Bubbles, Live Conversation #9 - 8/17 - Closer to Me Than I Am Myself

Dear @spheres readers, here are the recordings from our discussion on 8/17:



[mp3 download]


This is the 9th 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 discuss:

  • Chapter 8 Closer to Me Than I Am Myself – A Theological Preparation for the Theory of the Shared Inside
  • Excursus 10: Matris in gremio – A Mariological Cricket
  • Transition: On Ecstatic Immanence


Wendy Ronitz-Baker
Geoffrey Edwards
John Davis
Ed Mahood
Michael Schwartz
Marco V Morelli

Thanks to everyone for participating! We’ll be getting started with Volume 2 of Sloterdijk’s trilogy, Globes, in mid-September. Details to follow. :globe_with_meridians: :smile: :globe_with_meridians:

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Once again, guys, it has been an interesting couple of months. No doubt about it. But while it’s been real, and at times it’s been fun, it hasn’t been real fun, and I’m going to decline sega-ing Sloterdijk. Nevertheless, and since I wasn’t able to get to it before we signed off last time, I’d like to present just one final German lesson as you move on your bubbly way:

The next volume is subtitle Globes … in German, it is Kugel, literally “ball” but one of any size, from a scoop of ice cream to a planet. There is an expression in German, however, eine ruhige Kugel schieben (literally, “to push a quiet ball”) which more or less means “to have it pretty cushy”. which is obviously quite distinct from sich die Kugel geben (lit. "to give oneself the ball [here: bullet]); that is, “to blow one’s brains out”. I obviously wish you all the former, not the latter as a result of your reading.

The last volume, has been subtitled Foam … and this in German is Schaum. Again, this can be any kind of foam, from the froth on “cool blonde” (i.e., a chilled brew) to the waves breaking on the beach. There is another word in German, though, that I think is particularly relevant here, to wit: Schaumschläger (lit. “one who beats up foam”, like one who makes whipped cream). If you say in German, Der ist ein Schaumschläger, you are not paying that person a compliment. In English we’d say they’re full of hot air, or maybe even blowing it out their blowhole, or any – that is, air-related – similar metaphor.

I’m not saying any of this applies to Mr. Sloterdijk himself. It’s up to you all to decide. I only mention it because, well, he brought it up. :smiling_imp:


With regard to our wonderful final call for this first of the three volumes, I want to reflect further on the reading. I did not not take into account fully enough the final appendix on ecstatic immanence. I get more fully than I had Marco’s insights about the recovery of strong relationship viz a viz modern atomistic individualism. I enjoyed this appendix reading of Heidegger on the In-structure. However, I also think this is a truncated view of the Heidegger of Being and Time, a highly selective reading. Heidegger is about existential individuation within the “they” (Das Man, sometimes translated as “the one”). He is concerned about modern dispersion and how that manifests in a non-reflected uptake of social norms (“they”) that engender dispersion. Division Two of the text is about a kind of micro ego death that frees human being (Dasein) from this trap of dispersed modern theyness and allows an “authenticity” or greater ownmostness to come forth for Dasein, a kind of existential individuation, an individudation that is only a modification of the “inauthentic” of the they, that is, of the norms of socio-cultural ways of being. This modification aligns Dasein with historical currents otherwise not sensed, currents that are in service to the flourishing of a people (Volk) or “community.” While the specific form of this Volk has concerned some, in light of the subsequent relations with National Socialism – and indeed it seems to be a contraction away from a more worldcentric or cosmopolitan moral embrace and stance – the structure laid out in Being and Time however is open to that greater moral embrace of a global community (although requiring modifications in the text around what counts as tradition). Notice that this individuation does not loose the “they” and in fact aligns with and is in service to a specific “community.” And while underdeveloped in that volume, there are fascinating discussions in Division One of existential “caring-for” others as co-constituent of Dasein’s own structure of reflexive existential care (Sorge). To my understanding, this all seems so underplayed that (latent) resources in Heidegger itself are not brought into the clearing.

What I would say is that the recovery of strong relationships is a wonderful normative direction, while the diagnosis leading all back to a womb-pyschology and the initial loss of the nobject “other” seems one-sided if in my opinion highly valuable. I still hear, at the beginning of the chapter with the seven items, a kind of pull backwards, interminably, to the first phases of incarnating, that can never be “overcome” but always overdetermine what is possible to come, whereas mereology and developmental logics of emergence see genuine novelty that comes later and for which the early phases can retrospectively be seen as leading towards (the acorn has the potential to become a tree, a kind of drive to do so under normal conditions, where becoming a tree is not fundamentally a loss of being an acorn that requires deep compensatory mechanims by the tree to cope with no longer being an acorn - the exaggerated analogy is intended). I still think there is something of this kind of weight or intensity towards the unresolvable origins of womb and umbilical separation that animates the over all analyses, but no doubt with much more to come, this view might find itself to be mistaken and too quickly underwriting PS’s larger vision.

That said, while honoring the partial insights about this womb-psychology, I would also like to see more in PS about developmental emergence on the one hand, and on the other about the interplay and synergies between agency and communion, of increasing individuation within strong relationships.

Great to part of this learning community!


Thanks for the exaggerated analogy. That clears up a lot of distortions for me.

Thanks Marco for your sponsorship of this ambitious project. We are a third of the way through this epic and I wonder when we get to the end of it and look back upon our efforts will we have a created a more interesting milieu?


