Overcoming dying: On Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life

This is the ninth 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.

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Here is the thrust of Stoterdijk’s argument:

First, reinterpret human beings as training animals and then see what this reinterpretation ‘opens us.’

Second, reclaim a kind of elitism which allows one to ask, ‘How is it possible for some adepts to become extraordinary?’ at the same time that one can avoid the universal injunction that all persons be this way or follow this path. I have called this orientation, in a felicitous paradox, ‘humble elitism.’

Third, make a distinction between ‘antiquity’ (an untimely, nonexistent epoch) and modernity. Show that ‘antiquity’ is set in motion by a ‘vertical tension’ wherein the ascetic is called by a particular interpretation that he must change his life. Demonstrate that modernity is committed to the expansion of the horizontal plane. Whence an entirely different injunction: you must change (all of) life for everyone. End human suffering. Seek universal equality. Live according to the moral law or the maximization of utility. Against the grain, plump for ‘antiquity.’

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