Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The impossibility of being a modern Nietzschian - the example of Peter Sloterdijk

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The impossibility of being a modern Nietzschian ought to be obvious, but has been spelled out lucidly and irrefutably by Alasdair McIntyre (especially in his Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, 1992) - but most clearly in the phony lives of the most famous/ notorious would-be Nietzschians such as Heidegger and Foucault.

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Another expose of the impossibility of modelling oneself on a nihilist is the leading modern German philosopher - Peter Sloterdijk. It was, indeed, the message of Sloterdijk's first book - Critique of Cynical Reason - which I read first in 1988 - that the only consistent way of taking on board the Nietzschian perspective was to become something like the Kynic Diogenes - in the aspect of supposedly living naked in a barrel, and indulging whatever urge comes into ones head: becoming, in effect, a non-conscious animal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diogenes_of_Sinope

The idea of this same Diogenes as a kind of Holy Fool, who taught the citizens by stunts designed to expose their absurd pretensions, cannot be included in the Nietzschian ideal, since this is not nihilistic - it is merely a different means to the 'establishment' end of teaching Virtue.

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Thus, for a serious Nietzschian, there is no way of being both sincere and a Professor - and the twentieth century lineage of counter-cultural Professors (including Heidegger and Foucault and their countless tenured radical clones) is abundant evidence of this impossibility.

A person cannot regard Nietzsche as an authority, and believe his ideas; cannot unmask the pretensions of scholarship and write scholarly books on Nietzsche; that same person cannot set himself up as an authority in anti-authoritarian ideas (which must be correctly learned). All this is self-refuting, paradoxical nonsense of the most obvious in-your-face kind.

Such activities reduce to mere careerism, and nothing else whatsoever.

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Peter Sloterdijk has gone down this path himself, presumably with his eyes wide open - and has a successful career as a Professorial Nietzschian and a second string as a Germanic version of the ultra-highbrow TV pundit and culture critic.

All this he richly deserves since the man is vastly erudite, witty and highly creative - a firework box of flashing micro-insights.

Nonetheless, I suppose nobody is more aware than himself of the phony nature of his position and the fakery of his basic existential stance.

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In the end, Sloterdijk is an entertainer - and as such he provides what is good about entertainment, and also what is bad about entertainment - in the sense that his ideas are a vastly interconnected distraction from that fact that they do not and intrinsically cannot add up to anything substantive (which is, in fact, his main substantive thesis).

If someone is looking for meaning, purpose and personal engagement in life; they will not find it from Sloterdijk; they will instead, perhaps, be drawn into an endless conversation which they may enjoy enough to keep them there for a long time - perhaps until it is too late.

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6 comments:

  1. I'll do the first line then it's your turn, Bruce.

    I am the very model of a modern moral Nietzschian,

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  2. You're not entering into the spirit of the thing, Bruce.


    Seeing a pretty girl I mutter "Oh there goes a peachy 'un."

    Now it's your turn.

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  3. @d - I did try, but I appreciate light verse enough to know that I can't write it.

    But my brother can:

    Music - “I am the very model of a modern Major-General”, The Pirates of Penzance

    SIR JOSEPH: I am the very model of a modern Cabinet Minister,
    My principles are flexible, my goals are often sinister.
    My destiny in politics was one that you could never doubt,
    For I’m the only person that I possibly could care about.
    I am an idle fellow, so I’ve have found this life to be a boon -
    I never need to get to Parliament before the crack of noon,
    And if a Bill’s so hard that I can’t understand chink at all,
    The whips’ll tell me what to vote so I don’t need to think at all!
    ALL The whips’ll tell him what, etc.
    SIR JOSEPH When dealing with policemen, if I'm threatened with a minor fine,
    The charges quickly vanish when I've given the Masonic sign.
    My principles are flexible, my goals are often sinister,
    I am the very model of a modern Cabinet Minister.
    ALL His principles are flexible, his goals are often sinister,
    He is the very model of a modern Cabinet Minister.
    SIR JOSEPH Lobbyists and pressure groups all find me quite embraceable -
    I’ll speak up in their favour if the banknotes are untraceable.
    I used to represent a town, but don’t know what became of it -
    Mind you, I never went there, and I don’t know what’s the name of it.
    Promoted to the Admiralty, although I’d never been to sea,
    I don’t know ‘port’ from ‘starboard’ and the ‘futtocks’ sound quite rude to me!
    I chair a few committees, but I generally miss a lot.
    And at campaigning time it’s not just babies that I kiss a lot!
    ALL And at campaigning time, etc.
    SIR JOSEPH I give reports to parliament, I give advice to industry -
    I also give out contracts, for a rather more substantial fee.
    My principles are flexible, my goals are often sinister,
    I am the very model of a modern Cabinet Minister.
    ALL His principles are flexible, his goals are often sinister,
    He is the very model of a modern Cabinet Minister.
    SIR JOSEPH Although my life in politics is really rather flourishing
    There are still certain areas in desperate need of nourishing:
    When is it that I’m telling lies, and when committing ‘perjury’?
    And will someone please tell me why an MP has a ‘surgery’?
    Why is it that in House debates I’m shouted down when’er I speak?
    And why do confidential memos always seem to spring a ‘leak’?
    Why do I give promotions to incompetents who moan enough?
    And get you in the House of Lords providing that you loan enough!*
    ALL And ask you any question, etc.
    SIR JOSEPH A cad, a cheat, a scandal-monger, more than often very drunk,
    I must admit I’m really quite amazed by just how low I’ve sunk!
    My principles are flexible, my goals are often sinister,
    I am the very model of a modern Cabinet Minister.
    ALL His principles are flexible, his goals are often sinister,
    He is the very model of a modern Cabinet Minister.


    From: http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/fraser.charlton/myshows/page24/mutiny.html

    And here he is singing the original:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej3lClC75Ek

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  4. I deprecate the use of "loan" as a verb. "Lend" does nicely.

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  5. ...plus of course, Sir Joseph is just the kind of counter-jumping ignoramus who would misuse English as she should be spoke.

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