FAH/PHIL Guest Lecture – “The New Earth and its Universe: Sloterdijk’s Spheres and Neo-Geocentrism” by Prof. Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University, U.S.A.


Prof. Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University, U.S.A.


4 Apr 2019


19:00 - 20:00





This talk will consider philosopher and aesthetician Peter Sloterdijk as a Gaian thinker. It may be that it is only in recent times—in the era that received the image of Earth seen from space and conceived the Gaia hypothesis that regards Earth as a self-regulating planetary system—that we have fully begun to consummate the “return to Earth” that Sloterdijk traces onward from the Renaissance of Copernicus and Galileo. In his Spheres trilogy, Sloterdijk marks the collapse of the classical worldview of the Earth as at rest beneath the heavenly motions of a divinely-populated and immunitary dome of cosmic concern for human needs and desires: “the cosmological process of modernity is characterized by the changes of shape and refinements in the earth’s image in its diverse technical media” (22). Sloterdijk tends to project these intellectual changes and new thought-patterns broadly across modernizing humanity. For instance, in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, “the cognizer” turns “towards their own cognitive apparatus and the local cognitive situation. . . . The earth . . . is now the transcendental star that comes into play as the locational condition of all self-reflections” (25). But I wonder if Sloterdijk could have formulated these particular descriptions of a self-reflexive intellectual modernity much before the 1970s, when these themes from German philosophical idealism were taken up into the theories of observation and paradox cultivated in Heinz von Foerster’s second-order cybernetics and in social systems theory, in which Niklas Luhmann radicalized the theory of self-referential systems by crossing Husserl with the models of autopoiesis and cognition drawn from Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. Sloterdijk’s self-reflexive modernity is to some extent a back-formation from our own neocybernetic moment. The observer that is launched into space returns to Earth seeing differently, and this changes the system constituted by its altered state. In contemplating this Gaian mode of planetary recognition, this talk will conclude by discerning in the current rise of neo-geocentrism another welcome contribution to the ongoing development of Gaian thought.


All are welcome




Philosophy and Religious Studies Programme
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