Here, the visible-invisible phenomenon shall be discussed that Adam Smith described in connection with the economic processes as the famous "invisible hand"; with this is meant, as is known, that the various forces that work in the market place, are not directed by planning, but rather that they are left to their own free play, by means of which, a favorable adjustment would be arrived at "automatically". In my opinion, this same phenomenon shows itself in the tradition-forming activities of human beings, and even Peter Sloterdijk, in his "Regeln für den Menschenpark. ein Antwortschreiben zum Brief über den Humanismus", acknowledges – at least at first – this fact in a somewhat nebulous term of a "subjektloser Drift" (a subject-less drifting).
Similar to his companion and lover of high alpine altitudes and air, Nietzsche, who threw his lightning rods of Zarathustra from the – admittedly impressive – Sils mountains, "fünfttausend Meter über dem Meer" (five thousand meters above sea level), Mr. Sloterdijk wanted to, in his own words, raise the question of man "auf höchster Ebene" (at the highest level) – where it, therefore, is also quite cloudy and foggy – , and this, quite obviously, in order to also still overlook the working of this "invisible hand" and in order to bring it under his own influence.
To this he makes, with Nietzsche and Heidegger, the statement that traditional humanism which had aimed at the self-taming of man, had led to the inhumane and had failed. From this he not only derives the right but even the duty to pick up the arm of this "invisible hand" with its "subject-less drifting", and thus, the (alleged) possibilities of "Anthropotechniken" ("anthropological techniques") serve him right in order to move to large-scale breeding at the "Lichtung des evolutionären Horizonts" (clearing of the evolutionary horizon). Long before his "Menschenpark" speech, already in 1990, he quoted, in agreement with him, the American author Leon Festinger(1):
Eine neue Spezies, die von der unseren nicht verschiedener wäre als wir vom Homo sapiens [also nur geringfügig, Zusatz P.S1.), könnte, wenn sie über mehr Einbildungskraft, eine effizientere Sprache und ein sie zum raschen logischen Denken befähigendes Nervensystem verfügte, mit den von uns geschaffenen technischen Zivilisationen fraglos sehr viel besser fertig werden. Die Entwicklung einer solchen neuen Spezies hinge keineswegs von umfassenden Mutationen zahlreicher Strukturgene ab. Wahrscheinlich würden einige scheinbar geringfügige Abänderungen der Aktionsmechanismen der Gene völlig genügen...
Die Frage lautet demnach, ob im Fall solcher Modifikationen genetischen Materials ein natürlicher Ausleseprozeß diese neue Gattung befähigen würde, die Herrschaft anzutreten... Meine eigene Begrenztheit macht es mir unmöglich, diese Frage auf irgendeine mich überzeugende Weise zu beantworten. Ich vermag nicht einmal zu erkennen, ob sich derzeit überhaupt irgendwelche Ausleseprozesse in der Menschheit vollziehen und wenn ja, in welche Richtung sie tendieren. Ich hoffe jedoch, daß sie stattfinden. Ich hoffe, daß in fünf- oder zehn- oder zwanzigtausend Jahren eine neue uns an Leistungsfähigkeit überlegene menschliche Spezies existeren wird«
(In this quote, Festinger discusses that a new species that would not be any more different than we from Homo sapiens, thus only slightly, could, if it were equipped with more imagination, a more efficient language and a never system that facilitated its capability for quick logical thinking, handle the technological civilization that we created undoubtedly much better than we. Festinger maintains that the development of such a new species would not depend on extensive mutations of numerous structural genes and that, perhaps, a few apparent minor changes of the action mechanisms of the genes would suffice.
Festinger then states that the question would be as to whether, in the case of such modifications of genetic material, a natural selection process would enable this new species to take over the leadership and that his own limitations would make it impossible for him to answer this question for himself in any convincing way and that he was not even able to recognize as to whether, at this time, any selective processes took place in humanity, that he, however, hoped that in five thousand, ten thousand or twenty-thousand years, there would exist a new (human) species that would be superior to ours in its capabilities.)
At first, two things become clear from this quote:
– Slotderdijk uncritically allows himself to be guided onto erroneous path of genetic modification of the epigenetic-cultural interpretation of the world by man.
– It is certainly not so as he later maintains, that he merely wanted to speak in favor of an individual "optimizing" and of negative eugenics; rather, his "prophetische Phantasie" (prophetic fantasy) gets the better of him, in order to immediately outdo the speculations of the American, as we shall still see.
