Sunday, May 27, 2012

One Hurrah for Sloterdijk!

Back in 1988 I reviewed for Library Journal  a book by Peter Sloterdijk called Critique of Cynical Reason.   The book had been translated from the author's native German and was one that I found quite challenging.  Quite frankly, I could barely find top or bottom in it, but, fortunately, reviews in Library Journal are brief.  At the time, I assumed that Sloterdijk, like most other professors of philosophy, was on the political left.

In the following two decades, Sloterdijk published much more,  little of which has been translated into English.   Only in 2009 has there appeared in English a new Sloterdijk title,  God's Zeal:  The Battle of the Three Monotheisms.  Sloterdijk primarily examines Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but he does give passing attention to what he calls a "zealotic counter-religion," Communism.   One of his observations on Communism is especially worthy of note:

" The hatefulness of what was done in the name of Communism was demonstrated to the extreme for judgement by all normal humans -- and if one still occasionally encounters the opinion that the atrocities committed on the other side surpassed those of Communism, it is primarily because those in the corresponding circles refuse to accept the facts:  with over 100 million lost lives, the degree of human extermination achieved in Communist systems is several times higher than that of Hitler's regime, which has -- understandably -- been given the title of absolute evil.  The question arises whether a co-absolute evil should not have been added to the collective consciousness long ago. "

This is a remarkable recognition, coming from a professor of philosophy.  Indeed, in the USA, professors of the humanities and the social sciences seem almost without exception to do all that they can to avoid mention of the holocaust perpetrated by the Communists.  Sloterdijk is, of course, a professor of philosophy in Germany, but he gives no evidence of seeking to diminish the horrors of the Third Reich.

Elsewhere in God's Zeal Sloterdijk deplores the fact that " If there were an American trinity it would consist of Jesus, Machiavelli and the spirit of money.  The postmodern credo was formulated in exemplary fashion by the Afro-American actor Forest Whitaker when he gave his speech of thanks upon receiving the Oscar for the best leading role in 2007, closing with the words:  'And I thank God for always believing in me.' "

Sloterdijk has a readiness to tell it like it is that is exceptional and praiseworthy among academicians.

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