In terms of his social and political views, Peter Sloterdijk is sometimes described as a conservative thinker. Is that right? Is Sloterdijk a conservative? That question itself depends upon the hermeneutic question: What do you mean by “conservative”? He’s definitely not a neocon or a paleocon. He’s not a Reagan conservative. But he’s not exactly a social democrat, progressive, or libertarian either. He doesn’t easily fit into conventional definitions of political positions, as he interrogates, displaces, and redesigns those positions. So, is Sloterdijk a conservative? I’d suggest that he can be described with the same phrase he uses to describe Theodor Adorno, an “ambivalent conservative” (Foams, 630). A crucial difference between him and Adorno is that Sloterdijk aims to carry out a transition from critical theory to a more affirmative theory of General Immunology (by way of a Nietzschean-Deleuzian sense of affirmation). Of course, the idea that he’s a conservative who wants to protect immune systems (Whose? How?) does not necessarily inspire confidence. It demands some explication. Continue reading
Affirming the transition of humanity toward a global or planetary civilization, Peter Sloterdijk proposes what he calls “monogeism,” a term which Bruno Latour adopts in his recent works. From monotheism to monogeism…from God to Globe….
Here’s a couple of excerpts on monogeism from Sloterdijk’s In the World Interior of Capital (Polity, 2013).
[…] the historical object, the terrestrial globe, is a thing full of metaphysical quirks that like to hide beneath the veneer of the ordinary. It constitutes a geographical philosophical bastard whose logical and physical peculiarities are not so simple to comprehend. On the one hand, the printed blue orb with the savannah-coloured patches initially seems no more than one thing among many things, a small body among many bodies, that statesmen and schoolchildren set in rotation with a single hand movement; at the same time, it is supposed to represent the singular totality or the geological monad that serves as the foundation for all life, though and invention. It is this terrestrial question of location that becomes ever more binding the in the course of modernization: while the ancient conception of the cosmos paradoxically made the earth the marginal centre of a universe that humans could only observe from within, the moderns perceived it as an eccentric orb whose roundness we could verify ourselves through external viewing. This would have unforeseeable consequences for the generations after Mercator. For us, monogeism—the conviction that this planet is unique—transpires as a fact that is rejuvenated daily, while monotheism can never again be more than an age-worn religious thesis that cannot really be brought up to date, not even with the aid of pious bombs from the Near East. The proofs of God’s existence must bear the blemish of their failure, while those of the globe’s existence have an unstoppable influx of evidence on their side. (5-6)
[F]or half of millennium, the notion of the round earth settled in the consciousnesses of Western people and their media like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It drew a very small, active minority of these into an unprecedented departure—a pragmatic mixture of a conquering expedition, apostolic history and research process. But the idea of the earth’s spherical shape did not remain merely a symbolic figure; monogeism was more than a postulation of beautiful physics. The carriers of this true, as yet unproved idea—tough seafarers, patient cartographers, metal-addicted monarchs and noble-minded spice merchants—piled proof upon proof until the last deniers, ignoramuses and indifferents had to yield before the advancing evidence. […] Possible doubters of monogeism must tolerate being labeled revisionists. The faith of the seafarers changed into knowledge, and that knowledge became trivial and specialized; the earth-believers of the sixteenth century are now postmodern geoscientists—eleven thousand of them gathered in Nice in April 2003 for a Euro-American working conference. On the flight, most of them would only have cast a brief glance from the air at the strange object of their theoretical desire. (161)
A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Forum at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. I spoke about some of the research I used for my dissertation (Philosophy for a Planetary Civilization: On the Verge of Integral Ecology), which I defended last March. A video of the talk is available HERE. I was introduced by Matt Segall, who recently posted some summary reflections on the talk.
Like many talks I give, the style is mostly improvisational. Nonetheless, my meandering musings elicited some thoughtful questions and comments from the people in attendance, making about half of the video Q&A. I’m not going to summarize the presentation here, but I will state my gratitude for the various criticisms I’ve received.
Those criticisms include the following:
1) My critique of AT&T’s “Rethink Possible” slogan didn’t account for the full history of AT&T. This was by far my favorite criticism. AT&T is a weird entity with a complex history.
2) My interpretation of Platonic dualism didn’t do justice to the elements of Plato’s writings that subvert dualism and pervert the very idea of Platonism.
3) My espousal of rhizomatics might not be effective in countering the interconnected flows of global capitalism.
4) Aside from an injunction to tarry with complexity and uncertainty, my philosophical experiments do not give very specific guidance on questions of ethics, politics, and practical action.
5) My focus on the humor of truth (Isabelle Stengers’ concept for a critical standpoint from which to recognize the limits of one’s theories) did not adequately account for the many other ways of recognizing the limits of one’s theories (e.g., humility, imagination).
6) Perhaps the strangest criticism I heard is that my emphasis on humor makes me impervious to criticism or somehow difficult to criticize. I’m happy to accept that criticism, especially insofar as I sometimes tell jokes instead of responding directly to questions. However, I think I’m generally quite vulnerable and available to criticism. Indeed, humor (following Stengers) was presented precisely as a means to stay open to criticism, not as a hipster strategy for being ironic and, like, whatevs. Furthermore, as indicated by each of these six criticisms, some people found it quite easy to criticize my points and positions.