I. Sloterdijk's Concept of Humanism is one-sided.
First of all, the term "humanism" used by Sloterdijk, as he defines it, is problematic: "Humanismus als Wort und als Sache hat immer ein Wogegen, denn er ist das Engagement für die Zurückholung des Menschen aus der Barbarei." (As he defines humanism, it is always meant as "against something", since it stands for the engagement of returning humans from barbarism into a more refined state). This definition that is "saying much" holds, on the one hand, too much of content, on the other hand, not enough of it. Let us, therefore, look at how "humanism" is generally described and understood(2): "... ein reflektierender Anthropozentrismus, der vom menschl. Bewußtsein ausgeht und die Wertsetzung des Menschen zum Objekt hat, – unter Ausschluß dessen, was ihn sich selbst entfremdet, entweder indem es ihn übermenschlichen Mächten und Wahrheiten unterwirft oder indem es ihn untermenschlichen Zwecken nutzbar macht.– Humanitas nannten schon die Römer, besonders Cicero, die ethisch-kulturelle Höchstentfaltung der menschlichen Kräfte in ästhetisch vollendeter Form, gepaart mit Milde und Menschlichkeit. H. nannte sich sodann die der Scholastik und der geistigen Vorherrschaft der Kirche mehr und mehr entgegentretende Bewegung, welche zu Beginn der Neuzeit das Ideal der rein menschlichen Bildung und Haltung aus den neuentdeckten Werken der Alten zu gewinnen suchte." (This quote describes humanism as reflecting anthropocentrism, going out from human consciousness and having as its object the setting of values by humans, by excluding that which alienates it from itself, either by subjugating itself to super-human powers and truths or by putting it into the service of sub-human purposes. – Already the ancient Romans, particularly Cicero, meant by the term 'humanitas' the highest ethical and cultural unfolding of man's forces in an aesthetically perfect form, coupled with mildness and humaneness. Subsequently, the movement that increasingly stood up against scholasticism and the intellectual supremacy of the church that, at the beginning of the modern era after 1500 searched for the ideal of pure human education and conduct in the re-discovered works of the ancients, called itself humanism.) It becomes clear at first sight that the general use of the term cannot be reconciled with Sloterdijk's definition of it, since the latter, as also the entire context of his speech shows, understands by it, mainly, "small breeding" by taming that is evaluated negatively, contrary to which, in humanism, as it is rightfully understood,besides its ethic of the placating of the "wild" elements of human nature, it is, above all, strived for the positive emergence of human nature from the perspective of reason. All these positive elements of the new self-concept of man that which humanism and renaissance restored to western tradition against Christianity are blended out by Sloterdijk in order for him to be able to concentrate on the "Engagement für die Zurückholung des Menschen aus der Barbarei" (engagement for the retrieving of man from barbarism). What is confusing here, is also the concept of "retrieving" which would pre-suppose a "non-barbarian" state prior to the existence of the barbarian state and which suggests that before the age of "humanism" which was brought forth by the ancient Greeks, there must have existed an even "more humane" state as Nietzsche already conceptualizes it in his "Geburt der Tradgödie". It is not without a purpose that, by means of Heidegger's "Humanismusbrief" (letter on humanism) the aim is to prove that the entire history of the development of the human mind, since and including the times of ancient Greece and the emerging humanism was a mistake – and thus, Sloterdijk, opens up for himself, with Heidegger, a "trans-humanistischen oder post-humanistischen Denkraum" (trans-humanistic or post-humanistic realm of thought), in order to escape the ethical values that existed hitherto. For that reason, both the ancient classical as well as the modern concept of "humanitas" is quite deliberately limited and likewise diffusedly denounced as Nietzsche already did: As is known, the latter only accepts as valid those ancient classical philosophers up to and including the sophistic thinkers, contrary to which he condemns and throws the ethical statements of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle into one heap with the "Heerdentugenden" (herd virtues) of Christianity.
From an evolutionary viewpoint, if we are to accept evolution as also consisting of an epigenetic-cultural co-evolution with respect to man, then (we come to realize that) humanism develops as ethic of reason out of one principal thought that comprises ancient Greek philosophy as such including the afore-mentioned triumvirate: out of the abstracting realization of the essence of things by means of the reflection of the data of understanding through and as reason. Only with this does the abstract realization of reason become possible, namely that with which the constating of the essential equality of all humans became the basis of humanity. (3). With this reason, as is shown in all cultural phenomena, man experienced himself and the world completely different than he experienced himself on the basis of understanding alone – if one can speak of a "re-evaluation of all values" in human history, then it took place at that time. Only from then on does man refer to a generally effective humanism and to the equality of individuals, whereas, under the guidance of understanding, each respective nationality and the differences in rank amongst individuals were of the essence. The importance of the realization of of our humanity by reason thus reaches far beyond a mere domestication or taming of man.
Out of these considerations, one can not deny Sloterdijk's attack of Habermas and of the "Kritische Theorie" (Critical Theory) a "certain", overall consequence: in his rejection of humanism he shares, however, without telling us, a criticism of reason as it had already been carried out by Horkheimer and Adorno with their "Dialektik der Aufklärung" (Dialectics of Enlightenment) – this "main work" of the Frankfort School can also not be denied an anti-rationalistic tendency in its discomfort in the face of instrumentalized reason.(4). Contrary to this, Habermas, with his "Diskursethik" firmly stands on the grounds of a reason that is capable of criticizing itself, and thus expresses itself in that manner of "trial and error" of the various attempts in which all voices of a society can make themselves heard – and, with this, a parallel to how nature, itself and active man have, hitherto, shaped evolution and cultural tradition.
