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Peter Sloterdijk

Peter Sloterdijk (b. 1947) is one of the best known and widely read German intellectuals writing today. His 1983 publication of Critique of Cynical Reason (published in English in 1988) became the best-selling German book of philosophy since World War II. He became president of the State Academy of Design at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe in 2001. He has been cohost of a discussion program, Das Philosophische Quartett (Philosophical Quartet) on German television since 2002.

Titles by This Author

Spheres Volume II: Macrospherology

All history is the history of struggles for spheric expansion.
—from Globes

In Globes—the second, and longest, volume in Peter Sloterdijk’s celebrated magnum opus Spheres trilogy—the author attempts nothing less than to uncover the philosophical foundations of the political history—the history of humanity—of the last two thousand years. The first, well-received volume of the author’s Spheres trilogy, Bubbles, dealt with microspheres: the fact that individuals, from the fetal stage to childhood, are never alone, because they always incorporate the Other into themselves and align themselves with it. With Globes, Sloterdijk opens up a history of the political world using the morphological models of the orb and the globe, and argues that all previous statements about globalization have suffered from shortsightedness. For him, globalization begins with the ancient Greeks, who represented the whole world through the shape of the orb. With the discovery of America and the first circumnavigations of the earth, the orb was replaced by the globe. This second globalization is currently giving way to the third, which we are living through today, as the general virtuality of all conditions leads to a growing spatial crisis.

Peter Sloterdijk tells here the true story of globalization: from the geometrization of the sky in Plato and Aristotle to the circumnavigation of the last orb—the earth—by ships, capital, and signals.

For Peter Sloterdijk, Friedrich Nietzsche represents nothing short of a “catastrophe in the history of language”—a new evangelist for a linguistics of narcissistic jubilation. Nietzsche offered a philosophical declaration of independence from humility, a meeting-point of sobriety and megalomania that for Sloterdijk has come to define the very project of philosophy.

Yet for all the significance of this language-event named Nietzsche, Nietzsche’s contributions have too often been elided and the contradictions at the root of his philosophy too often edited out. As Sloterdijk observes, “Never has an author so insisted on distinction and yet attracted such vulgarity.” Nietzsche Apostle, drawn from a speech Sloterdijk gave in 2000 on the hundredth anniversary of Nietzsche’s death, looks at the ways in which Nietzsche has been branded over the years through selective compilation, and at the ways in which Nietzsche turned himself into a brand—a brand announced by his proclaimed “fifth Gospel,” Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For Sloterdijk, the focus should not be on the figure of Zarathustra or on the “will to power” often used as a kind of philosophical shorthand to sum up Nietzsche’s work, but on Zarathustra’s act of “speaking” itself. Nietzsche Apostle offers a brief history of self-praise and self-affirmation, an examination of the evolution of boasting (both by God and by man), and a very original approach to Nietzsche, philosophy’s first designer brand of individualism.

Spheres Volume I: Microspherology

If I had to place a sign of my own at the entrance to this trilogy, it would be this: let no one enter who is unwilling to praise transference and to refute loneliness.
--from Bubbles

An epic project in both size and purview, Peter Sloterdijk’s three-volume, 2,500-page Spheres is the late-twentieth-century bookend to Heidegger’s Being and Time. Rejecting the century's predominant philosophical focus on temporality, Sloterdijk, a self-described "student of the air," reinterprets the history of Western metaphysics as an inherently spatial and immunological project, from the discovery of self (bubble) to the exploration of world (globe) to the poetics of plurality (foam). Exploring macro- and micro-space from the Greek agora to the contemporary urban apartment, Sloterdijk is able to synthesize, with immense erudition, the spatial theories of Aristotle, René Descartes, Gaston Bachelard, Walter Benjamin, and Georges Bataille into a morphology of shared, or multipolar, dwelling--identifying the question of being as one bound up with the aerial technology of architectonics and anthropogenesis.

Sloterdijk describes Bubbles, the first volume of Spheres, as a general theory of the structures that allow couplings--or as the book’s original intended subtitle put it, an "archeology of the intimate." Bubbles includes a wide array of images, not to illustrate Sloterdijk’s discourse, but to offer a spatial and visual "parallel narrative" to his exploration of bubbles.
Written over the course of a decade, the Spheres trilogy has waited another decade for its much-anticipated English translation from Semiotext(e). Volumes II, Globes, and III, Foam, will be published in the coming seasons.

We shouldn't forget that ancient philosophy used to be a mental workout in which logical forms were used like machines in a gym. . . . Philosophy today is a super-workout for communicative energies capable of finding points of contact throughout the entire world.
—from Neither Sun nor Death

Peter Sloterdijk first became known in this country for his late 1980s Critique of Cynical Reason, which confronted headlong the "enlightened false consciousness" of Habermasian critical theory. Two decades later, after spending seven years in India studying Eastern philosophy, he is now attracting renewed interest for his writings on politics and globalization and for his magnum opus Spheres, a three-volume archaeology of the human attempt to dwell within spaces, from womb to globe: Bubbles, 1998; Globes, 1999; Foam, 2004, all forthcoming from Semiotext(e).

In Neither Sun nor Death, Sloterdijk answers questions posed by German writer Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, commenting on such issues as technological mutation, development media, communication technologies, and his own intellectual itinerary.

Iconoclastic and provocative, alternatively sparkling and bombastic, a child of '68 and a libertarian, Sloterdijk is the most exciting and controversial German philosopher to appear on the world scene since Nietzsche and Heidegger. Like Nietzsche, Sloterdijk remains convinced that contemporary philosophers have to think dangerously and let themselves be "kidnapped" by contemporary "hypercomplexities"; they must forsake our present humanist and nationalist world for a wider horizon at once ecological and global.

Neither Sun nor Death is the best introduction available to Sloterdijk's philosophical theory of globalization. It reveals a philosophe extraordinaire, encyclopedic and provocative, as much at ease with current French Theory (Gilles Deleuze, Paul Virilio, Gabriel Tarde) as with Heidegger and Indian mystic Osho Rajneesh.

Foreign Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

According to Peter Sloterdijk, the twentieth century started on a specific day and place: April 22, 1915, at Ypres in Northern France. That day, the German army used a chlorine gas meant to exterminate indiscriminately. Until then, war, as described by Clausewitz and practiced by Napoleon, involved attacking the adversary's vital function first. Using poison gas signaled the passage from classical war to terrorism. This terror from the air inaugurated an era in which the main idea was no longer to target the enemy's body, but their environment. From then on, what would be attacked in wartime as well as in peacetime would be the very conditions necessary for life.

This kind of terrorism became the matrix of modern and postmodern war, from World War I's toxic gas to the Nazi Zyklon B used in Auschwitz, from the bombing of Dresden to the attack on the World Trade Center. Sloterdijk goes on to describe the offensive of modern aesthetics, aesthetic terrorism from Surrealism to Malevich—an "atmo-terrorism" in the arts that parallels the assault on environment that had originated in warfare.

Foreign Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)