August 28, 2012

The Age Of Placental Enlightenment

I really have no idea, but how can I not quote this passage of Joshua Mostafa's review of Bubbles, the English translation of the first volume of German philosopher/tv intellectual Peter Sloterdijk?

The manner in which the newly-born child is detached from the placenta, the most intimate companion of its life thus far, is, according to Sloterdijk, strongly determinative of the child's future relationship to the world. In a bizarre yet compelling passage, Sloterdijk argues at length that the rise of modern individualism coincides with a "radical devaluation of the placenta" beginning in the eighteenth century. A brief anthropological survey of traditional ritual care for the placenta -- burying, drying, burning, hanging on the branches of a tree -- is contrasted with the modern disposal of the 'afterbirth' as mere mess or garbage. Eschewing anatomical language and the objectification it implies, Sloterdijk repurposes the preposition 'With' as a name for the placenta, and suggests that the navel, which once pointed out to a symbolic 'With-space' of interpersonal mingling, has lost its meaning; it is to this phenomenon that Sloterdijk ascribes, with disapproval, the modern assumption that navel-gazing is a useless and isolating activity: "the individualism of the modern age is a placental nihilism." By denying the significance of the placenta, Sloterdijk argues, we deny our fundamental connection to the world around us.

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Those who prefer their philosophy neat and dry will find this level of hyperbole bewildering, at best.

Sphere Theory: A Case For Connectedness [lareviewofbooks.org via rob horning]

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