Habermas' position of considering it possible that further contributions can be made on the basis of critical reason is denounced by Sloterdijk as "Tugenddiktatur" (dictatorship of virtue) and as "Jakobinismus" (Jacobinism) and, thereby, one-sidedly evaluated as an expression of the taming of man by man; and thus he finally contends that the "Kritische Theorie" (critical theory), the "mürrische alte Dame" (cantankerous old lady) can finally be laid to rest with a sigh of relief on September 2, 1999, and be declared dead – this "sigh of relief", that creates for itself relief from reason, is very telling, and it stems from quite different spheres than from that thinking that Sloterdijk wants us to consider it stemming from!
1st Statement: Sloterdijk goes out from an unduly limited concept of humanism in order to be able to arrive at the following conclusion:
II. Has Humanism failed?
Only within this mentioned limitation of the concept (of humanism) can the statement be maintained that humanism has failed as "das Engagement für die Zurückholung des Menschen aus der Barbarei" (the engagement for the saving of man from barbarism), as precisely the past century seems to prove convincingly at first sight. However, also here, questions must still be allowed as to whether that what Sloterdijk states as smoothly as Heidegger, is actually also true? Is it really humanism that has failed here? Here, I may quote the statement of an internet correspondent with whom I discussed this topic and with which I fully agree:
The constant emergence of atavistic motivations for actions that can be observed, which we share with animals as pre-human motivations, contrary to a humanism that is used in the name of and for sub-human purposes, those are, by no means, indications that humanism itself is wrong or has failed.
The next question that should be raised here would be: Does not such an evaluation of "failure" already pre-suppose "better knowledge"? Is that not rather only the subjective "realization" of the "sincerely bad" from an anthropocentric perspective? Could it not even be far worse – above all, without humanism? Where does Sloterdijk take such "better knowledge" when he:
"auf eine intelligentere Menschheit im ganzen zielt, nicht auf eine neurobiologische Apartheid oder eine Klassenherrschaft der Intelligenzmutanten über die Altmenschen heutigen Typs. ... Das Schlimmste ist möglich, aber auf jeden Fall nichts Schlimmeres als das, was geschieht, wenn es keine Selektion von intelligenteren und generöseren Menschen gibt."(5)
In the way in which Sloterdijk, in the continuation of the above quote on Festinger, it has always been expressed by all redeemers or saviors who, only to readily and willingly, sacrificed those living in the present for the sake of a future that they prophesied.
2nd Statement: Humanism has not failed; rather, its inherent principles of reason have not yet entered the tradition of humanity to a sufficient and globally effective degree. Instead of abolishing it, the task is, to the contrary, to constantly contribute to its further spreading.
III. What can we expect of humanism today?
Humans and human culture have, according to the present status of knowledge, emerged out of the evolution of live, and have developed according to the paradigms in effect until this day with respect to the inter-relationship between mutation and selection; we describe this set of facts with respect to cultural evolution – there, where humans dwell "im Hause der Sprache" (in the house of language), as Heidegger would express it – as "trial and error method"; this means that we see ourselves forced to test those new procedures and theories that we find and invent in reality exactly in the same manner as nature did it, in order to finally produce us as a result.
This means, however, that we humans, as part of this nature, are exposed to this "mechanism" that once produced us, in an incorruptible manner: a part can not be the same or more than the whole of which it is a part.
Adam Smith already formulated this observation in connection with his principle of the "invisible hand" in the free interplay of the market forces, which means nothing other than the afore-mentioned principles as being at work in economy. In both cases, this principle offers the advantage that, by means of the most varied attempts at all possible directions of development, not only one possibility is put to the text, but rather various at the same time with the possibility of retrieving and changing the path at any given time. Contrary to this, an irrevocable putting of one's stakes in one chance alone, as, for example, the change of the human genome by humans, immensely increases the risk of failure.
A coolly calculating agent at the roulette table will put his stakes on various chances; contrary to this, a passionate, compulsive gambler, will put his stakes on only one number according to the motto "all or nothing". Sloterdijk presents himself as a gambler who consciously misrepresents the aim of humanism in order to be able to present the highest risk of "all or nothing" as the only alternative.
From this can also be concluded that – at least in a the foreseeable future – the future will belong to the "Diskursethik" (ethic of discussion) propagated by Habermas, which is, after all, nothing new and also constitutes the essence of democracies: the competition of political parties is (or should at least always), above all, be a competition of ideas that are put forth for the solution of the problems of the time and that, according to this premise, come into effect – or not.
However, – and, insofar, the often voiced criticism of Plato is valid – ancient philosophy has actually formulated the question of humanism erroneously: What is man, from the beginning, this question, was aimed at an ideal image of man and of the constitution of his society, without duly considering reality. The question as to the essence of man should, contrary to this, be: what are human beings! In question is not an ideal respectively ideological typology of man "as such" as many a thinker imagines it, as to how man should "ideally" be. Rather, only the phenomenological consideration of the categorical and cultural differences of humans and their theoretical inclusion on an epigenetic-cultural basis allows for a humanism in which all humans can find themselves included – a humanism that does not declare a certain type of humans as being the norm for all humans – in modern language: the acceptance of a pluralistic humanity.
