Let me begin by saying that I was attracted to reading Bubbles, initially, just because I liked the name. A philosophical work called “Bubbles,” on the face of it, was intriguing and delightful to me.
It’s worth noting that a bubble is a concrete image. Unlike 99% of of philosophical metaphysical concepts (e.g., Being, Will, Consciousness, Spirit, the Good, Integral, etc.) a bubble can be visualized. A bubble suggests an array of primordial, sensory experiences that don’t need to be intellectually defined to become sensible. Of course, this is what poetry does! So immediately, I know that I’m being invited into a different kind of thinking, where the nonverbal (“magic”) is not just used to “illustrate” but is primary.
A bubble, of course, also suggests something incredibly ephemeral—a trembling membrane that’s bound to burst. So with the intimate spherical space implied is also an intuition of time, or in Buddhist terms, impermanence (annica).
At the same time, a sphere is an untimely phenomenon, insofar as a bubble creates its own time outside of time—an inner time. Sloterdijk paints this picture beautifully in the Introduction, with the image of the child on the balcony blowing soap bubbles, his awareness floating along with his inspired (literally, “breathed into”) creations.
Reading those pages confirmed my initial attraction to the book.
What most interested me in the “Preliminary Note” (pp. 9–13) was Sloterdijk’s resuscitation of Plato’s conception of a perfect form to which we, as virtuous humans, via self-transcending love (eros) aspire. What an unpopular idea!
A “metaphysics of wholeness,” is perhaps one way to characterize this work. But I also like that he describes his project as a “love story,” and sees that the process of sphere-formation itself is essential, not the ultimate final form a sphere may take. Life itself is a matter of sphere-formation. It’s not just an “idea,” but phenomenologically real.
“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.” pp. 10–11.
On a personal note, I recall that Plato’s Symposium was the first book I read in my very first philosophy class in college, “Philosophy of Love and Sexuality,” with the late great Professor M.C. Dillon‚ so I’m realizing, in these opening pages, that this book might in some way symbolize a “return to form” on a micro-scale as well.
A further personal note: when I met my wife we often referred to our “inspired spatial communion” as a “sphere.”
In other words, the word feels very natural to me. And yet, we need not be stuck with Platonism:
“I will only remain on the trail of Platonic references in the sense that I will develop, more obstinately than usual, the hypothesis that love stories are stories of form, and every act of solidarity is an at of sphere formation, that is to say the creation of an interior.” – p. 12
And now in my life with Cosmos, and with this very reading group, I realize that I’m (and we’re) creating an “interior.”
And finally, I’ll note that I find it really interesting, and even beautiful, that so nimbly in this Preliminary Note, Sloterdijk reclaims the notion of “transference” from its psychotherapeutic reductionist minimization as something that’s “wrong” with us (always a substitute, never the real thing), into a natural feature of the essential thing, what we do as humans.
It’s what moves the love story forward, after all…
What about you, dear @spheres readers? What are your initial impressions of (or transference projections into) the book, and these first pages?