Sloterdijk Review

Intro to John Gray review

Updated full article:

You will probably need to download image and resize to read…do not know if it is worth the trouble!

I like Gray’s books, especially Straw Dogs and The Soul of the Marionette …though he can be critical to a fault at times.
Hopefully I can catch up in time for third book discussion!


Unfortunately, the only part of the review visible is the rather rambling introduction. It ends — for me – right when he starts pointing out that Sloterdijk is rather controversial, and that he had Habermas has a bit of a tiff. I have great respect for Habermas, even if he, too, at times is rather difficult to follow.

It would presumptuous of me to say that I was or am uninfluenced by Precht’s review. I happen to agree with him. I waded into Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason as far as I could, but he was there, as in Spheres, for my tastes, all over the place. I like to know what point it is that I’m supposed to be getting, and I never get that from Sloterdijk. Apparently I’m not alone. Precht thinks so, too, and for me the key sentence in the part of Gray’s review that I could read was, "The lesson Sloterdijk thinks can be drawn from these graves is not altogether clear. " I’m taking that to mean that Gray also agrees, at least to some extent. If all you leave behind you is a fog, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to get the impression that maybe the thinking producing it is foggy itself.

Having had my own phases of provocation in my life, I don’t have a problem with provocation, unless its provocation for its own sake, but then again, I find anything “for its own sake” somewhat problematic. I live in a world that is saturated with other human beings and everything I do, say, think, imagine, feel, contemplate or ponder is influenced by those beings and I like to think that the feeling is at least so mutual that those others are vaguely aware my being there as well. More than that is really not necessary.

It would appear that I am apparently too thick, too dull-witted perhaps, to appreciate Sloterdijk’s apparent genius, I would like to know what constitutes that genius or why is it that others are so taken by him. So far no one has been able to help me out. I understand his occasionally witty turn-of-phrase, his peppering of his prose with allusions (perhaps to the point of distraction), all the things he makes others think of or, as was stated more than once in our reading group, what makes him so readable for some is his “style”. At the same time, Sloterdijk, at least in German, very often also comes across as a know-it-all, as pompous, boisterous, blustering and downright arrogant. If I want to get insulted, I can go to a sleazy pub near the train station and get more than an earful of that. Others are more tolerant of these moments than I am. I think the way one writes says a lot about the writer’s character. Sloterdijk is, without a doubt, a character, but I don’t think he has much character. I’m more partial – and it is really a personal preference, I suppose – toward clarity, directness, and showing a modicum of respect for the reader/listener. (That’s why I like the conversations around here so much.)

Having said all that, I’m a firm believer that one should make up one’s own mind about things, and authors, and thinkers, and whatever else. All those who are going on to read volume 2 of the trilogy are getting more out than they are putting in, or they wouldn’t be doing it. For me, personally, Sloterdijk’s too much work. I’m not work-shy, rather it is important for me to decide how and where I spend my time. There are, regardless of how we feel about it or experience it, only 24 hours in any given day.

Instead, I’m a big Gebser fan. That’s my personal preference. He helped me immensely to make sense of both academic and more esoteric undertakings in which I was (have been, and am) involved. He has, as far as I’m concerned, a workable and usable model for dealing with consciousness and spirituality; he is rarely out of place in any serious academic, intellectual, or late-night discussion. He has thoughts, ideas, concepts, and notions that I can take with me when dealing with other thinkers. But what impressed me most about Gebser was his clarity, despite the density of the text. Like I said, I’m all for clarity.

I firmly believe that if you can’t make clear what you’re thinking, your thinking isn’t clear.

May you enjoy your journey.


I actually think Sloterjdiik and John Gray are a lot alike. They come out of the same kind of continental drift. I admire their erudition and wit when they use it against each other. I think the contempt for humanity runs pretty deep in Gray and no wonder for if you look at the dreary rehash of mental deficient science, our future is gloomy indeed. He is, I believe, a very charming nihilist, with a persuasive prose style. I think that is true of Peter as well. I read a critic, as someone once said, not for his opinion but for his style.

Gebser I believe is more than a critic, he is a visionary, less a historian than he is a cultural analyst ( a term I learned from TJ) I feel very cynical after I read John Gray, very expansive after I read Gebser. In between when I read Sloterjdiik, he seems the most evasive of the three.

Gebser is a gift that keeps on giving. Ye shall know them by their fruits-


Much appreciated insight from both of you. @achronon, having only read Gray’s critique and infused Sloterdijk via the conversation here, I feel like Sloterdijk might be similar to Zizek in style…leaving a foggy aura along with a few original ideas
I won’t take your words to heart, but I won’t be placing Sloterdijk close to my heart just yet.
@johnnydavis54…yes! Gray is the charming nihilist…a Buddha who thought a bit too hard. I use him as my go to when I want a healthy dose of nihilism yet don’t want to sabotage my life for more than a few days. Zizek too is a charmer, especially when discussing such enlivening topics as “the monstrosity of Christ” etc.

