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.
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.’
Continue reading “Overcoming dying: On Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life”
This is the sixth 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.
Recall that Stoterdijk is singularly focused on how the practicing animal can become more than he is. Having seceded from the buzz and chatter of ordinary life, the practitioner has now made the aim of his life that of putting his life to the test.
In Chapter 12, ‘Exercises and Misexercises,’ Stoterdijk suggests that there are five main fronts upon which they have fought. These are ‘material scarcity, the burden character of existence, sexual drive, alienation and the involuntary nature of death’ (416).
In the last post, I analyzed Stoerdijk’s claims concerning how the practitioner overcomes material scarcity. Not far from the layperson’s fear of hunger is that of the ‘burden character of existence’ (417). When one takes oneself to be overtaxed by the task of living, he either seeks forms of ‘hardenings’ or moments of ‘little escapes’ (417). We can tease out the implications of these two strategies. On the one hand, one can harden oneself to the point of ‘coldness’ (Adorno) so that one becomes as insensible to the vibrations of life–of the well-cultivated mind and senses–as to the ethical claims of others. On the other hand, one can fantasize about the kinds of escapes from burden that will count as times of pleasure and enjoyment. This form of momentary release is called vacation. Both strategies are foolish.
Continue reading “Overcoming burden: Peter Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life”