However, since Sloterdijk nowhere refers to human reality of history but only to Plato, Nietzsche and Heidegger as his "witnesses" with respect to the interpretation of humanism as an attempt at taming humanity, his own interpretation remains exclusively metaphysical. Had Sloterdijk argued realistically, then he would have had to, in particular, seriously consider the 19th century "deliberations as to the taming of humanity" since Darwin and also 20th century eugenics that held the belief that "humanity" could be "measured" by outer characteristics in order to bring about in this manner "racial improvements" and that were often financed by the Americans – even the racial insanity of the Third Reich was still able to draw on U.S. finances up to 1941! Perhaps it would not have been all that easy for Sloterdijk to drift off into the realm of "big thinkers" in order to propagate "grand scale breeding" by selection, had he taken a more realistic approach over an exclusively metaphysical one.
To define "humanism" as a "taming attempt or process" is thus wrong from the viewpoint of two considerations, since here, the development of reason is interpreted one-sidedly (and that already by Nietzsche, here in opposition to Plato) as "reduction" or "weakening":
a) On the one hand, with this, ethic of reason is slandered as a weakening of man which would ultimately lead to the "inhumane" and would, at the same time, "belittle" man.
b) On the other hand, the positive factors of the development of reason that constitute today's human existence as these can particularly be found in the formulation of generally applicable human rights that are aiming at a development of nations and individuals at an equal footing and are the actual result of humanism, are completely disregarded.
The "humanum" as the unfolding of evolution at each respective phylogenetic point-in-time always constitutes also something "open", something "unknown", and with that, the possibility of a new emergence in the realm of man who, at present, is the carrier of evolution in form of an epigenetic-cultural co-evolution, as, at least, all presently available experience shows.
However, Sloterdijk is tired of a further, tiring, search for a modification of the previous and still prevailing guidance by the "invisible hand of tradition" along the thread of which this cultural evolution of man moved in the interaction between innovative individuals and the communities that "selected" this innovation: he, himself, wants to become a "maker", from being a part of the whole he wants to elevate himself to the position of the ruler of the whole. By means of genetic engineering – however nonsensical and erroneous his concepts and knowledge may be in this – he wants to take this guidance by the "invisible hand" into his own hands, faithfully following his teacher Nietzsche who already bemoaned the accidental nature of human development and demanded that man should and would have to set his own "breeding goals" if he did not want to perish.
However, only the contrary will make a fitting pair of shoes: Since man, based on his being part of a whole or system, cannot know the direction of his further development, he will, if he wants to direct his own further development without guiding principles, bring about this/his own demise that he aims at avoiding with his striving, all the more, since, in the pursuit of his course, all those evasion manoeuvres that allow a step-by-step, tentative development that reaches out into all possible directions, are not present, since, in his own pursuit, such a "leader" has put his stakes on one bid only.
Thus one could arrive at the opinion that it would then be better, in this direction of human development, to put one's own hands into one's lap and leave it to that "invisible hand" that particularly "guides" our markets and fashions so confusingly that its "guidance", even by well-meaning individuals, will rather be compares to a gambling casino than to a meaningful development.
For example, Kanitscheider appears to favor such a viewpoint of passive waiting when he, in the face of this dilemma, recommends an Epicurean view of life and one's being satisfied with the "kleine Sinn" (small sense) of one's own "Glückseligkeit" (happiness) – with which, thus, there is recommended one's putting oneself at the peril of the guidance by that "invisible hand" by eliminating the "search for meaning" in one's retreat into individual existence.
Others, as for example Safranski, hold the opinion that humans must shy away from the "Ungeheure" (grandeur" of nature, again others speak of an obviously predominant "natural growth/development" – both problematic mystifications that, in the "myeîn" – in closing one's eyes – stand in the way of rational enlightenment.
Heidegger called this "invisible hand" the "Seyn" (existence/being), which he even, in its "Ungekanntheit" (being unknown) only dared to write while crossing it out, for the "Anspruch" (calling out) of which man should wait in the "Haus der Sprache" (house of language) – built into the "Lichtung" (clearing); to him, self-designed ethics now appear as a rash and erroneous "Gemächte" (daring attempt); this position is psychologically understandable since he, himself, grieveously erred in his own reaching out for this "invisible hand" when he wanted to "lead" the "Führer" – and only too eagerly does he now ascribe his own error to the entire (human) species and thereby exculpates himself.(6)
If required for further discussion, I can still provide you with more details of Heidegger's presentation of the question of humanism that relies on Nietzsche and that is also the basis of Sloterdijk's viewpoint.
However, all developmental steps ("Schritte" – deliberately, I do not refer to "Fortschritte" [progress]) of humanity have not been brought forth by wait-and-see mystification, but by individual human's allowing themselves to be guided in their thinking and actions by an opposite attitude: for themselves, they accepted the "lively movement" of evolution of nature and of the epigenetic-cultural co-evolution of man, in order to find out by this very trial-and-error method as to whether there could not be wrought-out more of live than this "small personal happiness" – and these are the figures that have engrained themselves – for better or for worse – into our tradition and that make ump the history of the "humanum" (seen from a neutral viewpoint).