Hoping to return to KY with an ever-present copy waiting at the doorsteps.


I enjoy Pete, for his brilliant vignettes. I expect I will learn a lot of interesting stuff in the next volume, as I did in the last volume, but I dont expect any therapy to happen. About Zizek. I am never charmed by him, he seems on the verge of a perpetual nervous breakdown. He has an annoying tic that puts me off,too. He also is not a very good listener. I have tried to get through Monstrosity of Christ but get bogged down quickly in the postmodern mannerisms.


I couldn’t see more than the first page of the John Gray review either - and in any case he is one of the too many authors/thinkers with whom I am not familiar - but thank you Douglas for sharing. I will never be able to say I have nothing to read for the rest of my life. :smile:

Ah, Sloterdijk…

Part of me is almost as perturbed as Ed; why is it that I have to read (or watch video) commentary in this forum or stumble across an article on-line - on my way to other aspects of globalization theory no less - to find a possible point that it would not have been unreasonable to expect in 630 pages?

The other part of me is willing to play one more time - we’re going into political history, a wing of the “museum” where at least I have seen a few of the paintings and sculptures before. But I will be a bit disappointed if “a foggy aura along with a few original ideas” is all there is to it.

I’ve been “spoiled”, you see:


On podcasting vs You-Tubing: The lack of visual definitely allows for one to hold onto Zizek a bit longer, though the ear is still hit with his sputum. I struggle to imagine he was married at some point.

@patanswer and @achronon…I just happened to flip through a copy of The New York Review of Books at the library and magically turned to this review…I had searched in vain seconds before for a copy of something of Sloterdijk here in Frankfort (its a great small town library, but not that great) and felt the chance encounter was synchronicitous (though by no means necessary reading)…earlier that same day, the Matt Belair podcast had guest Michael Garfield discussing none other than fractal time among other things…Michael and Matt did not sync in that episode so I stopped listening. The same day too, the Intelligence Squared podcast had Jaron Lanier discussing something I felt was quite similar to the topics of the first cafe session here. I might try to pinpoint the segment here in a bit…


Put it out there, and the cosmos will arrange the necessary encounter. That’s my experience. Sometimes the “response” is more subtle, but I have generally found there’s no fooling around. You just get it.


@Douggins: that’s very funny about the Zizek’s sputum. These famous European intellectual heavyweights seem to be, as a rule, characters of a monstrous sort. This is part of what makes them so interesting, and why I think we keep reading them. Not to be like them, or to learn a “more correct” model of reality. These folks gave up on the quest for representation long ago; their clarity requires ambiguity. Or a better word might be “indeterminacy.” What is the meaning of Heidegger’s grave site vis-a-vis Hannah Arendt’s? Who cares? Is there a clear-cut moral answer?

“Human, all too human,” is how I think one of them put it. Why I believe it’s worth engaging with these thinkers is that they are dealing with important aspects of social reality that are not often accounted for in purely “spiritual” texts. They are playing a different game. That’s why it is a mistake, I believe, to read Sloterdijk as if he is asserting or advocating for “spherical model” of reality. He is not doing Science—not even an expansive version (or some Hegelian synthesis) that would include subtle and causal phenomena.

So what is Sloterdijk up to? What does he actually have to offer? (Especially in a “fascist time.”) I will admit that I have been struggling with these questions, and feeling a lot of resistance to continuing with the next two volumes of his trilogy. Wasn’t Bubbles enough of a taste? Shouldn’t we get on to more obviously relevant material? (Aurobindo, and so many other other alluring texts, beckon!)

Ed’s right to insist on time well spent. I started reading the Prologue to Globes a couple nights ago, and found myself thinking the whole time, Really?..Really? I’m going to spend however many precious hours reading about a group of privileged white men standing around, with their beards and rods, talking about a round-shaped object at their feet? That’s supposed to mean something profound about the reality and world I live in? (Globes starts with a reading of a 1st-century mosaic representing an archetypal group of [seven] Greek philosophers, who are evidently discussing a geometric globe.)

I noted these feelings in myself, and their likely origins, and kept reading. I also noticed that Sloterdijk refers to this scene various times as “pentacostal,” suggesting a religious quality to these philosophers’ realization. I know that this motif is significant. I noted various other qualities of the text, underlined for later reference. I then thought more about the “globe” idea, and how we’ve come to accept, as a matter of course, that we live in a global world, with a global economy, etc., and that this particular conception—not as a spiritual reality or ultimate truth, but as fundamental background for the world as we know it—didn’t come from nowhere. We take it for granted; but do I really understand why “thinking globally” (even if combined with “acting locally”) is important? Do I know why I am supposed to be doing it, and what it means?

