Peter Sloterdijk: Wikis


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Peter Sloterdijk

Peter Sloterdijk reading from Du mußt dein Leben ändern
Full name Peter Sloterdijk
Born June 26, 1947 (1947-06-26) (age 62)
Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg
Era 21st-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Phenomenology, Philosophical anthropology, Posthumanism

Peter Sloterdijk (born June 26, 1947 in Karlsruhe) is a German philosopher and a professor of philosophy and media theory at the University of Art and Design Karlsruhe.



Sloterdijk studied philosophy, German studies and history at the University of Munich. In 1975 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Hamburg. Since 1980 he has published a number of philosophical works acclaimed in Germany, including the Critique of Cynical Reason. In 2001 he was named chancellor of the University of Art and Design Karlsruhe, part of the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. In 2002 he began a stint as co-host of Im Glashaus: Das Philosophische Quartett ("In the Glass House[1]: The Philosophical Quartet"), a show on the German ZDF television channel devoted to discussing key contemporary issues in-depth[2].


Sloterdijk's philosophy strikes a balance between the firm academicism of a scholarly professor and a certain sense of anti-academicism (witness his ongoing interest in the ideas of Osho, of whom he became a disciple in the late seventies)[3]. Notwithstanding the criticism that some of his thoughts have provoked, he refuses to be labeled a "polemic thinker", describing himself instead as "hyperbolic". His ideas reject the existence of dualisms—body and soul, subject and object, culture and nature, etc.—since their interactions, "spaces of coexistence", and common technological advancement create a hybrid reality. Sloterdijk's ideas are sometimes referred to as posthumanism, and seek to integrate different components that have been, in his opinion, erroneously considered detached from each other. Consequently, he proposes the creation of an "ontological constitution" that would incorporate all beings—humans, animals, plants, and machines.

Critique of Cynical Reason

The Kritik der zynischen Vernunft, published by Suhrkamp in 1983 (and in English as Critique of Cynical Reason, 1988), became the best-selling work on philosophy in the German language since the Second World War and launched Sloterdijk's career as an author[4].


Sphären Cover

The trilogy Spheres is the philosopher's magnum opus. The first volume was published in 1998, the second in 1999, and the last in 2004.

Spheres is about "spaces of coexistence", spaces commonly overlooked or taken for granted that conceal information crucial to developing an understanding of the human. The exploration of these spheres begins with the basic difference between mammals and other animals: the biological and utopian comfort of the mother's womb, which humans try to recreate through science, ideology, and religion. From these microspheres (ontological relations such as fetus-placenta) to macrospheres (macro-uteri such as nations or states), Sloterdijk analyzes spheres where humans try but fail to dwell and traces a connection between vital crisis (e.g., emptiness and narcissistic detachment) and crises created when a sphere shatters.

Sloterdijk has said that the first paragraphs of Spheres are "the book that Heidegger should have written", a companion volume to Being and Time, namely, "Being and Space". He was referring to his initial exploration of the idea of Dasein, which is then taken farther as Sloterdijk distances himself from Heidegger's positions.


Sloterdijk also argues that the current concept of globalization lacks historical perspective. In his view it is merely the third wave in a process of overcoming distances (the first wave being the metaphysical globalization of the Greek cosmology and the second the nautical globalization of the 15th century). The difference for Sloterdijk is that, while the second wave created cosmopolitanism, the third is creating a global provincialism. Sloterdijk's sketch of a philosophical history of globalization can be found in Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals (2005), subtitled "Die letzte Kugel" ("The final sphere").

Genetics dispute

Shortly after Sloterdijk conducted a symposium on philosophy and Heidegger, he stirred up controversy with his essay Regeln für den Menschenpark (Rules for the Human Park)[5]. In this text, Sloterdijk regards cultures and civilizations as "anthropogenic hothouses," installations for the cultivation of human beings; just as we have established wildlife preserves to protect certain animal species, so too ought we to adopt more deliberate policies to ensure the survival of Aristotle's zoon politikon.

"The taming of man has failed", Sloterdijk lamented. "Civilisation's potential for barbarism is growing; the everyday bestialisation of man is on the increase." Since Friedrich Nietzsche, no one spoke so plainly about the decline of the human race. Now, the technology exists to slot in a gene that will toughen up any species, including Homo sapiens. What was science fiction only a few years ago can soon be fact.

Because of the eugenic policies of the Nazi's in Germany 's recent history, such discussions carry a sinister load. Breaking a German taboo on the discussion of genetic manipulation, Sloterdijk suggested that the advent of new genetic technologies required more forthright discussion and regulation of "bio-cultural" reproduction. In the eyes of Habermas, this made Sloterdijk a "fascist". Sloterdijk thought this was a resorting to "fascist" tactics to discredit him.

The core of the controversy was not only Sloterdijk's ideas but also his use of the German words Züchtung ("breeding", "cultivation") and Selektion ("selection"). Sloterdijk rejected the accusation of Nazism, which he considered alien to his historical context. Still, the paper started a controversy in which Sloterdijk was strongly criticized, both for his apparent usage of a fascist rhetoric to promote Plato's vision of a government with absolute control over the population, and for committing a non-normative, simplistic reduction of the bioethical issue itself. This second criticism was based on the vagueness of Sloterdijk's position on how exactly society would be affected by this genetic development. After the controversy multiplied positions both for and against him, Die Zeit published an open letter from Sloterdijk to Habermas in which he vehemently accused Habermas of "criticizing behind his back" and espousing a view of humanism that Sloterdijk had declared dead [6].

