Globes, by Peter Sloterdijk – Conversation #6 [5/10]


(Marco V Morelli) #1



  • Chapter 8: The Last Orb—On a Philosophical History of Terrestrial Globalization
  • Transition: Air Conditioning

Pages 765–967

(T J Williams) #2

Peeking into the bibliographical essay, I see among other great thinkers and writers Edward Said, Immanuel Wallerstein (‘world-systems’ theory), Spengler, Francis Fukuyama (“end of history” fame – or notoreity), Geschichtsphilosophe Eric Voegelin, and Roland Robertson (in my opinion the true “first philosopher of globalization” if such there is). To me, this suggests a wide-ranging exploration worth the length of the chapter (and perhaps a last chance for Sloterdijk to convince me not to consign his books to the overflow box in the closet after they are read. LOL!!)
I need (much) more practice overcoming nerves when speaking/presenting, publicly committing to action is good for my reading (e.g., The Human Cycle), and, well, “you only live once” – so I officially volunteer to introduce the final Globes discussion.

I propose
• A walk-through of the (nicely sectioned) reading as tourists, ‘playing Sloterdijk’ as it were. (Let’s anticipate nodes of interesting connection rather than clear points of argument. That way, so much the better if we are surprised. :smiling_imp: )
• Then, let’s talk about ‘globalization’ (definitions, personal impressions, and implications) and in a fairly concrete way (West vs Rest? Economics vs culture? Local vs global?). If Sloterdijk is saying anything useful about our complex times, what do we think it is?
• Finally, if we get there, let’s compare what ideal integral-project ‘planetary consciousness’ might look like in comparison and perhaps contrast to prevalent ideas about the ‘global’.

Subject to the approval of the group, of course.

PS: Part 1 of 9 of Civilizations, a world history of art, is airing on Channel 13, my PBS station, this Tuesday at 8 PM. I’m pretty excited…

(john davis) #3

This interests me, too, TJ, and appreciate that you are coming forward to help us focus. I look forward to the last episode.

(Marco V Morelli) #4

Gets my vote. :+1:

I think it also makes a lot of sense to put Sloterdijk in conversation with the other thinkers you name that have thought seriously about what it means to be “global.” And we’ve touched already (via Gidley, et al.) on how “planetary” names a distinct phenomenon which is not capital-centric, as globalization is. (Or is it? What more is going on?) It seems fitting to end on the question of where the planetary departs from the global.

You’ll be fine! Just imagine Sloterdijk riding on his bicycle… :smile:

(T J Williams) #5



(john davis) #6

And when you overcome your nerves then what happens? If you need any support, the EST Magicians are at your service!

(Douglas Duff) #7

Just finished “The Last Orb” and, all things considered, accept this as the closing effort, I might even say that I embrace it! These user-friendly chapter breaks should have been utilized throughout the book, me thinks; they could have provided an easy solution for the monstrous white chapter beasts surfacing throughout the text.

I went on to read the “Note” segment in Foams, and, as TJ suggested to us new folk previously (@hfester and I had/have not read Bubbles), this extended note can be read as a brief summary of the first two volumes (as well as a pre-foamy offering) and even states “the Last Orb” "can be read as an independent publication (which, as noted, does “appear in considerably expanded form as In the World Interior of Capital” - Foams, p. 829, note 6, English translation). I have examined World Interior and recommend, as @johnnydavis54 did in the last conversation, its first chapter “Of Grand Narratives;” also of note is the additions (inserted between chapters 9 & 10 of “The Last Orb”) of two more chapters: “The Invention of Subjectivity – Primary Disinhibition and Its Advisers” and “Irreflexive Energies: The Ontology of the Headstart.”

If this gluttonous self-inflicted punishment continues, I might even provide some sort of segment summary, additional chapters included. :man_shrugging:

I had selfishly assumed myself as the only individual with stage fright here; glad (?) to have you on this side of the social, TJ!

(T J Williams) #8

My thoughts exactly. I’m halfway through, moving at a deliberate pace. Suddenly, Sloterdijk sounds like a cultural historian, and not a bad one! The bricolage is an actual set of thematically connected points here. Totally agree that the approach would have made the rest of Spheres less frustrating. (One can still play while letting others in on the rules of the game.)

Interesting. I’ll bet In the World Interior of Capital would be the better overall addition to my (tiny) study library…

:wink: “The way out is through…”
But a whole lot easier in a safe space to grow, I agree.

(john davis) #9

You are in very good company, Doug. Stage fright is not a problem, it is what you do with stage fright that is important. Fright can turn into energy and a heightened awareness. One of the great actors of all time, Sir Laurence Olivier, suffered terrible attacks of stage fright. During a successful run playing the lead in Othello he had panic attacks every night before he entered. He said the only thing that helped was a small dose of Valium. Although I wouldn’t advocate the use of Valium I appreciate that fear is a great catalyst. You are making progress, Doug.

