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Peter Sloterdijk

Related: [inspired by Luc Spruyt] - German philosophy

'The arse seems to be condemned to live in the dark. Among the different parts of our body, it leads the life of a tramp. It truly is the idiot of the family. Yet it would be a miracle if this black sheep of the body did not have a ready opinion of the events taking place in higher regions, just like those who have been rejected by society often express the most sober views of it.' --Critique of Cynical Reason (1983) - Peter Sloterdijk


Peter Sloterdijk, born in 1947, is Professor for Asthetics and Philosophy at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karslruhe. He holds a doctorate in German literature from the University of Hamburg and is an expert on the autobiographical literature of the Weimar Republic.

Regeln für den Menschenpark. Ein Antwortschreiben zu Heideggers Brief über den Humanismus, 1999 (translated as Rules for the Human Zoo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Sloterdijk [Mar 2006]

Critique of Cynical Reason (1983) - Peter Sloterdijk

  • Critique of Cynical Reason (1983) - Peter Sloterdijk, et al [Amazon.com]

    Sloterdijk, a German philosopher and cultural critic, is a brilliant writer on all aspects of the human conditions, from the beginnings of life formation to recent gene manipulation. In the English-speaking world he is best known for his Critique of Cynical Reason (1987) which established him as a leading voice for a generation of post-modern intellectuals. Fiercely independent of both leftist and conservative viewpoints, Sloterdijk diagnosed the malaise of modern society and its cynical mindset, and argued for a return to Greek kynicism in its original meaning as a strategy of resistance.

    In his writings of the last decade Sloterdijk has explored fundamental questions about the origin of life, the concept of soul and how we define the human body in an age of gene technology. Recently he has set off a storm of debate in Europe with his theses Regeln für den Menschenpark ( Rules for the Human Park) on the possibilities of manipulating life.

    Critical theory is dead

    Peter Sloterdijk's texts read as a thriller, his philosophy has the potency of sending shivers down your spine, much like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Deleuze before him.

    Rules For the Human Zoo is a speech delivered by Peter Sloterdijk on July 20 1999 on the occasion of a symposium dedicated to the philosophy of Heidegger. He had held that same speech two years before but nobody had taken offense. The speech is on biogenetics and its implications (think Gattaca).

    I lent the Rules article today at my local library in a Dutch version called Regels voor het Mensenpark, Kroniek van een Debat. The subtitle translates as history of a debate. The debate is between Peter Sloterdijk and Jürgen Habermas. Sloterdijk accuses Habermas of intentionally misreading him and calling upon Assheuer as a proxy to attack Sloterdijk. The attacks basically called Sloterdijk a fascist:

    In the eyes of Professor Habermas, a left-wing philosopher, this secret agenda makes his fellow academic a "fascist." Professor Sloterdijk, also a left-wing philosopher who once travelled to Poona to seek enlightenment from the Bhagwan, thinks his critic is resorting to "fascist" tactics to discredit him. --http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/2000/2000-March/005176.html [Oct 2006]

    In the 37th issue of 9 Sept 1999 of Die Zeit, Sloterdijk replied to his adversaries Habermas and Assheuer with Die Kritische Theorie ist tot (EN: Critical Theory is Dead).

    From the web:

    According to a recent article in The Observer (10 October 1999) the fashionable dinner tables of German society are buzzing with controversy over `the death of critical theory and the future of metaphysics'. The article refers to a debate provoked by a conference address given at Elmau in Bavaria last July by Peter Sloterdijk. His paper, `Regeln fur den Menschenpark : Ein Antwortschreiben zum Brief ber den Humanismus' (Rules for the Human Theme-Park: A Reply to the Letter on Humanism), was addressed to an international conference on `Philosophy after Heidegger'. Copies of the address began circulating among academics shortly after the conference. Subsequently, two heavily critical articles were published in the national press. Sloterdijk's bad-tempered response to these articles (Die Zeit, 9 September 1999) has generated an animated quarrel, whose participants have included Manfred Frank, Ernst Tugendhat, Ronald Dworkin and Slavoj Zizek, among others. --http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/print.asp?editorial_id=10101 [Oct 2006]

    In [the open letter], Sloterdijk wonders if Assheuer has the same text as he does at all, since they read it so differently - Assheuer thinks he's a Nietzschean, where he explicitly said that Nietzsche's concept of the overman can have no meaning for us any more. The press is once again alarming people for alarming's sake. The second part of his letter is addressed to Habermas, because Sloterdijk has heard that Habermas has spoken about him to many people (!) but not spoken with him. He claims that Habermas has mobilized an international attack against him, making photocopies of his lecture and sending them everywhere. Sloterdijk goes on at length how Habermas has thus reified him - it's a hilarious read. With Habermas, critical theory has become a sinister Jacobinism that liquidates its opponents through mass media. Its claims are based on the "forceless force of the quicker denunciation (and worse reading)" instead of what Habermas calls the "forceless force of the better argument". Critical theory was the answer for the children of the Nazi era. With this debate it has shown itself to be unsuitable for our needs: critical theory is dead. --http://mail.architexturez.net/+/Heidegger-L/archive/msg22054.shtml