In this, we are, by no means, condemned to inactively watch those "invisible hands" as they are (in)-visibly active in nature, economy and culture, retreating into the realm of our "small individual happiness". After all, whether humans like it or not, they will undertake those trials that nature, until his emergence and even through him undertook unconsciously. The question that remains is only as to whether we want to continue to subject ourselves to this "unconsciousness" or if we want to try to rationally understand this principle of the "invisible hand" as far as it is possible and to consciously work with it. The question is not that of changing this principle, as Sloterdijk wants to do, but rather to apply it in an enlightened manner and in agreement with our presently highest capability of the reflection of reason.
Here, Sloterdijk is sharing a widely-spread intellectual viewpoint that already found a voice in Botho Strauß Bockgesang – tired of the tenacity of hard-working reason that, necessarily, also always brings forth negative results, both want to cut through the "Gordische Knoten" (Grodian knot) with the sword like Alexander – they want to break out, since they, like Faust, view the world mainly as "sincerely bad". No objection could be raised to this, since this also belongs to the up-and-down of ongoing development – however, both do so in an excluding and elitist manner that does not keep in mind all of humanity, but rather wants to one-sidedly leap ahead of the development that is yet unknown to humans: this is (and was) the source of "fascist tendencies" that are always inherent in such a thinking, since this was the characteristic of all forms of fascism, to consider the whole by considering only a part of it and to elevate this part at the expense of that which is remained unconsidered. Not in vain does Sloterdijk rhyme "selection" with "lection" and "generously", as once Himmler, wants to pay the price for his dreamed-up future with the worse kinds of sufferings of the present: idealistic projections quite parallel to a Christian here-after, only, with the difference that his projections are fantasized into an imaginary future present – with equally terrible results.
For the creation of a basis for their elitist demands on the future, with Sloterdijk, quite similar to Strauß, anonymous forces with an alleged impact on the development of the course of history, be that "the left", "society", or "the media", are suspected of being the catalysts of an apocalyptic catastrophe, without, however, concretely naming horse and rider: "history" – and, with it, again, that "invisible hand" – with Strauß, is at work in incessantly "making its tragic dispositions" – a distinct parallel to that which Sloterdijk calls the failure of humanism. Such a mystically prophesying attitude is what, since Hölderlin, Nietzsche and Heidegger, characterizes the German mind – instead of trying to understand and categorize the necessity and, simultaneously, the responsibility of humans also for these social phenomena and their origins in the development of the human mind. Such prophets might reach their moments of beauty as poets; however, that does not make them interpreters! Does intellectuality not mainly consist of seeing interrelationships and clearly defining them? With their dark mumblings, Sloterdijk and Strauß render just the opposite example: Instead of shedding light on the interrelationships of the existing for the masses, they darken them and prophesy tragedies. "Incipit tragoedia" ("the wailing of the [sacrificial] ram begins") is what can already be read in the "Fröhliche Wissenschaft" – Strauß and Sloterdijk have no idea how close they are to Nietzsche in many respects, of whom they try to distance themselves so eloquently in order to, nevertheless, use him for their purposes.
Such poetry, prophesy and interpretation has an anti-enlightening effect since it, in its dissatisfaction with the prevailing circumstances, betrays reason instead of holding on to it at all cost. Yet, in every retreat – be it Hölderlin's conjuring-up of ancient Greece in a dreamed-up "Arcadia", Nietzsche's aristocracy of the artist as a beautiful image of the "blonde beast", Heidegger's resigned waiting for the "Lichtung des Seins" (clearing of existence), – thee lies such a betrayal of reason by reason since it has grown tired of itself, and precisely this betrayal is what paves the way for a reversal to a mythical respectively mystifying and therefore demonic "thinking", since only then and precisely then do other forces lying in human beings gain the upper hand over reason, and atavistic concepts put reason into their service.
Just as ill-directed as these backward trends is Sloterdijk's point of departure of his "anthropological technique" that want to move beyond "false humanism" by force and, in doing so, even starts its departure at a completely wrong point, when this "big thinker" believes to be able to achieve not only a change in humans for the mere purpose of "taming" by means of changes to the human DNA structure and who is of the opinion that he can re-construct humans by means of self-chosen "indicators," with which the alleged wrong development that was created by the "invisible hand", should then be corrected.
3rd Statement: Humanism as embodiment of those ethics that strive to apply the highest possible human standards adequately to all that exists, is indispensable.
We can re-invent our cultural development as little, – and certainly not by changes to our DNA structure – as all matter and all life always and necessarily builds on the previous development and re-shapes it step-by-step, and thus, by means of the trial-and-error-method, achieves emerging successes. Life itself owes its emergence to this as well as does human reason – and we are well-advised to stick to these very processes.
