Peter Sloterdijk

Media Watch

An essay by Georg Diez, published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung – Magazine 15/2009, Germany.


The article came to our attention only recently although it was written a few years ago. We thought it is a good opportunity to introduce Peter to our readers.

Peter Sloterdijk (aka Dhyan Peter) 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 and he took sannyas in Pune in 1978 and stayed there until 1980. Working as a freelance writer in the 1980s, he published his Kritik der zynischen Vernunft (Critique of Cynical Reason) in 1983; it became the best-selling work on philosophy in the German language since the Second World War and launched his career as an author.

He has since published almost fifty philosophical works acclaimed in Germany. 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, 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.

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. His philosophical style strikes a balance between the firm academicism of a scholarly professor and a certain sense of anti-academicism. Sloterdijk, viewing exaggeration to be required in order to catch attention, describes the way he presents his ideas as “hyperbolic”.

Photo: dpa

Peter Sloterdijk is a typical example of a German philosophical heavyweight, but one who flirts and can be very witty and humorous.

At first glance it may be surprising, but the secret of Peter Sloterdijk’s success is his good humour. Wheezing heavily, he sits in the TV studio with his sad little eyes, reminding one somehow of the singing elephant seal from the children’s series Urmel aus dem Eis (‘Urmel from the ice’) constantly howling at the moon. Or he writes just as heavily wheezing books about cynics and kynics and rage and froth, and whatever he says could be also told just as easily in simple terms, but just because it sounds complicated does not necessarily mean that it must also be wrong.

“To be human means to exist in a functionally curved space,” he writes in his latest book, Du mußt dein Leben ändern [You must change your life]. At just over 700 pages, it is as handy as a sophisticated guidebook for metaphysically evicted crisis denizens – and as always after reading him, you feel as if you just sent your convertible through an automatic car wash. If the world is crazy, then Sloterdijk is the pioneer of the New Confusion. And that’s where his good humour comes in. When writing, Sloterdijk is a true performer – almost an entertainer who knows that there’s no harm in somehow stringing together words in a witty way. All the same, he remains being a very German scholar who particularly likes to bark up the trees of such dark thinkers such as Nietzsche or Heidegger; who, in his eyes, of course, are rather cheerfully high and bright thinkers. That’s how easy philosophy is: just think up a few new terms, and the whole show turns upside down – and everything looks different while staying the same. In his latest book he writes that for him, it’s not about religion, but about “understanding the immunitary constitution of the human being.”

For all his love of juggling with misty terms, Peter Sloterdijk is – and that’s what is so appealing about him – a genuine speaker in the Greek meaning of the word: one who seeks the public who after all makes him, what he is! A philosopher, his example shows, is someone who is heard, and not necessarily someone who is understood. Sloterdijk’s genius in all this sees to it, that he is able to play the part of the media philosopher as well as that of the master thinker.

In the end we can hardly make out the difference – with the result, that he sometimes pops up like a Cassandra with a crutch, supplying the appropriate thesis for every topic. Occasionally his statements, whether written or spoken, sound like an echo without a boom. Occasionally it is just the boom of the echo that sticks with you.

Sloterdijk has flirted with eugenics and Nazi verbiage, was said in 1999, after his speech ‘Rules for the Humanity Park’, his critical reckoning with the cultural concept of humanism. However this may be – Sloterdijk is at any time a flirtatious, frivolous philosopher, who was neither ever a leftist nor a rightist in the true sense – that’s also one of the benefits of philosophy: One can comfortably hide behind too much meaning.

Maybe it is
this cheerful sky
that still sends him
his good humour,
in spite of his fat books…
books that, by the way,
can be read as
a Western variation
of meditation.

Sloterdijk’s decisively formative experience, however, did not take place in a German university, but in the ashram of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in the Indian city of Poona, where Sloterdijk stayed from 1978 and 1980. The Bhagwan brought Sex together with Socrates and Sufism and died possessing 93 Rolls Royces. Almost 30 years later, a Sloterdijk, enraptured with his adventure as a sannyasin, says: “One lives under a brighter sky.“

Maybe it is this cheerful sky that still sends him his good humour, in spite of his fat books… books that, by the way, can be read as a Western variation of meditation. All one has to do is abandon oneself to these intelligent, curious text worlds, first losing ground under your feet and then surfacing – either sobered or awakened. Sloterdijk’s message in all this is very much in keeping with Bhagwan’s message of love: Difficult to say whether he is clever or we so stupid. So let’s meet in the middle, which is reconciling for all.


Essay by Georg Diez, published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung – Magazine 15/2009, Germany – biography by Osho News

Credit to Praharsha

Translated by Bhagawati and Nirvano

Comments are closed.