(T J Williams) #10

The following quotations stick out for me in my attempt to make overall sense of things so far. Consider this post a ‘non-essential preparatory re-cap’.


Life is a matter of form – that is the hypothesis we associate with the venerable philosophical and geometric term “sphere.” It suggests that life, the formation of spheres and thinking are different expressions for the same thing. Referring to a vital spheric geometry is only productive, however, if one concedes the existence of a form of theory that knows more about life than life itself does – and that wherever human life is found, whether nomadic or settled, inhabited orbs appear, wandering or stationary orbs which, in a sense, are rounder than anything that can be drawn with a compass. (10-11)
[E]very act of solidarity is… the creation of an interior. (12) The limits of my capacity for transference are the limits of my world. (13)


“Peter Sloterdijk as ‘First Philosopher’ of Globalization”, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, Vol 12 No 3, Spring 2013 (pp. 1-19)
Sphären constitutes a kind of root metaphor for the very act of signifying a horizon. Whereas horizon serves as a notion, if not the actual word, that can be traced back to Kant, as Heidegger himself suggests, ‘Sphere’ counts as the pre-epistemic correlate to any philosophy that rests on judgments of both experience and logic. If we can employ Kantian language, we can say that it is a kind of background presence to the pre-synthetic unity of sensuous intuition. That is why Sloterdijk’s ‘phenomenology’ relies heavily on the iteration of a sort of historical symbology and of the multifarious, fleeting icons and images that populate contemporary culture, leveraging the very same strategy of bricolage that modern artists from Braque to Warhol made famous.” (10)
“The sphere is not a mediating form. It is the master signifier for the organization, evolution, and angle of visualization for all modes of being, just as for Heidegger ‘being-in-the-world’ encompasses the entirety of both spatiality and temporality as the ground of the ontological quest. However, they also have a decided contingency and historicity.” (13)


From this moment on, the learned schola is sworn to a community enthusiasm; it will in future be held together by, to use an anachronistic turn of phrase, a “problem awareness” that removes them from all other human groups. (17) The first proponents of the bios theoretikós knew that freedom to theorize could only be attained by breaking with the city, and with what would later be called the people’s community. (18)
The thinkers of Hellenism and their heirs exist under the law of time as intelligences that contemplate what is other-than-temporal…. Understanding being and time and illuminating the constellation they form together: this and nothing else is the concern of this verbosely opaque profession. (22)
A form of God-deception is thus inherent in philosophizing from the outset. What Heidegger would later term “forgetfulness of being” already begins with the ancient instructions for viewing the orb blissfully from without. The sphaira, as the highest form of imagining thought, lured mortals into the game of an initially jovial, then lordly observation of the outside that would one day lead to polytechnical dreams of control and the tyranny of knowledge over concretely interpreted life as a whole. (79)
All history is the history of animations resulting from the division of space by the two. (151)
The distinction between forms of peace set off the true world war: the world-historical struggle over the antithesis between power (rootedness, assertion, apparatus and culture) and spirit (uprooting, resistance, anarchy and art). If there were an “end of history,” one would notice it in the expiry of these oppositions. (186)
Individualism is a form of thought that reserves the attribute “real” for individuals and acknowledges communities only as secondary, less real and terminable agglomerations of autonomous parts – that is, as “societies” in the contract-theoretical sense. Such an approach prevents any understanding of the irreducible density of human intimate relationships, it blocks out the field of strong relationships from the anthropological perception. (188)
One can define the age of classical metaphysics as that in which the motif of self-harboring in a favorable totality far outweighed that of self-liberation, while modernity is characterized by the precedence of the liberating tendency over the cave need, and through the pull to transcend horizons. Antiquity and modernity differ in their radically opposing insulation procedures. (198-199)
What we call a world picture is in fact unimaginable without an explicit wall and border function, and without the constant readjustment of the edges to match enlarged spaces of experience. (203)
The roots of postmodernity were no longer cosmological dogmas, but rather working hypotheses for provisional communities. (438)
Doubled attention is now required: letting the earth roll out of the center of the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic cosmos and extinguishing the origin of all light at the center of the God orb are two fundamentally different operations, and failing to distinguish between them can only lead to muddled views on all related matters. Not least, this question also determines the meaning of modernity: is it a post-metaphysical age, as is proclaimed from every corner of academia, or a differently metaphysical one that does not yet fully understand itself? (450)
If life were merely a sojourn in the external from the outset, and did not have to provide any immune services or observe any harboring interests on the small or the large scale, there would not need to be any talk of circles [hearths] and orbs up to the highest level of its metaphysical self-interpretation; for then there would be nothing that needed to seek refuge in the cohesive form. The simple occurrence of things in space is morphologically undemanding, and does not create any problems with the notion that something goes out and does not return. But where thought has been struck by the immunological imperative – one could also say, wherever the concern is to think a life in an emphatic sense – the circle motif establishes itself, because it is inevitably assigned the main burden of securing the interior and forming the world’s edge more geometrico. Life wants to reach out with freedom of movement, yet experience the privilege of being able to reside by virtue of an endogenous boundary. (519-520)

I have come to the conclusion that while the sphere is indeed a terrible metaphor for a cosmic reality that is exponentially more fluid (the torus is much the better model), it has its merits in consideration of human (limited, mortal, and finite) constructions of reality. In Chapter 8, the lost orb of philosophy turns into the last orb, the planet itself, and the Modern Age becomes a kind of “Oh, this was it all along, huh? Now what do we do?..”

