Bubbles, Live Conversation #1 - 4/27/2017

Hi @spheres readers: Here are the recordings from our video call yesterday.



[mp3 download]

##Machine Transcript

ReadersUnderground_Spheres-001_transcript.txt (64.1 KB)


This is the first of 9 live conversations with Metapsychosis Journal’s “Readers Underground” reading group for Peter Sloterdijk’s Spheres Trilogy, Volume 1: Bubbles.

In this conversation, we begin by getting to know our fellow readers and creating our own “micro-sphere,” then move into a discussion of the Preliminary Note and Introduction, pps. 9–81 of the book.



John David Ebert (host) (@johndavidebert)
Marco V Morelli (host) (@madrush)
Michael Schwartz (@raphae1)
Bernhard Klein (@Bernie)
Jonathan Cobb (@Jonathan_Cobb
Ed Mahood (@achronon
Geoffrey Edwards (@Geoffrey_Edwards)
Nate Savery (@natesavery
Wendy Ronitz-Baker (@wronitz
Brad Sayers (@bradsayers)

Thanks to @Oliver_Rabinovitch for the post-production help. And thanks to everyone for participating! Mark your calendars for our next live call on May 11th at 12 pm MDT. Call-in info here.

To join the Readers Underground, visit: https://www.metapsychosis.com/join-reading-group-spheres-bubbles-peter-sloterdijk/

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Hey all, I was sorry to leave the discussions just as things were getting interesting! I have modified the time for my recurrent meeting Thursday afternoon so I can attend the whole discussion in the future.

There were a number of references to other works mentionned. Gebser, of course, and my own mention of James Gibson, but somebody talked about M (Margaret?) Archer in the UK and another name I didn’t catch… it would be useful to post these references as they come up.

I left just as Ed was talking “against” spheres, and so missed the rest of his remarks, but I have to say that although I am enjoying reading Sloterdijk, I do find his preoccupation with form disconcerting and uncomfortable at least some of the time. I would love to hear more about your “objections”, Ed. Also, I find Sloterdijk’s writing to be a bit “smarmy”. For the non anglophones present in the discussion, I don’t quite now how to explain the word - self-satisfied, perhaps. In French we talk about someone who thinks they are the “nombril du monde”, the navel of the world, and Sloterdijk’s writing has an annoying tendency to fall within this camp at least part of the time. So I am not completely enamored with his writing! However, after having spent the last few years reading Deleuze and then Whitehead, although Sloterdijk’s writing is metaphorical rather than linear, I find it infinitely more readable!

Regarding the issue of time, of course I agree with Marco that the rhythm of breathing is at the heart of Sloterdijk’s folding in of time into his understanding of space, and I think it was the editor (sorry, I’ve forgotten your name) who mentioned that Sloterdijk views a life as beginning at a different moment than when we are born. I didn’t fully understand that comment and would like to hear more, if you feel inclined to tell us a bit more about that idea?

I made several notes from the early part of. the exchange that I liked. I loved Marco’s comment that Sloterdijk’s philosophy is a philosophy of intimacy - perhaps more so in Bubbles that the other two volumes? I also really appreciated John’s presentation of Heidegger’s ideas in relation to Sloterdijk, especially this idea that we are “thrown in” to life with little in the way of protective shells.

Loved hearing about the different interests!


Thanks for joining the call @Geoffreyjen_Edwards, and glad to hear you’ll be able to make future ones!

(Btw, I moved your comment here, as you were replying directly to our call and this thread had not been created yet.)

I’ve been thinking more about space and time, in light of our conversation yesterday, and I really think we need to look at both, always together. How couldn’t we in a post-Einsteinian universe? I’m very interested, for example, in how the experience of “having time” feels like spaciousness, and how its opposite, being short on time or out of time, feels like constriction, implosion, or even fragmentation (disintegration of space). How different spaces allow for different qualities of time. (Gebser insisted the time should be thought of as a “quality and intensity,” not in spatial terms.)

The breath has some important relation here as well, as @Jonathan_Cobb also highlighted in his remarks.

When we feel like we have more time and space, it feels like we have “room to breathe;” when we are rushing about, we are “breathless.”

How interesting that the Black Lives Matter movement in the US was animated by a murdered man’s expiring words, I CAN’T BREATHE.

And thoughts about our wider socio-political atmosphere, the hyperventilating character of popular/social media, the feeling that collectively, we are being suffocated with nonsense, disinformation, fake news, ETC.

Sloterdijk’s remarks on pps. on 75-76 regarding ethics in a “world of foam” and resignation will be well worth discussing.


Is “self-satisfied” a term that Sloterdijk is using or are you looking for an English word to describe “nombril du monde”? The Germans have the idiom Nabel der Welt which means literally the same thing. One of the notes that I made after reading the first chunk of text was that “he is certainly full of ideas, but often even more full of himself”. He does have a tendency to discard a lot of what others have thought, especially about topics that appear to impinge on his territory: on p13 of the German text (he brings to the reader’s attention that he’s dealing with a problem brought up by Plato but his text should not be considered part of Platonism since that consists of all the poor readings that have been propagated ever since). I took that to be a bit of German-professorial arrogance at first, but he has repeated the sentiment in other places (for example that the psychoanalysts got that “transference” thing wrong [p14] or his attitude toward the Enlightenment which he discards whole cloth with a wave of his hand [p 20] (it is and was naive) or the fact that all of us failed somehow to recognize that the primary social form of prehistory was “the hord” [p 57], and more).

N.B. all page references are to the German edition which, as far as I could tell from reading the first sections online via Amazon’s “Take a look inside” feature, don’t vary too much … you could probably find the references +/- 1 page.

Now, having said all that … and I do apologize for such a long post … I am not maintaining there is nothing to be gleaned from the text. In each and every instance where participants have positively, if not excitedly, said that they took this or that from their reading, I have been able to see how that is possible. One of the impressions that I have from my reading this far is that Sloterdijk can serve as a springboard for all kinds of thinking, for all kinds of ideas, for all kinds of projects. An associative approach lends itself to that. And, as I have not read either this volume in its entireity nor the other two in the trilogy (nor do I want to have to have read them to understand what I’m reading here), I believe we are too early in the reading to know if this is because he is offering us a lot of well-founded thinking or whether we’re cherry-picking (and do keep in mind, there’s pie later!).

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Initially I resisted participating in this reading group ( because I generally resist hard and fast mathematical, topological analogies) and I have not opened Sloterdijk so I was naive but picked up simply some words that created additional associative images. Immunological was one, diad another, micro-spheres and macro-spheres. None of these words move my imagination but they economize. That was another basis of my resistance, the intellectual basis of communication which does not necessarily translate into finding assistance to live. As Marco’s story at the end only too clearly revealed!

Yet coming naively I derived some respect for spheres and John’s excellent summarizing at the beginning ending up with foam. Now foam might explain the need for this particular discussion sphere, and the splintering of spheres resulting in foam also was picked up by the Israeli artist ( sorry did not get your name) in his point that the kinds of micro-spherical connections we make with remote people being deeper and more intimate and trusted than with those we live closest, to applies Sloterdijk to the practical. So this trilogy is a historical overarching image to clarify the dissolution of societies and the consequent loneliness of the solitary individual. A way to ‘objectivize’ our experience and our search. Ed asked in relation to spheres ( I think?) wherein lay the compulsion and the one word I never heard was ‘adhesion’. This seems fundamental to the use of bubbles, both including and excluding but held by surface tension or adhesion but to what? That seems the crux of what once was, and no longer is-in foam.