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Peter Sloterdijk

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Title: Peter Sloterdijk  
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Collection: 1947 Births, 20Th-Century Philosophers, 21St-Century Philosophers, Continental Philosophers, German Essayists, German Male Writers, German People of Dutch Descent, German Philosophers, Living People, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Alumni, Male Essayists, Members of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, People from Karlsruhe, Phenomenologists, Philosophers of Social Science, Philosophical Anthropology, Posthumanists, Rajneesh Movement, Recipients of the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, University of Hamburg Alumni
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Peter Sloterdijk

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

Peter Sloterdijk (German: ; born June 26, 1947) is a German philosopher, cultural theorist, television host and columnist. He is a professor of philosophy and media theory at the University of Art and Design Karlsruhe. He co-hosted the German show Im Glashaus: Das Philosophische Quartett from 2002 until 2012.


  • Biography 1
  • Philosophical stance 2
  • Philosophical style 3
  • Individual Works 4
    • Critique of Cynical Reason 4.1
    • Spheres 4.2
    • Globalization 4.3
    • Rage and Time 4.4
  • Genetics dispute 5
  • Welfare state dispute 6
  • List of works 7
    • Works in English translation 7.1
    • Original German titles 7.2
  • Film appearances 8
  • Honours and awards 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Sloterdijk's father is Dutch. He studied philosophy, German studies and history at the University of Munich and the University of Hamburg from 1968 to 1974. In 1975 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Hamburg. In the 1980s he worked as a freelance writer, and published his Kritik der zynischen Vernunft in 1983. He has since published a number of philosophical works acclaimed in Germany. 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 to co-host 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]

Philosophical stance

Sloterdijk rejects 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 hybrid realities. Sloterdijk's ideas are sometimes referred to as posthumanism,[3] 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.

Philosophical style

Like Nietzsche, Sloterdijk remains convinced that contemporary philosophers have to think dangerously and let themselves be 'kidnapped' by contemporary 'hyper-complexities': they must forsake our present humanist and nationalist world for a wider horizon at once ecological and global.[4] Sloterdijk's philosophical style 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).[5] Taking a sociological stance, Andreas Dorschel sees Sloterdijk's timely innovation at the beginning of the 21st century in having introduced the principles of celebrity into philosophy.[6] Sloterdijk himself, viewing exaggeration to be required in order to catch attention, describes the way he presents his ideas as "hyperbolic" (hyperbolisch).[7]

Individual Works

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.[8]


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 further as Sloterdijk distances himself from Heidegger's positions.[9]


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").

Rage and Time

In his Zorn und Zeit (translated as Rage and Time), Sloterdijk characterizes the emotion of rage as a psychopolitical force throughout human history. The political aspects are especially pronounced in the Western tradition, beginning with the opening words of Homer's Iliad, "Of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus, sing, O Goddess...". Sloterdijk acknowledges the contributions of psychoanalysis for our understanding of strong emotional attitudes: "In conformity with its basic erotodynamic approach, psychoanalysis brought much hatred to light, the other side of life." (Rage and Time, p. 14) Importantly, for Sloterdijk, Judeo-Christian conceptions of God ultimately "piggyback" on the feelings of rage and resentment, creating "metaphysical revenge banks". For Sloterdijk, "God thus becomes the location of a transcendent repository of suspended human rage-savings and frozen plans of revenge." [10]

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").[11] 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 laments. "Civilisation's potential for barbarism is growing; the everyday bestialisation of man is on the increase."

Because of the eugenic policies of the Nazis in Germany's recent history, such discussions are seen in Germany as carrying a sinister load. Breaking a German taboo on the discussion of genetic manipulation, Sloterdijk's essay suggests that the advent of new genetic technologies requires more forthright discussion and regulation of "bio-cultural" reproduction. In the eyes of Habermas, this made Sloterdijk a "fascist". Sloterdijk replied that this was, itself, 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 alleged 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 developments in genetic science. 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.[12]

Welfare state dispute

Another dispute emerged after Sloterdijk's article "Die Revolution der gebenden Hand" (June 13, 2009; transl. "The revolution of the giving hand") [13][14] in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, one of Germany’s most widely read newspapers. There Sloterdijk claimed 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".