The elements and maintenance of the “strong relationship” seems to be the key alright, a theme which partially (from my humble perspective, of course) makes sense of the introductory premise/promise of examination of “the limits of my transference”.

Michael, this is especially helpful and well-put:

I’m struck, at the end of Volume I, by how my first impressions have played out (and tangentially wondering about the workings of self-fulfilling prophecy). I have indeed enjoyed the ride. Sloterdijk is a tour guide of what to me are some familiar and many unfamiliar places and, overall, I’m not too put off by his “scatter-shot” of ideas. I’ve learned something about myself; when one is hopelessly drawn to incorporating overviews, suggestions and weird connections and linkages start to come naturally.
But that is not always good, and there are times when grasping the essence of a thing makes it worth the effort to do so. In short, thank you Ed (LOL!). I have not yet attained the exalted rank of curmudgeon, but going forward I certainly expect to come away after 1000 more pages (!) with insights about communal metaphysical solidarity that I cannot pick up from a standard monograph on social theory. My wide-eyed bubble blowing child is sure now to be accompanied by my alerted wary inner critic - should be interesting.

Thank you, Marco and everyone. I would say this is already “a more interesting milieu.”


Can I be an exagerated acorn? Pretty please? I’ve always like acorns!


Joking aside, I’d like to thank you all for your tolerance towards my goings and comings. I do feel privileged to be part of this ongoing debate/discussion/dance, especially given that I was absent from the middle part. Marco (@madrush) , brilliant work of course, not just the organisation although that of course counts, but also, the many insights and your dogged determination to keep us on track and focussed on what drives Sloterdijk forward - your own variant on “strong relation” in a way! I love the way each person brings in such character to the dance, and I’ve come to love all these different characters. One would think that in academia, one would encounter such groups but I can tell you (the other academics here will certainly agree with me) that encounters like these are rare, and precious as a consequence. Onwards!


First of all, let me extend a big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in this intersubjective (maybe even inter-intelligent :thinking: ) reading experiment, especially within the rather improvisatory (but not aimless) parameters set forth, and which emerged, to help determine what we might even be talking about in the con-text of Sloterdijk’s Bubbles—and why.

Womb-theory while the world is burning?

To grasp the essence, I think we had to plunge into the nobject. Through doing so, we discovered where our lines of thought clashed or meshed. (This clashing and meshing—does it not produce a foam effect? Aren’t we all Shaumenshagers now?) But what is the essence of interbeing? Did we need to go from essence to effervescence to not-grasp the nobject—to generate a frothy milieu?

I would prefer to regard Sloterdijk as a particular kind of Brewmeister. There is a fermented, hoppy-malty, mildly intoxicating quality to his prose, a bronze hue that reflects the light just so. What better metaphor for collegial sociality than a philopoetic symposium over a beer, or two or three? Is there a good German word for “one who sucks up a foam”? Bartender, I’ll have another! :beers:

It’s only prudent, of course, to have a designated driver in such a group, and @achronon, I’m glad you volunteered. :smiling_imp:

To mix metaphors, perhaps your powers of curmudgeonry also served a vaccinating function against our little spherological milieu becoming too ‘thick-headed’—all bubbles and no beer. Thanks for sharing the first round with us!

And @patanswer: like you I’m ‘hopelessly drawn to incorporating overviews’ and questioning ‘the limits of my of transference.’ In some ways—given the limits of scheduling across time zones—you’ve been like the presence in the background of the intimate surrealist painting of this conversation, but thank you for sharing your own ‘suggestions, weird connections, and linkages’ here in the forum space. I hope we’ll get to see you again, sometime, when we reconvene. :slight_smile:

@raphae1: I really like your formulation, which TJ also highlighted, advocating for looking at how we can have individuation within strong relationships. To my ears, this is a formula for the future, especially if we could nest this kind of emergence within just systems and healthy meshworks at larger scales. I imagine the story gets more complex—and interesting—as we move from womb to world.

One question I’m curious about, which might complicate your acorn-oak metaphor slightly, is how emergence and ‘genuine novelty’ relates to code (or encoded telos, i.e., the language-pattern or plan for the oak as ‘desired result’) which already exists genetically at origin in the acorn via DNA? I also wonder whether Sloterdijk’s womb-theory-first approach necessarily ends anthropocentrically. Might emergence-theory require a deeper, higher, wider, or otherwise-located origin? But if so, is this something ‘ever-present’? Or is it dispersed? If so, do we gather it? Re-weave it? Make it our authentically our own?

@Geoffrey_Edwards, thanks for showing up when you did! Perhaps our comings and goings belong to lines of becoming which are squiggly and circuitous by nature. I’m also glad that you are presencing academic and scientific perspectives (in addition to others), which I often feel deficient in. One of my personal nobjects in this whole endeavor is the recovery of the kind of intellectual community I experienced in university, with a handful of teachers and friends whose minds were similarly alive to the ‘infinite conversation’, and thus coaxed my mind to greater life too. I hope we can continue to conjure that spirit here.

And @johnnydavis54 and @wronitz: thanks for your own sponsorship of these efforts in your various ways. I feel the Cosmosphere is enriched and blessed by your subtle and overt contributions! :ear::eyes::raised_hands::brain::dragon_face:

I do believe there is a ‘holy spirit’ which moves us, and I’m moved by all your participation in AND critiques of my not-always-obvious participatory reasoning as I follow the inspiration of my own genius. Whether this experiment is ultimately sticky enough, and not too sweet, but fruitful and nourishing, remains to be seen. I’d say, though, after Part 1, we’re off to a good start.