For example, Robert Musil has already drawn further-reaching conclusions of which one, peculiarly, hears nothing from today's intellectuals: "Ohne Zweifel war er [der "Mann ohne Eigenschaften"] ein gläubiger Mensch, der bloß nichts glaubte: seiner größten Hingabe an die Wissenschaft war es niemals gelungen, ihn vergessen zu machen, daß die Schönheit und Güte der Menschen von dem kommen, was sie glauben, und nicht von dem, was sie wissen. Aber der Glaube war immer mit Wissen verbunden gewesen, wenn auch nur mit einem eingebildeten, seit den Urtagen seiner zauberhaften Begründung. Und dieser alte Wissensteil ist längst vermorscht und hat den Glauben mit sich in die gleiche Verwesung gerissen: es gilt also heute, diese Verbindung neu aufzurichten. Und natürlich nicht etwa bloß in der Weise, daß man den Glauben ‘auf die Höhe des Wissens’ bringt; doch wohl aber so, daß er von dieser Höhe auffliegt. Die Kunst der Erhebung über das Wissen muß neu geübt werden. Und da dies kein einzelner vermag, müßten alle ihren Sinn darauf richten, wo immer sie ihn auch sonst noch haben mögen." [Emphases by the writer.]
4th Statement: Humanism as behavior of humans towards themselves and towards the world can not be modified by measures of gene technology but (only) by an adaptation to new possibilities of interpretation of the world as well as of ourselves by ourselves.
IV. Some hypothetical hints as a possible further development
Here, the point of departure is the common realization of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Musil, that they each made in their own way: that man's reason has, in a sense, reached its end and that, at first, with this "end of metaphysic", the age of "nihilism" has arrived. In my view that is related back to evolution, this means that, obviously, the (human) capability of reception and reflection of reason has, as formerly understanding – along the path of which it has built this (new) double path – been reflected through and that it interprets its final stage as "nihilism," since it can, out of itself, not arrive at a transcending interpretation of the existing.
At this point, we must not move back beyond reason like renegades; rather, by strictly holding on to it, we must (strive to) move beyond it – and in this, we can learn something from the ancient Greeks, how they were able to open up reason beyond understanding: with the bright eyes of curiosity of concentrated understanding, Odysseus, the "smartest of all men" navigated between Skylla and Charbydis – between tradition and fantastic thinking – and dissolved the erroneous direct meaning of things and, by means of his receiving interpretation, that is only possible for an open-minded and engaged view at that which it is confronted by, he discovered, in nature philosophy, the essence of things and, ultimately, the essential equality of humans, the basis of human rights to this day.
That a concentrated holding-on to reason is necessary today, is also demonstrated to us by a look at the ancients: the dis-covery of reason was only possible by a constant holding on to understanding, and thus, still today, the basic law of all reasonable statements and, with it, of all science, is that it must be possible to test the statements of reason by understanding. Likewise, a transcendence of reason as epigenetic-cultural co-evolution will only be possible by constantly focusing on this reason (and, with this, secondly also on understanding and thirdly on emotion) – with which any betrayal of reason proves itself as error.
It is the predicament and fear of man of western civilization who, as the type of man who, holding on to his own reason, experiences himself as "late" man. At the same time, man also experiences himself, out of an un-defined inner drive, as the "non-determined animal," as Nietzsche calls this self-awareness of the pro-creating/living force in the individual; it would, indeed, be very peculiar and even again metaphysical, to apodictically correlate the end of the possibilities of evolutionary development respectively of the epigenetic-cultural co-evolution to the unfolding of human reason.
And thus the new shows itself as emerging everywhere – and, at that, also precisely in such social phenomena that are so bitterly bewailed by Strauß and Sloterdijk, so that the former wants to retreat into the "hortus amicorum" as once Nietzsche and that the latter wants to genetically re-shape humanity by means of large-scale genetic engineering. However, both, as all 'mystagogues', will miss the mark of the "Anspruch des Seins" (demand of existence): already a long time ago, the un-biased viewpoint of science, as it manifested itself in Einstein, has pointed out phenomena in the existing that surpass the thinking (capability) of reason as reason, as well as the fast-paced development of technology yields results that will provide for new ways of seeing and experiencing the existing. The relativity of time and space (Einstein), thinking in synergic interrelationships and their (visual) demonstration in computer simulation, the medial accessibility and simultaneous availability of knowledge, the explanation of structures as systems based on time levels, all this openness of the existing points to the possibility that more is still hidden in it than our reason could dream of. The ancient Greeks took the chance to discover the essence of existence in reason, while we, according to the will of such "intellectuals" as Strauß, should turn backward, respectively, just like the famous "sorcerer's apprentice", make genetic changes (to ourselves0 that we cannot bring to a halt?
We are not at the point of mystical re-dedication of human existence, but rather, on the threshold to a new reception by means of the evaluation of the data of reason: As once, ancient Greek nature philosophy, in the change of its various theories, ultimately ushered in the realization of the essence of things and with this an independent conditioning of reason beyond understanding, thus we, today, see the competition of various concepts with respect to the consistency of our world: from the theory of relativity to the "big bang," from the simultaneous and chronologically coherent existence of diverse universes to multi-dimensional string theories in macrocosm as well as through quantum physics in microcosm, our traditional world concept of reason has been shaken.
