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What Happened in the Twentieth Century? Towards a Critique of Extremist Reason von Sloterdijk, Peter (eBook)

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What Happened in the Twentieth Century?

When we look back from the vantage point of the 21st century and ask ourselves what the previous century was all about, what do we see? Our first inclination is to focus on historical events: the 20th century was the age of two devastating world wars, of totalitarian regimes and terrible atrocities like the Holocaust - 'the age of extremes,' to use Hobsbawm's famous phrase. But in this new book, the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk argues that we will never understand the 20th century if we focus on events and ideologies. Rather, in his view, the predominant motif of the 20th century is what Badiou called a passion for the real , which manifests itself as the will to actualize the truth directly in the here and now. Drawing on his Spheres trilogy, Sloterdijk interprets the actualization of the real in the 20th century as a passion for economic and technological 'antigravitation'. The rise of consumerism and the easing of the burdens of human life by the constant deployment of new technologies have killed off the kind of radicalism that was rooted in the belief that power would rise from a material base of production. If the 20th century can still inspire us today, it is because the fundamental shift that it brought about opened the way for a critique of extremist reason, a post-Marxist theory of enrichment and a general economy of energy resources based on excess and dissipation. While developing his highly original interpretation of the 20th century, Sloterdijk also addresses a series of related topics including the meaning of the Anthropocene, the domestication of humans and the significance of the sea. The volume also includes major new pieces on Derrida and on Heidegger's politics. This work, by one of the most original thinkers today will appeal to students and scholars across the humanities and social sciences, as well as anyone interested in philosophy and critical theory. Peter Sloterdijk is Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at the Karlsruhe School of Design.


    Format: ePUB
    Kopierschutz: AdobeDRM
    Seitenzahl: 280
    Sprache: Englisch
    ISBN: 9781509518418
    Verlag: Polity
    Größe: 353 kBytes
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What Happened in the Twentieth Century?

Answering the Question of Whether Humanity is Capable of Taming Itself

2.1 Pastoral Metaphysics: The Discovery of the Problem of Domestication

The anthropological discovery that human beings can and must adopt relations to themselves and to those like them that are described by such verbs as taming, breeding, and tending, occurred in the Western evolution of ideas on two occasions in quite singular contexts, each time at a decisive turn in intellectual history. The first manifestation of this complex of ideas is associated with the name of Plato. In a novel manner, the founder of the Athenian Academy attempted to precisely conceive the traditional praxis of educator and statesman, with reference to a kind of anthropological difference that opened up a fissure within the essence of being human. Because human beings in advanced cultures cannot be by nature what they nevertheless are by nature, they must be educated, as individuals, and made to submit to rational governance, as citizens. Education and political stewardship are two fields of praxis in which the incapacity of human beings in advanced cultures to fulfill themselves without guidance from others (putting it in ancient terms: to obey their own nature) is manifested in a particularly noticeable way. In more closely defining pedagogical and state-cybernetic functions, Plato reaches back for images and analogies that are taken from the pastoral sphere. The dialogue Statesman is the primary source for Plato's pastoral theory of politics in its fully developed form. Here we encounter a famous and still somewhat scandalous turn of phrase according to which the art of the political steward is an "art of shepherding" the featherless, hornless bipeds of unmixed breeding, along with the telling addition that - since tyrannies are never an option for Greeks in general and philosophers in particular - politics is concerned with a voluntary supervision of a herd of creatures living together of their own volition. 1 A characteristic feature of Greek rationalism is the belief that human beings can only be dissuaded from unreasonable inclinations and induced to enter the house of reason through a specific ascesis - that is, a system of ongoing practices. It is unnecessary to point out how influential Plato's pastoral anthropology was in this regard. Thanks to a series of translations and reformulations, it has left a deep impression on the Western imaginary, particularly the way in which it was blended with the figure of the good shepherd in the New Testament. For almost 2,000 years, Christian communal logic has been based on these Platonic images of herds and their shepherds.

The second discovery that it is necessary to train human beings to be human beings occurs under radically different circumstances in the nineteenth century, after Darwin naturalized the history of the species and placed the human being at the end of an evolutionary line that showed so-called Homo sapiens to be a cousin of the hominidae. Ever since, the traditional pedagogical question of how human beings are to be formed into human beings has been overshadowed by evolutionary biology. Instead of the tension between unreason and reason, we now have the antagonism of wilderness and civilization or, to put it in mythological terms, of Dionysian and Apollonian powers. Only in such a situation can the talk of domestication assume a serious tone. Now, the formation of human beings is no longer merely to be conceived metaphorically, as entry into the house of reason, but is supposed to literally be conceived as leaving behind the animal wilderness for civilized domesticity. This occasions Nietzsche's unsettling intervention: he was one of the first to recognize that the process of generation, in the literal sense, always also implie

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