Just found these remarks by Nigel Thrift and Peter Adey on Peter Sloterdijk via Society and Space. It seems that – with the translation of Bubbles: Spheres. Volume 1: Microspherology and Sloterdijk Now - Sloterdijk has finally ‘arrived’ in the English academic spheres.
9 minutes of footage from Peter Sloterdijk’s talk (although it was an interview..) at Felix Meritis where the Dutch translation of his Du Musst Dein Leben Ändern was officially presented.
A double booking for this Fridag evening, I’m afraid. At exactly the same time as W139′s Allegories of Good and Bad Government will take place, Peter Sloterdijk is giving a lecture on his new book entitled ‘Du Musst Dein Leben Ändern’ (‘You Must Change Your Life’) at Felix Meritis.
In his introduction to the third part of his magnificent Spheres trilogy, Peter Sloterdijk talks of three stages of the explication of milieus. Firstly, that of the first ‘chemical warfare’ attack during the First World War in Ieper, France. Secondly, that of the use of Zyklon B in both the German deathcamps and certain American jails. Thirdly, that of the explication of the radioactivity of the air in the aftermath of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki attack. Continue reading
‘Feeling is more roundabout: it’s the slow realization that something is missing.’ (Latour, Air )
‘Human beings never live outside of nature but always create a kind of existential space around themselves. Urban spaces are a humanized environment where nature is completely replaced by a man-made reality.’ (Sloterdijk, Something in the Air)
For some time now – a first draft was posted on July of this year – one can find Latour’s Compositionist Manifesto on his website. Or, as himself has titled it, ‘An Attempt at Writing a ‘Compositionist Manifesto’.
Between pages 372 and 396 of Spheres: Foam, Sloterdijk speaks of houses and homes as modern immunesystems. Given his topological ontology he is able to speak of appartments as being the manifest examplifiers of being as being-with and being-without, as the physical incorporation of the outside (inclusive exclusivity) Despite this phenomenological distant way of speaking, we can imagine that, when we think of contemporary lifestyles, there exists a existential difference between inside and outside. Modern man isn’t living in a worldorder, in a meaningful cosmos, but is able to position himself ‘against’ the world by explicating his own life as a sum of choices. Sloterdijk envisions housing as the material manifestation of this modern thought, but at the same time underlines that it’s not an apparantly post-historical way of thinking; lifestyles, interior design can be seen as the modern longing for protection, to be ‘inside’. So in a way modern housing is a continuation of the hyperbole of classical metaphysics (378), that is; the cosmos as a Home, a Womb. What has changed it the fact that being inside means being-with-oneself and incorporating the outside. Or, what has come into being is the entirely horizontal way of living. When Sloterdijk looks at the home as a living-machine he means that the transcendental (the vertical) has been made material between four walls. This is the time of immanence, of horizontal meaning, of being-with as being-without.
It’s interesting to see all of this in the light of Sloterdijk’s remark that the living-machine presents itself as a moving-house-machine; the four walls exist without a context (385). So, according to Sloterdijk, a house isn’t being ‘lived in’ anymore but it’s ‘dwelled in’, ‘remained in’. ‘It’s a deterritorialized container which doesn’t demand or allow essential environments. The word ‘nearness’ frees itself from it’s trivial-spatial interpretation.’ (389) So there are two things happening; the house becomes a residence / the given fact of four walls are enough to make a horizontal living / man incorporates the outside inside a context-free ‘in’ness. It seems to be especially interesting to think about contemporary pre-fab designs and houses. ‘The mobile home manifests itself as walking architectural monad (..) the house and the owner appeal to freedom of context.‘ (389) We could go as far as saying that houses are not being built by setting up walls, but are being installed by fitters. Nevertheless, we are not forced to agree with Sloterdijk that modern architecture isn’t a reconciliation of man and nature. Where Sloterdijk mentions water, electricity, sewege etc. as minimum, we could mention sustainability as a sur plus. We’re not letting loose here of Sloterdijk’s exaggerated phenomenology, but are trying to reduce his pessimism. Pre-fab sustainability could be seen as a reconciliation of inhabitant and environment. Being-in doesn’t mean excluding the outside, but being-with-the-outside. Although this is playing with words, it’s interesting to think about the existential consequences (in Sloterdijkian fashion) of pre-fab and sustainability. We still have the Earth as Home, as Womb, but we can let go of the pessimistic individualism or excluded living. What does it mean to move into a pre-fab house? How does this alter the relation between inside and outside? Between the plural and the unity? Nevertheless, Sloterdijk gives a thoughtful insight in modern living, but he should take into consideration the consequences of pre-fab sustainability. I will try to find some articles discussing this theme in the following days.
