Category Archives: Peter Sloterdijk

Sloterdijk on building our own identity — Bastard Children

I’m attracted to authors who employ interesting and original ideas in their work, regardless of whether or not I can directly apply their work to my own. This is partly why I like Badiou so much. And it is also probably why I’m being drawn more and more towards the work of Sloterdijk. Here is an interview I find fascinating.


The Onion’s reply to Sloterdijk

“It was the same Karl Barth who arrived at the thesis — unheard of in its time — that Christianity is not a religion, because ‘religion is unbelief’. He had the right idea, but made the wrong point and presented the most unsuitable of all possible justifications: that the ‘word of God’ strikes through the fabric of cultural machinations vertically from above, while mere religion is never more than a part of the system of humanities and all-to-humanities set up from below. The argument may seem impressive as a catastrophe-theological intensification of the situation after 1918, but as a description of the overall situation it would be misleading — for modernity is simply not known for being a time in which God shows Himself vertically to humans. This century was struck by meteorites, plummeting down from the outermost and highest places; but there were no gods among them.” – Sloterdijik from “You Must Change Your Life” (86)

The Onion’s response is fiery: “New Study Finds Majority Of God’s Blessings Burn Up On Entry Into Atmosphere

The Working Melancholic

Yet another naming of the world that really hits home for me.

Psychologically, present-day cynics can be understood as borderline melancholics, who can keep their symptoms of depression under control and can remain more or less able to work. Indeed, this is the essential point in modern cynicism: the ability of its bearers to work—in spite of anything that might happen, and especially, after anything that might happen.” -Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason

Growing? Changing?

I was going to write a blog post about why growing (learning how to change) is good for us. I was going to write about how when we don’t think that we need to change, we actually do. And I was going to add that we are happy with the way things are, and that we are fine with whatever we are doing. Then I was going to say something along the lines of, “you will change whether you are aware of it or not, so you might as well try and participate in the change so that you can guide it.”

But. I came across a passage of writing by a German philosopher with whom I have been growing more and more fascinated with, Peter Sloterdijk. The philosopher claims to have written the book that Heidegger should have written. From what I can gather upon my preliminary understanding of his work, his writings are basically a mix between Heidegger, Nietzsche and Zizek.

Here is the passage:

“‘You must change your life!’ – these words seem to come from a sphere in which no objections can be raised. Nor can we establish from where they are spoken; only their verticality is beyond doubt. […] It is not enough to say that Rilke retranslated ethics in an aestheticizing fashion into a succinct, cyclopian, archaic-brutal form. He discovered a stone that embodies the torso of ‘religion’, ethics and asceticism as such: a construct that exudes a call from above, reduced to the pure command, the unconditional instruction, the illuminated utterance of being that can be understood – and which only speaks in the imperative.

If one wished to transfer all the teaches of the papyrus religions, the parchment religions, the stylus and quill religions, the calligraphical and typographical, all order rules and sect programmes, all instruction for meditation and doctrines of stages, and all training programmes and dietologies into a single workshop where they would be summarized in a final act of editing: their utmost concentrate would express nothing other than what the poet sees emanating from the archaic torso of Apollo in a moment of translucidity.

‘You must change your life!’ – this is the imperative that exceeds the options of hypothetical and categorical. It is the absolute imperative—the quintessential metanoetic command. It provides the keyword for revolution in the second person singular. It defines life as a slope from its higher to its lower forms. I am already living, but something is telling me with unchallengable authority: you are not living properly. The numinous authority of form enjoys the prerogative of being able to tell me ‘You must’. It is the authority of a different life in this life. This authority touches on a subtle insufficiency within me that is older and freer than sin; it is my innermost not-yet. In my most conscious moment, I am affected by the absolute objection to my status quo: my change is the one thing that is necessary.”  – Peter Sloterdijk from You Must Change your Life

This passage caught me off guard. I’ve heard the “Be yourself” mantra, but the impetus to constantly change is something that I thought was not something that people sought. Perhaps people don’t seek it in a healthy way?