Sloterdijk opened the text with the famous quote of leftist critics of capitalism (made famous in the 19th century by Proudhon in his "What Is Property?") "Property is theft", stating, however, that it is nowadays the modern state that is the biggest taker. "We are living in a fiscal grabbing semi-socialism - and nobody calls for a fiscal civil war."[15][16]

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. "Uprising of the performers") in the German monthly Cicero - Magazin für politische Kultur.[17][18][19]

According to Sloterdijk, the institutions of the welfare state lend themselves to a system that privileges the marginalized, but relies, unsustainably, on the class of citizens who are materially successful. Sloterdijk's provocative recommendation was that income taxes should be deeply reduced, the difference being made up by donations from the rich in a system that would reward higher givers with social status. 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.[20]

In January 2010, an English translation was published, titled "A Grasping Hand - The modern democratic state pillages its productive citizens", in Forbes [21] and in the Winter 2010 issue of City Journal.[22]

Sloterdijk's 2010 book, Die nehmende Hand und die gebende Seite, contains the texts that triggered the 2009-2010 welfare state dispute.

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 0-8166-1586-1
  • Thinker on Stage: Nietzsche's Materialism, translation by Jamie Owen Daniel; foreword by Jochen Schulte-Sasse, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8166-1765-1
  • 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 3-211-79913-3
  • Terror from the Air, translation by Amy Patton, Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2009. ISBN 1-58435-072-5
  • God's Zeal: The Battle of the Three Monotheisms, Polity Pr., 2009. ISBN 978-0-7456-4507-0
  • Derrida, an Egyptian, Polity Pr., 2009. ISBN 0-7456-4639-5
  • Rage and Time, translation by Mario Wenning, New York, Columbia University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-231-14522-0
  • Neither Sun nor Death, translation by Steven Corcoran, Semiotext(e), 2011. ISBN 978-1-58435-091-0 – 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.
  • Bubbles: Spheres Volume I: Microspherology, translation by Wieland Hoban, Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2011. ISBN 1-58435-104-7
  • The Art of Philosophy: Wisdom as a Practice, translation by Karen Margolis, New York, Columbia University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-231-15870-1
  • You Must Change Your Life, translation by Wieland Hoban, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7456-4921-4
  • In the World Interior of Capital: Towards a Philosophical Theory of Globalization, translation by Wieland Hoban, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7456-4769-2
  • Nietzsche Apostle, (Semiotext(e)/Intervention Series), translation by Steve Corcoran, Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2013. ISBN 978-1-58435-099-6
  • Globes: Spheres Volume II: Macrospherology , translation by Wieland Hoban, Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2014. ISBN 1-58435-160-8

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.
  • Falls Europa erwacht. Gedanken zum Programm einer Weltmacht am Ende des Zeitalters seiner politischen Absence, 1994.
  • Scheintod im Denken - Von Philosophie und Wissenschaft als Übung, Frankfurt am Main (Suhrkamp), 1995.
  • Im selben Boot - Versuch über die Hyperpolitik, Frankfurt am Main (Suhrkamp), 1995.
  • 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.
  • Theorie der Nachkriegszeiten, (Suhrkamp), 2008.
  • Du mußt dein Leben ändern, Frankfurt am Main (Suhrkamp), 2009.
  • Philosophische Temperamente Von Platon bis Foucault, München (Diederichs) 2009. ISBN 978-3-424-35016-6
  • Scheintod im Denken, Von Philosophie und Wissenschaft als Ubung (Suhrkamp), 2010.
  • Die nehmende Hand und die gebende Seite, (Suhrkamp), 2010.
  • Die schrecklichen Kinder der Neuzeit, (Suhrkamp), 2014.
  • Was geschah im 20. Jahrhundert? Unterwegs zu einer Kritik der extremistischen Vernunft, (Suhrkamp), 2016.

