Paul virilio has died: thinker of speed

The Frenchman introduced acceleration into philosophy. Virilio was considered one of the most important theorists of post-structuralism.

He was 86 years old: Paul Virilio Photo: imago/Leemage

As has only just become known, the French philosopher Paul Virilio died on September 10 at the age of 86. Virilio, who was trained as an engineer, dealt with the increasing acceleration of technology and the spread of information in his "dromology" or theory of speed – a subject he himself had defined.

Virilio, who along with Foucault, Deleuze and Baudrillard was considered one of the most important representatives of French post-structuralism, addressed, among other things, the changed meaning that physical space was experiencing as a result of advances in the electro-optical transmission of data in real time. Time and again, he also commented on daily political issues, such as the live broadcasts of bombings during the Gulf War in 1991 or the financial crisis in 2008.

In Germany, the Berlin-based Merve-Verlag, which published many of his short writings as cheap pocket-sized paperbacks, contributed to his popularity. Virilio also organized a number of exhibitions, including "Bunker archeologie" at the Centre Pompidou in 1975 and "La Vitesse" at the Fondation Cartier in 1981.

For Virilio, the acceleration of media consumption and information dissemination is causing a "loss of relationship with the external environment." In his view, humanity had entered a paradoxical final stage of history in which the real time of information transmission had led to impotence and passivity of the audience.

Virilio had been professor since 1969 and director of studies since 1973 at the ecole Speciale d’Architecture in Paris. He became emeritus professor in 1997.