e. brought Flusser´s radical epistemology in dialogue with the Brazilian anthropologist, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro´s ideas on a pre-Columbian perspectivism in the Amerindian cosmology that works on the ground of a spiritual ontology and is claimed to represent a reversal of the classical Western dualities of nature and culture, object and subject, non-human and human.


  • BOGOST, Ian. Alien phenomenology: or what it is like to be a thing. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2012.
  • VIVEIROS DE CASTRO, Eduardo. Cannibal Metaphysics. Univocal Publishing; 2014.
  • FELINTO, Erick; SANTAELLA, Lucia. O explorador de abismos: Flusser e o pós- humanismo. São Paulo: Editora Paulus, 2012.
  • FLUSSER, Vilém & Louis Bec. Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: A Treatise, with a Report by the Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste. (Valentine A. Pakis Translator) (Posthumanities), 2012
  • HAYLES, N.K. “Speculative Aesthetics and Object-Oriented Inquiry (OOI).” Em Speculations: A Journal of Speculative Realism, v. 5, 2014.
  • SZENDY, Peter. Kant Chez Les Extraterrestres: Philosofictions Cosmopolitiques. Paris:  Les Editions de Minuit, 2011.

Deadline for proposals is October 2nd. Please send a title with a 300 words abstract and a short description of institutional affiliation directly to