Peter Sloterdijk’s texts read as a thriller, his philosophy has the potency of sending shivers down your spine, much like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Deleuze before him.
The rationale for this post is Sloterdijk’s audacity of his 1999 declaration that critical theory is dead.
Rules For the Human Zoo is a speech delivered by Peter Sloterdijk on July 20 1999 on the occasion of a symposium dedicated to the philosophy of Heidegger. He had held that same speech two years before but nobody had taken offense. The speech is on biogenetics and its implications (think Gattaca).
I lent the Rules article today at my local library in a Dutch version called Regels voor het Mensenpark, Kroniek van een Debat. The subtitle translates as history of a debate. The debate is between Peter Sloterdijk and Jürgen Habermas. Sloterdijk accuses Habermas of intentionally misreading him and calling upon Assheuer as a proxy to attack Sloterdijk. The attacks basically called Sloterdijk a fascist:
In the eyes of Professor Habermas, a left-wing philosopher, this secret agenda makes his fellow academic a “fascist.” Professor Sloterdijk, also a left-wing philosopher who once travelled to Poona to seek enlightenment from the Bhagwan, thinks his critic is resorting to “fascist” tactics to discredit him. –http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/2000/2000-March/005176.html [Oct 2006]
In the 37th issue of 9 Sept 1999 of Die Zeit, Sloterdijk replied to his adversaries Habermas and Assheuer with Die Kritische Theorie ist tot (EN: Critical Theory is Dead).
From the web:
According to a recent article in The Observer (10 October 1999) the fashionable dinner tables of German society are buzzing with controversy over `the death of critical theory and the future of metaphysics’. The article refers to a debate provoked by a conference address given at Elmau in Bavaria last July by Peter Sloterdijk. His paper, `Regeln fur den Menschenpark : Ein Antwortschreiben zum Brief ber den Humanismus’ (Rules for the Human Theme-Park: A Reply to the Letter on Humanism), was addressed to an international conference on `Philosophy after Heidegger’. Copies of the address began circulating among academics shortly after the conference. Subsequently, two heavily critical articles were published in the national press. Sloterdijk’s bad-tempered response to these articles (Die Zeit, 9 September 1999) has generated an animated quarrel, whose participants have included Manfred Frank, Ernst Tugendhat, Ronald Dworkin and Slavoj Zizek, among others. –http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/print.asp?editorial_id=10101 [Oct 2006]
In [the open letter], Sloterdijk wonders if Assheuer has the same text as he does at all, since they read it so differently – Assheuer thinks he’s a Nietzschean, where he explicitly said that Nietzsche’s concept of the overman can have no meaning for us any more. The press is once again alarming people for alarming’s sake. The second part of his letter is addressed to Habermas, because Sloterdijk has heard that Habermas has spoken about him to many people (!) but not spoken with him. He claims that Habermas has mobilized an international attack against him, making photocopies of his lecture and sending them everywhere. Sloterdijk goes on at length how Habermas has thus reified him – it’s a hilarious read. With Habermas, critical theory has become a sinister Jacobinism that liquidates its opponents through mass media. Its claims are based on the “forceless force of the quicker denunciation (and worse reading)” instead of what Habermas calls the “forceless force of the better argument”. Critical theory was the answer for the children of the Nazi era. With this debate it has shown itself to be unsuitable for our needs: critical theory is dead. –http://mail.architexturez.net/+/Heidegger-L/archive/msg22054.shtml
Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism (1947)
The Letter on Humanism, written in 1947 in response to questions circulating about the relationship of Heidegger’s philosophy of Being to humanism, Christianity, Marxism, and the new “philosophy of existence” expounded by Sartre, Jaspers, and others, has been called Heidegger’s “greatest effort.” It was written at a time of great personal struggle for Heidegger: he had just been indefinitely banned from teaching following the Nazi war-crimes hearings, and he had undergone a kind of emotional breakdown as a result. Nevertheless, the Letter on Humanism virtually catalogues the most important strands of Heidegger’s entire later philosophy – the meaning of the history of Being, the way Heidegger sees to the re-awakening of that history, its relation to the philosophical tradition, the meaning of action, the role of technology, art, and language in the historical destiny of Being, and above all the need of a new thinking to prepare that destiny. The essay contains some of Heidegger’s most memorable language. In it, we can see especially clearly the role of reflection about language in preparing a new consideration of Being that will make the leap outside the tradition of metaphysics, which has hitherto determined all of our language. The quest for a new language will be so important to Heidegger that he will even spell important words, like Being, in antiquated and strange ways, to show that he uses them outside the closure of metaphysics. –http://www07.homepage.villanova.edu/paul.livingston/martin_heidegger%20-%20letter%20on%20humanism.htm [Oct 2006]