1. What is angeletics?
1. What is angeletics?
It is the name of a field of philosophic and scientific research. Why is it called like that? The word 'angeletics' derives from Greek angelia, meaning message. We use it when we refer to angels or divine messengers. There is a long tradition in theology and religious studies called angelology. Angeletics is different from angelology, its purpose being to study the phenomenon of messages and messengers within the boundaries of the condition humaine, i.e. having as its primary object human communication. This does not imply that studies relating to messages and messengers in religion or the natural sciences are excluded. Since the Internet, digital messages and messengers are playing an important role in social communication.
2. To what extent is this a new science?
It is evident that the social phenomenon of messages and messengers is a vast, old and complex phenomenon. The industrial revolution has attributed a lot of value to the marketing theory, that is, the study of propagating messages to obtain economic benefits. Moreover, when we go back to the cultural revolution caused by the invention of the press we can perceive the influence of this technique in the worldwide dissemination of political, religious and economic messages in modern times. We should not forget the history of the technique and organization of the post offices and, last but not least, the history and theory of relations between the states based on embassies and ambassadors.
3. A transparent society?
The technical revolution of the printing press creates a new situation that is both informative and angeletic. Immanuel Kant sees in the non-censored distribution of scientific research through the press the medium in which the ideals and messages of Enlightenment can spread and indirectly influence public politics. Since then new political and (pseudo-)scientific messages appeared seeking to occupy the place of religious messages and messengers with catastrophic consequences for society and nature, making full use as, for instance, in the case of Nazi Germany, of radio-diffusion. The peak of mass media, through its one-to-many structure, opened the debate about the task of creating a public space free of pressure structures, where the force of the arguments and reasoning of the players has precedence. This was the ideal proclaimed by philosophers like Jürgen Habermas. According to Habermas, Kant could not foresee the transformation of the public space dominated by mass media (Capurro, 1996a). Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo, in his turn, criticized the Habermasian transparent society, with emphasis on its utopian aspect and leveler of differences, so that a "weaker" or less transparent structure permits different kinds of cultural mixes that are more clearly reflected today in the decentralizing character of the Internet (Vattimo 1989).
4. A time of empty angels
German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has pointed out that we live in a "time of empty angels" or "mediatic nihilism", in which we forget what message is to be sent while the messengers of transmission media multiply: "This is the very disangelium of current times" (Sloterdijk 1997). The word disangelium(por bad news) stands out, in contrast to euangelium, for the empty nature of the messages disseminated by the mass media, culminating in the widely-known words of Marshall McLuhan: "The medium is the message". The question then is exactly to what extent the Internet creates a new angeletic space giving rise to new synergies of messages and messengers beyond the hierarchical and absolute or pseudo-absolute character of sacred messages or their political substitutes. If, according to Sloterdijk (1983), mass media has a cynical structure, the question arises now about the "fantasmatic" character of the new media (Zizek 1997, Capurro 1999a).
Based on that, we now reach what we call information ethics, aimed at explaining the possible theoretical and practical horizons in order to maintain, organize and create new forms of common life. This current praxeological horizon explored by the information ethics is given in a world where, on the one hand, the classic parameters of time and place are questioned as determining factors for the creation and diffusion of messages; on the other hand, the local structures of political power up to now controlling such a phenomenon are now paradoxically in the inverse situation. The great economic and social (r-)evolutions are founded less on the prevalence of media to produce material objects, as Karl Marx thought, than on the media to communicate messages. The latter are the basis of the former (Capurro, 1995, 1999).
Lastly, I would like to mention the relationship between angeletics and hermeneutics (Capurro, 2000b). Hermeneutics was one of the main schools of philosophical thought in the 20th century. Apart from the disputes between schools (positivism, Marxism, critical rationalism, analytical philosophy, scientific theory, etc.), we can say that one of the great results of the study on the 20th century has been the awareness of the interpretative nature of human knowledge. This is valid both for Karl Popper, for example, who presented a characterization of scientific knowledge as being an eminently conjectural knowledge, subject to empirical falsifications, or for the "hermeneutic circle" explained by Hans-Georg Gadamer with basis on Heideggerian analytics. Each interpretation presupposes a process of message transmission. Hermes is first and foremost a messenger and, consequently, an interpreter and translator. This message-bearing nature of knowledge and communication is exactly angeletics aims to analyze. Of course, this is just as complex and far-reaching a task as hermeneutics was in the last century.
As angeletics is a message theory, it is in itself only a message aiming to create common knowledge, which might become a key-science for the newly-born century. Its issues relate to the origin, purpose and content of messages, power structures, techniques and means of diffusion, ways of life, history of messages and messengers, coding and interpreting, and psychological, political, economic, aesthetic, ethical and religious aspects. In other words, a new scientific cosmos. We are far away from such a science of messages and messengers as well as from its philosophical foundations.
For further author's developments concerning angeletics, see: CAPURRO, R. (2000a). "Further readings". En What is angeletics?. [Online] <http://www.capurro.de/angeletics.html> [Consulta: 30/10/2009]. With regard to the impact of this theoretical proposal, see: "Impact", Ibidem.
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Rafael Capurro (30/10/2009)
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