Welfare state dispute

Another dispute emerged after Sloterdijk published on June 13, 2009, in his article titled Die Revolution der gebenden Hand (transl. "The revolution of the giving hand") [7] in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, one of Germany’s most widely read newspapers, his statement that the national welfare state is a "fiscal kleptocracy" that had transformed the country into a "swamp of resentment" and degraded its citizens into "mystified subjects of tax law".

He repeated his statements and stirred up the debate in his articles titled Kleptokratie des Staates (transl. "Kleptocracy of the state") and Aufbruch der Leistungsträger (transl. "Breakdown of the performers") in the German monthly Cicero - Magazin für politische Kultur [8] [9] [10].

According to Sloterdijk, the institutions of the welfare state lend themselves to a system that privileges the marginalized, but relies, unsustainable, on the class of citizens who are materially successful. Sloterdijk's provocative recommendation was that income taxes should be abolished, in favor of a system in which the fiscal needs of the state are met by voluntary contributions from the rich. Achievers would be praised for their generosity, rather than being made to feel guilty for their success, or resentful of society's dependence on them [11].

List of works

Works in English translation

  • Critique of Cynical Reason, translation by Michael Eldred ; foreword by Andreas Huyssen, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1988. ISBN 0816615861
  • Thinker on Stage: Nietzsche's Materialism, translation by Jamie Owen Daniel; foreword by Jochen Schulte-Sasse, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1989. ISBN 0816617651
  • Theory of the Post-War Periods: Observations on Franco-German relations since 1945, translation by Robert Payne; foreword by Klaus-Dieter Müller, Springer, 2008. ISBN 3211799133
  • Terror from the Air, translation by Amy Patton, Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2009. ISBN 1584350725
  • God's Zeal: The Battle of the Three Monotheisms, Polity Pr., 2009. ISBN 0745645070
  • Derrida, an Egyptian, Polity Pr., 2009. ISBN 0745646395

Original German titles

  • Kritik der zynischen Vernunft, 1983.
  • Der Zauberbaum. Die Entstehung der Psychoanalyse im Jahr 1785, 1985.
  • Der Denker auf der Bühne. Nietzsches Materialismus, 1986. (Thinker on Stage: Nietzsche's Materialism)
  • Kopernikanische Mobilmachung und ptolmäische Abrüstung, 1986.
  • Zur Welt kommen – Zur Sprache kommen. Frankfurter Vorlesungen, 1988.
  • Eurotaoismus. Zur Kritik der politischen Kinetik, 1989.
  • Versprechen auf Deutsch. Rede über das eigene Land, 1990.
  • Weltfremdheit, 1993.
  • Im selben Boot. Versuch über die Hyperpolitik, 1993.
  • Falls Europa erwacht. Gedanken zum Programm einer Weltmacht am Ende des Zeitalters seiner politischen Absence, 1994.
  • Selbstversuch, Ein Gespräch mit Carlos Oliveira, 1996.
  • Der starke Grund zusammen zu sein. Erinnerungen an die Erfindung des Volkes, 1998.
  • Sphären I – Blasen, Mikrosphärologie, 1998. (Spheres I)
  • Sphären II – Globen, Makrosphärologie, 1999. (Spheres II)
  • Regeln für den Menschenpark. Ein Antwortschreiben zu Heideggers Brief über den Humanismus, 1999.
  • Die Verachtung der Massen. Versuch über Kulturkämpfe in der modernen Gesellschaft, 2000.
  • Über die Verbesserung der guten Nachricht. Nietzsches fünftes Evangelium. Rede zum 100. Todestag von Friedrich Nietzsche, 2000.
  • Nicht gerettet. Versuche nach Heidegger, 2001.
  • Die Sonne und der Tod, Dialogische Untersuchungen mit Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, 2001.
  • Tau von den Bermudas. Über einige Regime der Phantasie, 2001.
  • Luftbeben. An den Wurzeln des Terrors, 2002.
  • Sphären III – Schäume, Plurale Sphärologie, 2004. (Spheres III)
  • Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals, 2005.
  • Was zählt, kehrt wieder. Philosophische Dialogue, with Alain Finkielkraut (from French), 2005.
  • Zorn und Zeit. Politisch-psychologischer Versuch, 2006. ISBN 3-518-41840-8
  • Der ästhetische Imperativ, 2007.
  • Derrida Ein Ägypter, 2007.
  • Gottes Eifer. Vom Kampf der drei Monotheismen, Frankfurt am Main (Insel), 2007.
  • Du mußt dein Leben ändern, Frankfurt am Main (Suhrkamp), 2009.
  • Philosophische Temperamente Von Platon bis Foucault, München (Diederichs) 2009. ISBN 978-3424350166


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Im Glashaus - Das philosophische Quartett, ZDF website
  3. ^ Die Tageszeitung interview dd. 13 June 2006, interview in Lettre International (German)
  4. ^ See Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, "In Search of Lost Cheekiness. An Introduction to Peter Sloterdijk's Critique of Cynical Reason", in Tabula Rasa, 2003.
  5. ^ See Frank Mewes, "Regulations for the Human Park: On Peter Sloterdijk's Regeln für den Menschenpark", in Gnosis, Volume VI, No. 1, 2002.
  6. ^ "Anger as philosopher revives vocabulary of Third Reich"
  7. ^ Peter Sloterdijk "Die Revolution der gebenden Hand"
  8. ^
  9. ^ Kleptokratie des Staates, in Cicero, July 2009, p.42
  10. ^ "Aufbruch der Leistungsträger, in Cicero, November 2009, p.94
  11. ^ "Germany's welfare state under fire - One of Germany's foremost public intellectuals, Peter Sloterdijk, began the offensive on the welfare state"

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