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Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

A Treatise, with a Report by the Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste

2012
Authors:

Vilém Flusser and Louis Bec
Translated by Valentine A. Pakis

Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

Pondering the human condition while examining the vampire squid from hell

How far apart are humans from animals—even the “vampire squid from hell”? Scientist/philosopher/provocateur, Vilém Flusser uses this question as a springboard to dive into a literal and a philosophical ocean. Part scientific treatise, part spoof, part philosophical discourse, part fable, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis offers a unique posthumanist philosophical understanding of phenomenology and opens the way for a nonphilosophy of life.

A classic available in English at last, this collaboration between Vilém Flusser and Louis Bec is a pioneering exploration of uncharted territory in the realm of animal cognition, philosophy and art. At once inquisitive and whimsical, this unclassifiable book brings together some of the best work of two cutting-edge thinkers that were not only geographic but also intellectual neighbors.

Eduardo Kac

How far apart are humans from animals—even the “vampire squid from hell”? Playing the scientist/philosopher/provocateur, Vilém Flusser uses this question as a springboard to dive into a literal and a philosophical ocean. “The abyss that separates us” from the vampire squid (or vampire octopus, perhaps, since Vampyroteuthis infernalis inhabits its own phylogenetic order somewhere between the two) “is incomparably smaller than that which separates us from extraterrestrial life, as imagined in science fiction and sought by astrobiologists,” Flusser notes at the outset of the expedition.

Part scientific treatise, part spoof, part philosophical discourse, part fable, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis gives its author ample room to ruminate on human—and nonhuman—life. Considering the human condition along with the vampire squid/octopus condition seems appropriate because “we are both products of an absurd coincidence . . . we are poorly programmed beings full of defects,” Flusser writes. Among other things, “we are both banished from much of life’s domain: it into the abyss, we onto the surfaces of the continents. We have both lost our original home, the beach, and we both live in constrained conditions.”

Thinking afresh about the life of an “other”—as different from ourselves as the vampire squid/octopus—complicates the linkages between animality and embodiment. Odd and strangely compelling, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis offers a unique posthumanist philosophical understanding of phenomenology and opens the way for a nonphilosophy of life.

Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

Vilém Flusser (1920–1991) was born in Prague; emigrated to Brazil, where he taught philosophy and wrote a daily newspaper column; and later moved to France. Among his many books translated into English are Does Writing Have a Future?, Into the Universe of Technical Images, and Writings, all from Minnesota.

Louis Bec is an artist who lives and works in Sorgues, France. He is the founder of the Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste.

Valentine A. Pakis is adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

A classic available in English at last, this collaboration between Vilém Flusser and Louis Bec is a pioneering exploration of uncharted territory in the realm of animal cognition, philosophy and art. At once inquisitive and whimsical, this unclassifiable book brings together some of the best work of two cutting-edge thinkers that were not only geographic but also intellectual neighbors.

Eduardo Kac

Vampryoteuthis Infernalis is a unique work that is at once literary and philosophical, poetic and scientific, and it nicely combines the imaginative fancy of the beast fable with elements of science fiction and horror. Flusser’s work is a hybrid creature, a marvelous and monstrous text that mirrors the fantastical creature it describes. The Vampyroteuthis holds a wonderfully strange and unhuman mirror up to the human and in so doing opens the way for a strange and novel non-philosophy of life.

Eugene Thacker, author of After Life

Flusser wants to create a dialogue between human and vampire squid, knowing full well what kind of unease we’re likely to feel when faced with the uncanny presence of a thing with 75,000 teeth but no spine — a thing that may, in its own way, be as intelligent as we are. What begins to emerge out of the murky depths of Flusser’s prose is a series of critiques of Western philosophy, as the radical strangeness of the vampire squid calls into question a series of long-held epistemologies.

Los Angeles Review of Books

The text is a philosophical inquiry that very creatively displaces humans in order to think about them from a distance while also trying to think with them, as the Vampyrotheuthis Infernalis shares developmental features with humans that also give them a cognitive relationship to the world analogous to human dasein.

Book News, Inc.

Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

Contents

The Treatise
I. Octopoda
II. Genealogy
The Phylum Mollusca
The Class Cephalopoda
The Species Vampyroteuthis infernalis giovanni
III. The Vampyroteuthic World
Its Model
The Abyss
Vampyroteuthic Dasein
IV. Vampyroteuthic Culture
Its Thinking
Its Social Life
Its Art
V. Its Emergence

Report by the Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste

Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

UMP blog - Halloween special: A rare interview with the vampire squid from hell.

How far apart are humans from animals—even the Vampyroteuthis infernalis, the "vampire squid from hell"?
Let's discuss.

Read the full article.