This is the eighth set of reflections on Peter Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life: On Anthropotechnics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013). The first set of reflections can be read here. A summary of Stoterdijk’s principal theses is available here.
I am nearing the end of my excursus into the exercises that athletes of the spirit perform on themselves in order (a) to secede from ordinary life and (b) to unify themselves with the cosmos. How this secession-unification nexus will work will change according to particular program followed by the particular community of practitioners.
I have discussed Stoterdijk’s claims regarding overcoming scarcity, burden, and sexual desire. It is not that one stops eating, ceases existing, or refuses to have sex; it is rather that one is freed completely from the compulsions of eating, the sense of burden, and the sexual appetites for one has overcome the erroneous claims that ‘one has to do X….’
I am now concerned with alienation. The claim is that there is an ‘enemy’ to living, one that oppresses me, thereby making life inhospitable or unlivable. In ‘Against Domination and Enmity,’ Stoterdijk makes the Nietzschean argument that the ascetic freely and actively submits himself to forms of coercion in order to be free. There is no freedom without the path of coercion; no higher freedom without the program of self-submission or self-surrender. Nietzsche’s counterintuitive conclusions run counter to those in modernity (save, perhaps, Kant’s concerning the rational person’s giving the moral law to himself), which distinguish between zones of coercion (e.g., the state) and spaces of freedom (e.g., the private sphere).