Yesterdag afternoon I watched a rebroadcast of the ‘Tegenlicht’ documentary ‘Waar is de woede?’ in which Peter Sloterdijk, next to Manuel Castells, talks about the present rage about or displeasure towards the (global) political system (and possible solutions or bendings). For instance, Sloterdijk suggests (in accordance with his book Rage and Time) a mentality change that, instrumentally, consists of rebuilding the political and economical system on the basis of generosity in stead of greed. This is of course largely a way of speaking about the contemporary ‘psycho-social’ or ‘psycho-political’ climate and context, rather than a technical alternative. But, as always, Sloterdijk’s answers and vocabulary are fascinating.
These are the first two parts of the interview.
‘Time’ seems to be very important for a (and the 20th century) understanding of modernity, that is: the understanding of the cosmos, society, the self, change and the relation between mind and matter. With Charles Taylor I would like to see, very briefly, how we could understand the history of philosophical thought by conceptualising a certain worldview as a time-designation. Without a doubt this idea is not mine; many philosophers in the 20th century defined modernity by means of ‘modern time’ (and subsequently, the secular by ‘secular time’, religion by ‘eternity’). I first would like to look at Taylor’s remarks on the development of time designations from ancient times until now and after that at Latour’s quite strange idea of time as having a ‘double axis’.
Taylor in his A Secular Age (p. 54 – 61) distinguishes roughly five different understandings of time. (i) In ancient times there exists – in line with the distinction between Ideas and matter – a seperation between the things that happen in time and the Things that are ‘in’ the timeless. According to Platonism with respect to Time, time would be of a necessary character: time exists independent of anything that happens in time. (2) Following Taylor, christianity mainly adopts this view by giving Time the name of ‘eternity’. The big difference is that, giving the character of christianity as a more or less personal relation with God, that what happens in time matters. As Taylor says: ‘God enters into the drama’ (p. 56) This statement is quite uncontroversial since the Crucifixion, sins or rituals happen(ed) in time. With Augustinus the ancient ‘objectivist’ view on time changed into a ‘lived time’ and a full-focus on the present. So up till now we have Time/Eternity in two ways: as Plato’s immobility and as a religious connection between God’s eternity and men’s present duties/faithfulness. Deviating from Taylor for a second, these can be seen as the two kinds of Higher Time in which immanence and transcendence are related (in ancient times as marginal/canonical, in religious times as mutually influenced)
(3) As a ‘modernist’ scientific interpretation we must mention Newton’s absolute time. Following Newton we could imagine time as a big container in which all matter exists, as a sort of holistic, enduring bulk. The important consequence is that time isn’t necessarily vertical anymore, but is that what contains all existence. Absolute time could be seen as a sort of secular God in that sense that all matter exists ‘in it’, but absolute time hasn’t created relative time.
(4) Ofcourse Kant is Newton’s most famous contender (when it comes to the philosophical adoptation of Newton). For Kant time isn’t that in which everything exists, but time must be seen as (together with space) the a priori condition for existence as such. For Kant time is neither empirical nor discursive: it is a metaphysical condition that makes empirical, discursive knowledge possible; it is the a priori condition for both our inner experience as outer phenomena. As Kant states, ‘[time] doesn’t belong to the objects themselves, but only to the subject that perceives them.‘ (Kant, KdrV, p.134) So time doesn’t exist in a Newtonian way, because it always functions as a condition for the objects, insofar as these are being perceived. So: time is presupossed in all (human) experience (perceiving), but not because it is in some way or another inherent in the nature of things apart from the subject’s consciousness: time is an a priori form of inner sense which makes possible the cognition of objects qua appearance. So, comparing it to the two Higher Times: things in time can’t be less real than the timeless, since time exists only as an a priori condition of things as such.