However, who takes this as an indication that a joyful belief in the possibilities of scientific advances is advocated as well as a blind putting of our stakes in technology or 'bare utilitiarianism", is completely wrong. Not without reason was it mentioned that such a development, should it take place, would require a constant focus on reason – but what does that mean? It would mean that, above all, the rules of ethics that comprise the behavioral framework of reason towards all that exists, have to be adhered to, since otherwise, a reaching out beyond reason would develop without a solid basis, and, as it can still be observed today, many scientific achievements would be abused for purposes that are sub-categorical to reason and inhumane: without a global ethic, a transcendence of reason will not be achievable. The much-scolded media-networking and our inundation by it – the negative aspects of which should, by no means, be overlooked – also offers a chance here: To make the ethical inescapable by means of constant global comparison. Otherwise, the putting-down of modern average humans as a product of the media is as elitist as it is snobbish! Strauß' and Sloterdijk's knowledge of their fellow human beings itself appears to only have been gained through the media, otherwise they would not put down the million-fold active striving(s) of many of those "Viel-zu-Viele" (far too many) – as Neitzsche denounced average man – for a lively and more dignified co-existence, be it in society or in private, without any sign of understanding, as "dimly enlightened masses". Their attention is not directed towards individual human beings but at "humanity at large" . . . Like Heidegger, they do not love the individual human being, but see themselves confronted by the abstractum of a mass at their disposal.
If this world is not able to give its c-existence a humanistic-ethical basis, then, in the face of the potential of applied reason in research and technology, and their immanent consequences, it will be headed for doom. The utilitarian and the ethic need each other in the same way as understanding and reason in the individual human being need each other. The future will depend on whether or not humanity, in its leading forces and in tradition, will be able to internalize the ethical in the same manner as utility arising out of understanding is evident to everyone. Precisely this is the point at which one should halt the "invisible hand," in order to consciously ingrain, in tradition, the image of man as it correlates with reason by means of role models and education of all members of the species. Thus, humanism, by no means, is something that we should lay aside as an "old, parched letter" and leave it to the archives.
(1) Published by the Institut für Kulturphilosophie Wien, from an epilogue to "Vor der Jahrtausendwende: Berichte zur Lage der Zukunft, edited by. P. Sloterdijk, Frkf. a. Main 1990, p. 726-729
(2) Philosophisches Wörterbuch, founded by H. Schmidt, 18th edition, Alfred Kröner Verlag Stuttgart
(3) This realization of the "gleichen/ungleichen bzw. ähnlichen Wesens" (equal/unequal re. similar nature) makes up the evidence of reason, parallel to how the evidence of understanding is based on the utility/futility and that of emotion on the pleasant/unpleasant, whereby the respective previous capability feeds the evaluations of the respective higher capability.
(4) Dialektik der Aufklärung p. 22: "Aufklärung ist die radikal gewordene, mythische Angst." ("Enlightenment is the mythical fear that has turned radical.") p. 42: "Der Fluch des unaufhaltsamen Fortschritts ist die unaufhaltsame Regression." ("The plight of incessant progress is incessant regression.") p. 46: "Aufklärung ist mehr als Aufklärung, Natur, die in ihrer Entfremdung vernehmbar wird." ("Enlightenment is more than enlightenment, nature, that becomes perceivable in its estramentment.") This one-sided concept of reason as "estrangement from nature" contains, firstly, a false dualism: how does the child "mind" manage to remove itself from its "mother" nature in such a way that it even "die Beseelung der Natur auflöst" ("dissolves the soul of nature") (p. 64)? And, also in this confrontation of mind and nature, there already (also here very likely stemming from Nietzsche) lies a betrayal of reason, in that, with it, also positive results are given up as, for example as "Fetisch der Gleichheit" ("fetishism of equality).
(5) see Annotation 1
(6) Sloterdijk particularly resorts back to Heidegger's Letter on humanism from the fall of 1946, a reply of the latter to inquiries addressed to him by Jean Beautret, Paris, first published in 1947. The here relevant question of Beautret was: "Auf welche Weise läßt sich dem Wort Humanismus ein Sinn zurückgeben?" ("in what way can meaning be restored to the word humanism?").