I’m not saying we need Sloterdijk to think about how the history of Western metaphysics informs the modern ideology of what Gebser would call the “mental structure” of consciousness. In so many ways, that critique of the West is a dead horse—we need to move on to the subtle activism of planetary thought. And yet, after reading the Prologue, I kept thinking…I noticed that I am still intrigued. I am curious what Sloterdijk will say next, and what others will think.

But my aims in reading can be a bit perverse, I admit. I read philosophy more as literature than as science. I am scavenging for material, or seeking catalysis; attempting to provoke a reaction between different models of reality within myself, to see what happens. Curiousity drives me. As well, I believe there is a virtue and discipline in studying an author’s body of thought—actually doing the reading, not just trafficking in the “memes.” We are rapidly losing diachronic attentional capacity in the temporal dysphoria of accelerating global technocapitalism—which is why reading a three-volume work of philosophy with a small group almost feels heroic.

Of course, the reading material—the content of the thought—still has to be worth one’s time. I am going to continue reading the Introduction to Globes, and look forward to discussing it, on whatever level—just like the philosophers in the mosaic! :globe_with_meridians:—with whoever shows up on Thursday. :bearded_person:t4:

Thanks for starting this thread, @Douggins. Would you like me to move it to the @spheres channel? (If that’s okay with the others…?)

I’ve also updated your account, so you should now be able to post in the “Readers Underground” yourself.


Synchronic- the study of language at a given point in time

Diachronic -the study of linguistic development through time

How do you know when you are in time?

How do you know when you are through time?

As comaparitivists, I can make a strong case for finishing up the Trilogy as we also set the stage for Aurobindo. And we must stay grounded and protect our own lives and the lives of those we are concerned for.

Perhaps I could invite us to consider the differences between serendipity and synchronicity for the next cafe on Tuesday? I could invite folks who are interested to read a short article by Eric Weiss. Synchronicity.

TJ suggested we do a prep for exploring Whitehead, Gebser and Aurobindo. I would be glad to take up that challenge. I can offer something more experiential, drawing upon the insights that we have been developing the last few weeks, and bring it up at the cafe.

Then the Sloterjdiik could be more fruitful perhaps?


I edited above to show that the article is a mis-lead. Post at will, @madrush!


I think phases of memory has something do to with it. The “long now” that we’re in and going through feels “long” (in the sense of vast, enduring, almost timeless) if we remember it—by which I don’t mean recalling the past, but rather…recalling ourselves to the present.

The “temporal dysphoria” (which corresponds to a “spatial schizophrenia”—or what Wilber called “aperspectival madness”) of our moment has a way of fragmenting consciousness through structural scrambling, interruptions, loss of context, etc.

To stay with an intention (I believe in the “philosophy of commitment,” actually)—through the momentum of the present moment—is a way, I think, of remaining attuned to the process rather than disintegrating with the effects.

This might have something to do with synchronicity. I will read the paper by Eric Weiss. Would you like to lead off a talk on Tuesday, same time?


Sure. That will be fun. I look forward to Tuesday.

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Remaining attuned to the process. That’s an interesting dilemma to have, Marco. Without an intention, we are all over the place, like four year olds at a birthday party, who require a parental figure to protect the little ones. As fully functioning adults, holding an intention, that is articulated and made transparent, we might be able to register a wider and slower range of affects and tempo-rhythms and livelier cognitive performance, than the familiar postmodern drift allows.

We can enjoy dynamism and structure, create momentum and point out novel and innovative directions to one another. We are meant to influence each other, it need not be an accident, we can develop a capacity for holding multiple realities. We can do so without mud-wrestling or getting overly detached, overly absorbed in disconnected meta-realities. The either/or rests within the Both/and.

I’d much rather write a novel than gaze at my navel but I can do both at the same time! I can write a novel about a navel gazer.


So, am I to understand that we’ll be using Weiss’ paper as a focus for Tuesday? That’s certainly fine with me.

Are we going to get a (re)new(ed) café page as an anchor?


The article is an option and is short enough to read quickly. Weiss lays out an interesting dilemma that I believe we will enjoy figuring out. I am also really interested in modeling TIME. Bring all your models and theories with you and we will try to weave something together, always leaving a knot of imperfection, in that elaborate tapestry. I found a link, Ed, to some downloads of entire lectures. Weiss talks about Meyers and you mentioned him as another author we can bring into the mix. I think exposure to these pioneers will make Aurobindo more interesting.