Spheres Theory


As promised in the video, the text of Peter Sloterdijk’s 17 February 2009 lecture at Harvard has now been published in the Harvard Design Magazine under the title: “Spheres Theory: Talking to Myself About the Poetics of Space.” (hat tip to namhanderson.)

Update: Now that I have read it, I can say it’s absolutely brilliant, packed with mind-expanding ideas. I can’t wait for the English translation of Sphären to come out.

Here are a few gems:

Humans are pets that have domesticated themselves in the incubators of early cultures. (…)

Everything successful is operational, while revolutionary phases achieve nothing as long as they do not contain real potential abilities. Which is why no one today asks what programs are being announced but rather what programs are being written. Writing is an archetype of ability: The invention of script marks the beginning of the operational subversion of the world as it exists. (…)

Women’s bodies are apartments! Now behind this rather shocking thesis we find a fairly dramatic perspective on natural history. Among insects, reptiles, fish, and birds—that is, among the vast majority of species—the fertilized egg, the carrier of genetic information, gets laid in an outside setting that must vaguely possess the properties of an external uterus or nest. Now something quite incredible happens in the evolutionary line that leads to mammals: The body of the female members of the species is defined as an ecological niche for her progeny. This leads to a dramatic turn inwards in evolution. What we see is a dual use of the female members of a species, as it were: Henceforth they are no longer only egg-laying systems (in a metabiological sense, femininity means the successful phase of an ovulation system), but they lay the eggs within them-selves and make their own body available as an eco-logical niche for their progeny. In this way, they become integrated mother animals. The result is a type of event that had not existed in the world before: birth. It is the proto-drama that shapes the departure from the primary total setting to arrival as an individual. Thus, birth is a biologically late type of event and has ontological consequences. (…)

Explication is a matter not just of the conceptual instruments that we deploy to illuminate the phenomena of life—such as dwelling, working, and loving—it is not just a cognitive process. Rather, it has to do with real elaboration. That can only be achieved using an expressive logic or a logic of production. (…)

What we call technology rests on the attempt to replace implicit biological and social immune systems with explicit social immune systems. You need to understand what you want to replace better than a mere user understands it. If you wish to build a prosthetic, you have to be able to define the function of the organ to be replaced more precisely than if you use the original. (…)

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