The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk can be described in his last book as a Johanniter Theopozie You do not remember. In Christian vocabulary, this term is already taken. But Sloterdijk appears to be a follower of the opening words of the Gospel of John. Likewise for him “in the beginning is the word”.
Religion, says Sloterdijk TheopozieIt arose from a special type of poetry that interprets and reconciles man with the existence of the world and his place in it. “The interweaving of representations of the world of gods and poetry is as old as early European tradition, in fact, going back to the earliest written sources of civilization throughout the world.”
With that in mind, Sloterdijk describes the history of religions to this day in strong lines and with a lot of imagination. An informed reader will not find much news on this topic. The book is particularly original in the power of pictures. Describe an ancient phenomenon with the latest terminology from an entirely different field, presenting itself as something that is challenging the mind once again. Sloterdijk, for example, wrote of Satan: “The outsourcing of evil has driven man into the arms of a perfectly good God.”
The word magnifies everything
Visually, the hyper-productive Sloterdijk (born in 1947) was already thinking when he made an international breakthrough in 1983 with his massive team Critique of the sarcastic mind. This book was astonishing, perhaps first and foremost because of the rich illustrations that had hitherto been unusual in a philosophical work. He did the same after more than twenty years in his extended business ambianceTrilogy, where he described human civilization from the metaphor of the immune system.
Visible is Theopozie Again, though, this book is not based on illustrations, but rather on plastic and suggestive words. At Sloterdijk, this often takes the place of subtle argument. In this sense, he is perhaps more than just John: for him the word is not only the beginning, but it enlarges everything and often escapes with the train of thought.
Although Sloterdijk’s innovative word art often gets tiring after a while. Take a sentence like this: “The history of the minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has made it clear how absurd it would be to underestimate the ghostly powers of titular deities.” What the hell is there? Nothing but: Don’t rush to write off debt as a thing of the past.
This statement in itself is true, much to the chagrin of all those who, relying on the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, declare religion “obsolete”. But also from Sloterdijk’s point of view, the lighting is a watershed point in history. “The idea that the Enlightenment was often paradoxically a cryptic anti-Christian continuation by secular means,” he explicitly calls it “weird.”
Taylor’s impressive vision
Without mentioning his name once, Sloterdijk opposes Charles Taylor’s poignant vision. The Canadian philosopher has self sources It was precisely this thesis that was defended by a large number of arguments and evidence. It is strange that Sloterdijk in Holy fire (2007) described the Enlightenment itself as “a continuation of Christianity through rational and historical-philosophical means”. “With reasonable arguments,” he continued, “the position was defended that the moral core of the Enlightenment, the doctrine of human rights, could only be understood as a secular form of Christian anthropology.”
Although the Holy fire Written in the polemical context after ‘9/11’, it is remarkable how much Sloterdijk like business took a stand on this, compared to Theopozie. In his latest book, he is obsessed with the word intoxication that often obscures a sober view of history. Grouping contemporary PR techniques with “Roman Catholic, Jacobin, Goebelian, and Leninist Maoist actions to achieve consensus” does not contribute to a clear understanding of the past.
However, Sloterdijk’s shift in lighting has deeper roots. Already with Plato, he has Theopozie Already written, the story is expelled from poetry and replaced with mathematics. Thus the standard of what would later be called a “science” becomes an unambiguously affirmed fact, which will also dominate the talk of Christian theology. And this feigning of truth will eventually, as scientific enlightenment, strip religion of its claims to be the basis of truth and social order.
Writings, gestures, sound worlds
Sloterdijk calls this process, in which religion is gradually stripped of its functions and claims knowledge, “subtraction,” a term he borrowed from Taylor, again without naming it. What remains after this subtraction wonders Sloterdijk? Not much. “What remains of historical religions are writings, gestures, and sound worlds, which even today sometimes help individuals revert to the embarrassment of their unique existence through tried and tested formulations.” In other words, even when religion is collectively acknowledged, it has become a private affair that lies behind the front door.
Sloterdijk did not state why Taylor was explicitly opposed to this reasoning. Taylor also notes that it is true that religion has had to give up its claim to be able to explain the natural world to physics and no longer supports the political system. But this does not prevent her from inspiring those in the background: the entire Western culture, including science and politics, is rooted in it.
This also means that religion still provides the whole of society with the meaning of existence and has a message to it. Once religion becomes a private enterprise, it is dwarfed at best by a hobby. In a worst-case scenario, it threatens to turn into an extreme out of control, having become invisible behind the front door.
If religion has the right to exist, it is collective and public. Not because religion monopolizes all truth or may once again dominate the public space. But because it can turn a neutral universe into a meaningful space in which a person can feel ‘at home’. Religious words derive their power not from what they say but from what they produce. In religious rituals they are primarily a gesture and an event, long before an idea (abstract) is expressed. Even if Sloterdijk seems to admit this lukewarm in his conclusion (“gestures, realms of sound”), this meaning remains subordinate to the meaning of science. He has the last word.
But the last word in which? We simply cannot live in science unless we turn it in turn into some kind of religion, after which the bears are at large. However, Sloterdijk makes religion a form of adornment in life, just as he adds–and casually adds–art and “thoughtful thinking,” reads: Philosophy.
The three penultimate stages of the soul
Then every philosopher pops up. Were not art, religion, and philosophy for the nineteenth century philosopher Hegel the three penultimate stages of the soul, before it was completed in the Absolute Spirit? Will Sloterdijk turn into a convincing last-minute Hegelian who thinks we should search for “absolute thinking” that encompasses everything in scientific theory?
But science does not tell us how to live or why. So there is no point in classifying it as religion; Both will suffer. Each of them has its own advantages in answering questions that are specific to their region, and not the other. In theory, the word denotes something, and in religion it occurs something. In both cases he speaks from his own principle, ‘in the beginning’.
Peter Sloterdijk, Theopoëzie. Make heaven speak. Translated by Mark Wildshot. Boom, Amsterdam, 2021, 320 pages, €29.90
The return of debt (which is not surprising)
The Western world is astonished by the return of religion to the public discourse. Neil MacGregor explains that if you look at history, you’ll conclude that surprise is unwarranted.
“Coffee fanatic. Friendly zombie aficionado. Devoted pop culture practitioner. Evil travel advocate. Typical organizer.”