(5) We’re now moving towards what Taylor calls ‘secular time’ and what we could call ’2oth century time’, that is: ‘living the life of ordinary time’ (Taylor, SA, 55) fully cut loose of what eternity, transcendental time whatsoever. This means that, compared to Higher Times, there isn’t a time any longer that (re)orders the secular, ordinary time. We are here plunged in the soup of the immanent passing of time. The 20th century, according to Taylor, could be characterized by being ‘horizontal’ and ‘flat’: nothing is filling our space apart from its existence and time doesn’t relate to anything outside/above of time. As Taylor notes: ’what happens in it is no longer indifferent to its placing.‘ (58) In our times the order of things in the cosmos isn’t that humanly meaningful as in ancient or fully religious times.
I would like to turn to Heidegger here for a moment to deepen this historical designation of 20th century time. Heidegger states in his short essay ‘The Thing’: ‘All distances in time and space are shrinking’..’Man puts the longest distances behind him in the shortest time.‘ (p. 1) It seems to be important that time (here I’m following Taylor again) in the 20th century becomes more and more related to space, to such an extend that it implicates a new understanding of the spatio-temporal. Time more or less becomes more ‘space-like’ and space becomes more ’time-like’. The designation of time as flat and horizontal seem to indicate a fluidity of the range of time and the range of space. We could relate this to Deleuze’s ’folding’ and Sloterdijk’s ‘airconditioning’ (in the sense that he envisions homes as being ‘spoiling-machines’, a ‘non-working’ area, a comfort space: evidently a way of trying to seperate the ‘inside’ from the ‘outside’, the ‘individuation’ from the ‘collectivation’) (See Sloterdijk ‘Spheres: Foam 392).
Apart from Deleuze and Sloterdijk, we have seen more extensively that Latour has a particularly interesting stance in the explication of the relation between time and space. There is first his retroactive understanding of time (this is an argument he develops in the course of Pandora’s Hope): Latour tries to show how time is, apart from it’s lineair movement also a retroactive devise, that is: the year 1867 is never something stable, something fixed, but changes identity in the year 1868. So we have seconds, minutes and hours to explicate the passing of time, but there is something more abstract happening: when Pasteur discovers the existence of microbes 1864 we can, according to Latour, without being philosophically absurd that microbes were discovered in 1864 and that, since that day in ’64 they were there all along. So, seen from the year 1864 in 1848 microbes were there despite the fact that they weren’t discovered yet. How to call this understanding of time? Together with Latour’s apparant (and according to me, probable) notion of the spatial folding of time (that is: time or the course of action of an actor is always materialized if it ‘wants’ to stay in existence: networks are groups of differences we can trace) we have here a (6) performative notion of time (from this moment on: spatio-temporal). Time and space are ’things’ that have to be created by actions; they don’t exist either as a Higher Form/Time, as Eternity, as Absolute or as A Priori but as immanent a posteriori’s. Ofcourse there are minutes and hours, places and geographical degrees and scales, but, giving the network/sphere character of things, time and space are always modified in their identity in the course of action. Space comes about, is given its shape in architectural buildings: it is material loaded with meanings.
In a forthcoming post I would like to discuss Sloterdijk’s understanding of time as the spatio-temporal designation of the airconditioned space.
I found an interesting video of the 2005 conference ‘Spheres of Action’ held at the Tate Museum where, next to Boris Groys and Peter Weibel, Peter Sloterdijk talked mainly about the first half of his book Spheres: Foam. His lecture starts after the 15 minute-introduction by Eric Alliez.