Film appearances

Honours and awards


  1. ^ = He who sits in a glass house should not throw stones"Wer selbst im Glashaus sitzt, sollte nicht mit Steinen werfen"from the old German expression
  2. ^ Im Glashaus – Das philosophische Quartett, ZDF website
  3. ^ Michael Kempe, 'Neulich im Menschenpark: Die phantastische Anthropologie des Peter Sloterdijk', in Bernhard Kleeberg et alii (eds.), Die List der Gene: Stratageme eines neuen Menschen (Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 2001), pp. 151—170, specifically pp. 162—164.
  4. ^ Book Description for "Neither Sun Nor Death", MIT Press 2011
  5. ^ Die Tageszeitung interview dd. 13 June 2006, interview in Lettre International (German)
  6. ^ LX (2013), no. 4, pp. 264—298, specifically pp. 293—297.Philosophische RundschauAndreas Dorschel, 'Denktagebücher: Zur Poetik des philosophischen Journals',
  7. ^ Holger von Dobeneck, Das Sloterdijk-Alphabet: Eine lexikalische Einführung in seinen Ideenkosmos, 2nd. ed. (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2006), p. 10.
  8. ^ See Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, "Critique of Cynical Reason"In Search of Lost Cheekiness. An Introduction to Peter Sloterdijk's , in Tabula Rasa, 2003.
  9. ^ In more recent years, a deepening of this take on Heidegger's thought is given expression through a focus on the primordiality of space over time in fundamental ontology as articulated in numerous studies by the British-Lebanese philosopher and architect Nader El-Bizri in his investigation of "the place of being", of "dwelling", and primarily of Khôra.
  10. ^ , December 2010The Berlin Review of BooksFrancesco Klauser in
  11. ^ See Frank Mewes, "Regulations for the Human Park: On Peter Sloterdijk's Regeln für den Menschenpark", in Gnosis, Volume VI, No. 1, 2002.
  12. ^ "Anger as philosopher revives vocabulary of Third Reich"
  13. ^ Peter Sloterdijk "Die Revolution der gebenden Hand"
  14. ^ "Die Revolution der gebenden Hand - Peter Sloterdijk „belehrt“ Marx eines Richtigeren"
  15. ^ "Wo bleibt der Bürgerkrieg?"
  16. ^ "Peter Sloterdijk rebelliert gegen den "Zwangssteuerstaat" - Blasen zu Phrasen"
  17. ^ Cicero (Zeitschrift)
  18. ^ , July 2009, p.42Cicero, in Kleptokratie des Staates
  19. ^ , November 2009, p.94 Cicero, in"Aufbruch der Leistungsträger
  20. ^ "Germany's welfare state under fire - One of Germany's foremost public intellectuals, Peter Sloterdijk, began the offensive on the welfare state"
  21. ^ "A Grasping Hand - The modern democratic state pillages its productive citizens"
  22. ^ "The Grasping Hand-The modern democratic state pillages its productive citizens"
  23. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 521. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Quotations related to Peter Sloterdijk at Wikiquote
  • Peter Sloterdijk website
  • Peter Sloterdijk at the Internet Movie Database
  • The Grasping Hand, by Peter Sloterdijk, City Journal, Winter 2010
  • See Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, "In Search of Lost Cheekiness, An Introduction to Peter Sloterdijk's Critique of Cynical Reason", in: Tabula Rasa, 20 (2003)
  • , a Sloterdijk essay on the Ethical State of Gene TechnologyThe Operable Man
  • BubblesReview of , in: Los Angeles Review of Books
  • Europe’s Times and Unknown Waters, Cluj-Napoca, Braşoveanu, Narcisa (April 2009). "The Narcissistic and the Cynical Attitudes - Two Identitary Masks, Gilles Lipovetsky, L'ère du vide. Essais sur l'individualisme contemporain and Peter Sloterdijk, Kritik der zynischen Vernunft"
  • Topics: Spheres (Feb/Mar 2005) (interview)
  • Barthélémy on Sloterdijk & Stiegler
  • Michel Weber, "The Art of Philosophy—Critical review," Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 10, no. 2, 2014, pp. 327-333.
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