Concerning the dangers of what Sloterdijk is doing, image schemas (container, conduit, surface, etc) are a perfect example of pre-linguistic phenomena with significant influence on later development, without it being a sink (pre-trans fallacy). Image schemas aren’t viewed as “pulling us in to early experiences”, but rather as ways that we structure later experiences, especially when using language.
One of the problems I’m having is that I’m listening to and commenting the sessions after I’ve read the next chapter, and the next chapters act as a kind of enlarging shadow on the previous chapters. So in this chapter, I’m really aware of the spiritual side of this discussion of the placenta. This becomes very important when he talks about the double, but even this idea of “With” and “Also” are very spiritual. The “With” is pretty evident and pre-figured by other writers, but the “Also” is, to me at least, new. The “Also” is halfway between, somehow, the “Me” and the “Other”. I think this particular idea is fascinating, far more so than the idea of “With”. The “Also” also (!) has to do with the notion of the double. How much is the “Also” present in various forms of mental illness? Depression, for instance. I’m not saying these conditions (“disorders”) aren’t also chemical, or familial, etc., but Sloterdijk’s particular constellation of ideas raises new questions and possibilities for understanding these things, which are still very poorly understood.
The strength of Sloterdijk, for me, is still the questions he raises. His answers are sometimes suspect, his questions are phenomenal. Some of his stances are problematic also, I’ll come back to this. I agree with Ed that he can become overly judgemental.
So, regarding mental health, if the voice is somehow related to the umbilical cord (chord?), then what are voices heard by people who have had psychotic episodes? Current psychology treats psychosis as a complete aberration, a dysfunction, an error in the processing/experience of the world, to the point that, if a person cannot tell the difference between a “voice in the head” and a real voice, then perhaps they shouldn’t be “allowed out”, given control over their lives and their interactions with others. But if there is a relationship between the umblical linked to the placenta, and the later voice, then maybe “voices in the head” are relics of this umbilical, that wasn’t properly “castrated” to use another idea Sloterdijk re-uses, or that were left open, to adopt a less judgemental approach that Sloterdijk himself sometimes does. I’m also thinking about Gregory Bateson’s writings is this regard (e.g. Steps To An Ecology of Mind), that maybe some variants of mental illness are not absolute “errors”, but part of the diversity of human make-up that has survival function under changing environmental conditions (I’m stretching Bateson, who was talking about genetics, not culture).
I agree with John that Sloterdijk is passing through archetypal theory, he doesn’t directly state it but makes passing reference to this.
I’m also finding, and this will sound strange, that maybe, reading him in French translation leads me to different places than those of you who are reading in English. And that makes me think, maybe Ed reading it in German also takes him to different places. When I hear one of you read Sloterdijk, what I hear, in English, strikes me quite different than what I read in French. For example, the title of the next chapter, in English, is “Soul Partitions”. Ed suggested the German could be read as “Soul Sharings” or “Soul Divisions”, which sounds like a variation I could understand. In French, the title reads “Le séparateur de l’espace spirituel”, so, literally, “The Separator of Spiritual Space” which strikes me as quite different from both other versions, and makes me focus more on the process than on the result.
So, with a tip of the hat towards Ed, I wanted to come back to a passage I didn’t like - I originally noted that it went “a bit too far”. It was the discussion of the loss of the placenta as being like Orpheus’ loss of Eurydice. Page 420 in my version, out of 686 total pages. But when I went back to the text, it wasn’t that it went too far. I like the analogy between the placenta and Eurydice. Remember she was the one who was collected by Hades (i.e. died) and Orpheus went to beg to be returned to him. Hades agreed to release her, provided Orpheus didn’t look back when he left. And, of course, Orpheus looked back, and so he lost her. I loved that analogy, I love the Orpheus-Eurydice story, I’ve used it in my own writing. But I found the text obfusticated the issue. I lost the thread of the argument, because it got too baroque. But it was the only place that happened, where I really cared. It had happened before, but in passages which didn’t move me in the same way.
So, regarding whether what we get from Sloterdijk is what Sloterdijk is actually saying, or our own insertions, at some level, I don’t care. When I go to a conference, I often take notes of what a speaker is saying, but I also write down ideas that his or her ideas generate, which I place in square brackets in my notes, so I know what is me and what is them. Most of the time, I consider a conference successful when I harvest enough square bracket ideas. I get lots of square bracket ideas from Sloterdijk. Does it matter that they may be not him? When I read Deleuze, I often have no more luck, often a great deal less, understanding what is being said. How much of my reading of Deleuze is Deleuze, and how much is me? I get square bracket notes from Deleuze too! I do think Sloterdijk is not only square bracket ideas, too! His argument is important to me, although I think Marco has it best. He is casting spells!
Regarding Ed’s comment that this was the first chapter where he didn’t want to throw the book, when I read this chapter, I soared. I loved it! I bounced down the road reading it!