    Heidegger's Letter on Humanism (1947)

    The Letter on Humanism, written in 1947 in response to questions circulating about the relationship of Heidegger’s philosophy of Being to humanism, Christianity, Marxism, and the new “philosophy of existence” expounded by Sartre, Jaspers, and others, has been called Heidegger’s “greatest effort.” It was written at a time of great personal struggle for Heidegger: he had just been indefinitely banned from teaching following the Nazi war-crimes hearings, and he had undergone a kind of emotional breakdown as a result. Nevertheless, the Letter on Humanism virtually catalogues the most important strands of Heidegger’s entire later philosophy – the meaning of the history of Being, the way Heidegger sees to the re-awakening of that history, its relation to the philosophical tradition, the meaning of action, the role of technology, art, and language in the historical destiny of Being, and above all the need of a new thinking to prepare that destiny. The essay contains some of Heidegger’s most memorable language. In it, we can see especially clearly the role of reflection about language in preparing a new consideration of Being that will make the leap outside the tradition of metaphysics, which has hitherto determined all of our language. The quest for a new language will be so important to Heidegger that he will even spell important words, like Being, in antiquated and strange ways, to show that he uses them outside the closure of metaphysics. --http://www07.homepage.villanova.edu/paul.livingston/martin_heidegger%20-%20letter%20on%20humanism.htm [Oct 2006]

    See also: 1999 - German philosophy - Peter Sloterdijk - Critical Theory

    Bachelard and Sloterdijk

    Excerpts from Bettina Funcke in Bookforum in conversation with Peter Sloterdijk:

    The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk achieved much acclaim (and a wide readership) in the United States during the heyday of critical theory with the translation of his Critique of Cynical Reason (University of Minnesota Press, 1988), in which he introduced a multifaceted style of writing, freely engaging with philosophy, history, anthropology, fiction, poetry, literary theory, and colloquial language.

    Due to the vicissitudes of critical-theory reception in the United States, Sloterdijk's work came to be viewed as an '80s period piece.

    In Germany, however, Sloterdijk is one of the most prominent public intellectuals and has distinguished himself by pushing the boundaries of the traditional forum of the philosopher–and thus its very definition–by turning not only to the traditional academic stage but also to that of the mass media. This was a risky move, for in doing so he courted marginality from both sectors.

    He reaches a wide audience through his talk show on German TV. In order to restore the relevance of leftist critical thought, Sloterdijk has specifically attacked contemporary issues–issues different from those facing earlier thinkers such as those of the Frankfurt School. Last year, the Spheres trilogy, Sloterdijk's most ambitious project to date (and about 2,500 pages long), was completed after seven years of writing. Still, despite the singular impact of the book in Europe, Sloterdijk remains under-recognized in the States: Spheres has yet to be translated into English.

    Bettina Funcke: Until the publication of your trilogy, the image of the sphere was hardly present in contemporary theoretical discourse. I'm wondering how you came across this metaphor, which has gained such importance for your thinking in recent years. Which authors or texts do you refer to?

    Peter Sloterdijk: A given culture never possesses a complete vocabulary for itself. The current language games only ever emphasize select topics and leave other phenomena unaddressed.

    Until recently, there was a voluntary spatial blindness—because to the extent that temporal problems were seen as progressive and cool, the questions of space were thought to be old-fashioned and conservative, a matter for old men and shabby imperialists. Even the fascinating, novel chapters on space in Deleuze and Guattari's Thousand Plateaus couldn't change the situation, since they arrived too early for the chronophilic, or time-worshipping, zeitgeist of those days. The same goes for programmatic propositions in late Foucault—according to whom we again enter an age of space—which in their time were still unable to usher in a transition.

    As I began [the Spheres trilogy] in 1990, while a fellow at Bard College, in New York, I had only a vague premonition of this topological turn within cultural theory. Only now, after the completion of the trilogy, do I see more clearly how my work is connected with that of numerous colleagues around the world, such as Homi Bhabha, Arjun Appadurai, and Edward S. Casey. Even Ilya Kabakov's installation art and the work of architects like Frei Otto, Grimshaw and Partners, or Rem Koolhaas, belong to the circle of theoretical relations.

    Incidentally, I also owe something to Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space, although later I quite stubbornly departed from his promptings. --http://www.bookforum.com/archive/feb_05/funcke.html [Jul 2006]

    See also: Peter Sloterdijk - Gaston Bachelard

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