(Douglas Duff) #11

(I will probably edit this later…just want to jot this down while away from typing-friendly computing devices)

Sloterdijk is actually describing the torus when he gives us the full description of the sphere formation. This is especially noticeable in the telecommunication chapter and even more so in he Vice Kings segment of The Last Orb. The individual (ray of light, explorer, message) journeys the charted/uncharted waters, shooting off in all directions, eventually mapping out the the entire globe and then returns to the center. Yet, as Sloterdijk notes, there is no center, no more God, no more singular highest truth. But we keep on forming something even though it is deflated. Without a center we, the messages and messengers, become the center. In our mapping sessions, we often note that the center is really just empty space. …perhaps.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #12

One of the secrets of speaking in public is that most people have stage fright. If you don’t, it is because you don’t care about what you are saying. The day I stop feeling nervous is the day I’ll start worrying. However, some people succeed in hiding their difficulties better than others. And learning to “ride over” one’s feelings is a challenge - actors or singers in training often talk about these things.

(john davis) #13

Wordsworth said poetry is emotion remembered in tranquility. I like that. Also a great actor once said to perform well, you need a cool head and a warm heart. That is an ideal state perhaps to communicate well. We need to balance affect and cognition. Affect drives most of our politics and our decision making ( those weird gut/feels) and we are usually taught to conceal or hide the affective dimension in public discourse. I think that is starting to change as people get better able to disentangle from the talking head syndrome we learned in school. I think/feel we are doing a good job in these conversations of finding the right balance. Too abstract becomes dry and lifeless, too much emotion can overwhelm, the affective is emotion reflected upon, a somatic intelligence is the lead rather than head only. When the head supports the heart we enter into a new zone. Not easy to enter that zone, however. Narrative and self generated metaphor support this kind of integration in coordination with statistics and logical argument. Emergence is what happens next, novel conceptual blends that cant be predicted or controlled.

(T J Williams) #14

“Where cosmic safety has become unattainable, humans are left to reflect on their situation in a space in which they can return to themselves from any distant place.” (p. 782)

(john davis) #15

A bit of Big History?

(T J Williams) #16

Hehehe, it could be. It’s more along the lines of the latest “scientific documentation of the external space” Sloterdijk talks about in connection with sphere-building for the unknown (p. 906). We’re still at it, of course.

That said, I had been looking for a decent, brief historical overview of the period covered in this chapter. This is quite old (1985), but it does hail from the days when world history was first being taken seriously in academic circles. The matter-of-fact tone (though discernably touched with a bit of Protestant bias) is refreshing - this is before political correctness and its ‘right-to-be-offensive’ backlash crept in…

(john davis) #17

" Some of the features of post-formal reasoning includes complex paradoxical thinking, creativity and imagination, relativism and pluralism, self-reflection and ability to dialogue, and intuition…

Given the breadth and subtlety of post-formal reasoning that is available for us to develop, how likely is it that machines could ever acquire such higher functioning features as these? Even at it’s most ambitious, AI is trying to replicate a very narrow range of human cognition…Ai proponents seem unaware of the limits of formal reasoning or that there are higher forms of post-formal reasoning."-Jennifer Gidley (2017)

Viewing this 1985 video, and having read Gidley’s account of futures emerging, I wonder what happens next? What kind of history will we be studying twenty years from now, a hundred years from now? Will linear time and cyclical time be co-available to us? Are we there yet? I wonder what Sri Aurobindo would say?

(Geoffrey Edwards) #18

One of the features of an Infinite Conversation is that it is impossible to keep up with it all! I don’t know about you folk, but I am increasingly feeling that I am only able to manage a small piece of the Whole Conversation. And the more it grows, the worse the feeling is going to get! Still, as we say here in Quebec, it is “un mal pour un bien” - a bad thing that makes a good thing. The need to accept our finite limits is also built in to our Infinite Conversation(s)…

(T J Williams) #19

Mes pensees exactement!

(Geoffrey Edwards) #20

Finished Globes this afternoon, only to discover that our meeting is next week, not this one! So it seems I am early! Am glad to be finished Globes. Overall, although there were passages I found “sloggy”, I did like the volume. Time for a break though, even though I am tempted to pick up a copy of Foams.