In his line of argument Heidegger, both artfully and in a veiled manner, combines two subject matters: firstly, the end of the inhumane "Third Reich," at the beginning of which he, in his "Rektoratsrede" (directorate speech) was so infamously involved in attempting to shape it, and, secondly, his "philosophischen Grundgedanken" (basic philosophical thought), the "Seinsvergessenheit" (forgetfulness of existence) of ancient Greek metaphysic. The latter means that the ancient Greeks, and building on them, as a necessary consequence, the entire Western culture, had conceptualized "existence/being" wrongly: the "humanism" emerging from it would then, in turn, necessarily, have been erroneous and had stranded in nihilism (Nietzsche) and in the inhumane (Third Reich). Precisely here, then, is the contact point at which he means to be able to bring again into connection "Sein und Zeit" (existence/being and time) and his "Rektoratsrede" (directorate speech), in order to, at the same time, solve with it the basic problem of the erroneous concept of existence/being created by the ancient Greeks: if he, there (in his directorate speech) turned against "humanism", then only against such an (allegedly) wrong humanism which, on the basis of its wrong concept of existence/being had already carried in itself this failure in humanism and in the inhumane. Already then, when he wanted to "lead" the "Führer" (leader), he was concerned with a completely new conceptualization of existence/being, as he wants to make us believe – he raises himself above the entire history of the development of the human reason of the last 2,500 years and takes on the position of the prophet of existence/being, in order to "das Wesen des Menschen anfänglicher zu denken" ("think the essence of man more from its beginning).. Let me say it with Heidegger, himself, how he conceptualizes this renewed discovery of existence and with it the founding of a new humanis, that now shares its name with that what heretofore has been understood by humanism (p. 40 ff.): "Der Mensch ist und ist Mensch, insofern er der Ek-sistierende ist. Er steht in die Offenheit des Seins hinaus, als welche das Sein selber ist, das als der Wurf sich das Wesen des Menschen in ‚die Sorge‘ erworfen hat. Dergestalt geworfen steht der Mensch ‚in‘ der Offenheit des Seins. ‚Welt‘ ist die Lichtung des Seins, in die der Mensch aus seinem geworfenen Wesen her heraussteht. Das ‚In-der-Welt-sein‘ nennt das Wesen der Ek-sistenz im Hinblick auf die gelichtete Dimension, aus der das ‚Ek-‘ der Ek-sistenz west." Only from such a viewpoint would open itself the "Dimension des Heiligen" (dimension of the sacred), "die sogar schon als Dimension verschlossen bleibt, wenn nicht das Offene des Seins gelichtet und in seiner Lichtung dem Menschen nahe ist. Vielleicht besteht das Auszeichnende dieses Weltalters in der Verschlossenheit der Dimension des Heilen. Vielleicht ist dies das einzige Unheil." And, with this realization, even Heidegger's mistake of 1934 would be excused.
Beaufret's next question aims at the interrelationship between ontology and ethic, thus at what rules a real humanism would have to give itself, according to Heidegger; let us, here, also have Heidegger speak for himself: (p. 43 ff.): "Bald nachdem 'S.u.Z.' erschienen war, frug mich ein junger Freund: ‘Wann schreiben Sie eine Ethik?‘ Wo das Wesen des Menschen so wesentlich, nämlich einzig aus der Frage nach der Wahrheit des Seins gedacht wird, wobei der Mensch dennoch nicht zum Zentrum des Seins erhoben ist, muß das Verlangen nach einer verbindlichen Anweisung erwachen und nach Regeln, die sagen, wie der aus der Ek-sistenz zum Sein erfahrene Mensch geschicklich leben soll. Der Wunsch nach einer Ethik drängt um so eifriger nach Erfüllung, als die offenkundige Ratlosigkeit des Menschen nicht weniger als die verhehlte sich ins Unmeßbare steigert. Der Bindung durch die Ethik muß alle Sorge gewidmet sein, wo der in das Massenwesen ausgelieferte Mensch der Technik nur durch eine der Technik entsprechende Sammlung und Ordnung seines Planens und Handelns im ganzen noch zu einer verläßlichen Beständigkeit gebracht werden kann." ... (p. 51) "Nur sofern der Mensch, in die Wahrheit des Seins ek-sistierend, diesem gehört, kann aus dem Sein selbst die Zuweisung derjenigen Weisungen kommen, die für den Menschen Gesetz und Regel werden müssen. Nur "die in der Schickung des Seins geborgene Zuweisung" ... "vermag es, den Menschen in das Sein zu verfügen. Nur solche Fügung vermag zu tragen und zu binden. Anders bleibt alles Gesetz nur das Gemächte menschlicher Vernunft. Wesentlicher als alle Aufstellung von Regeln ist, daß der Mensch zum Aufenthalt in die Wahrheit des Seins findet. Erst dieser Aufenthalt gewährt die Erfahrung des Haltbaren. Den Halt für alles Verhalten verschenkt die Wahrheit des Seins. "Halt" bedeutet in unserer Sprache die ‚Hut‘. Das Sein ist die Hut, die den Menschen in seinem ek-sistenten Wesen dergestalt zu ihrer Wahrheit behütet, daß sie die Ek-sistenz in der Sprache behaust. Darum ist die Sprache zumal das Haus des Seins und die Behausung des Menschenwesens. ... Das Denken achtet auf die Lichtung des Seins, indem es sein Sagen vom Sein in die Sprache als der Behausung der Eksistenz einlegt. So ist das Denken ein Tun. Aber ein Tun, das zugleich alle Praxis übertrifft. ... Das Denken bringt nämlich in seinem Sagen nur das ungesprochene Wort des Seins zur Sprache. ... Diese bleibende und in ihrem Bleiben auf den Menschen wartende Ankunft des Seins je und je zur Sprache zu bringen, ist die einzige Sache des Denkens. ... Das künftige Denken ist nicht mehr Philosophie, weil es ursprünglicher denkt als die Metaphysik ... Das Denken sammelt die Sprache in das einfache Sagen. Die Sprache ist so die Sprache des Seins, wie die Wolken die Wolken des Himmels sind."
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