Friday, May 14, 2010
Peter Sloterdijk on the rage in the Mensch.
[O]ne should not interpret existential time as the immediate being-toward-death, as Heidegger in Being and Time suggests in an interpretation that is as well known as it is rushed. The being-whole-ability of existence (das Ganz-sein-Können der Existenz) is what matters to the thinker, an ability that does not depend on the fact of the individual considering his own death in order to ascertain his directedness toward something that is an unconditional future fact. Dasein can just as well orient itself because it traverses the distance from humiliation to revenge as a whole. Existential time emerges from such an anxiety (Hingespanntheit) in its decisive moment. Such an act of endowing for one’s own being-toward-goals (Seins-zum-Ziele) is more powerful than every vague heroic meditation of the end. When Dasein is angry it does not have the form of running ahead toward its own death, but of an anticipation of the indispensable day of rage. One would rather have to speak of a running ahead to gratification. If one thinks back to the protagonist of the Iliad it becomes clear that a warlike being-toward-destruction has become his second nature. His departure for the last battle in front of the walls of Troy marks the beginning of the sequence of action with which the downfall of the hero became necessary. In this respect, Heidegger’s thesis that Dasein is being-toward-death belongs to those Europeans who carry on the work of the myth of Achilles throughout the ages.

Revenge emerges out of the project of rage. This concept initially requires analysis from a neutral and ecological vantage point. One may rightly understand the desire for revenge as one of the most unfriendly desires of humanity. That it belongs to the causes of the greatest miseries is proven by history insofar as it has not yet been classified a “life teacher.” Called “ira,” it is classified among the deadly sins. If anyone could say something positive about it, it is that with it the possibility of unemployment vanishes from the life of avenger. He who has a strong intention to practice a revenge is, for the time being, safe from suffering problems of meaning. A persistent will excludes boredom. The deep simplicity of rage satisfies the all-too-human desire for strong motivations. One motive, one agent, one necessary deed: this is the formula for a complete project. The most important characteristic of a well-organized and well-planned existence manifests itself in the lack of any arbitrariness. The avenger is safe from the “need of needlessness” that Heidegger claimed would be the sign of an existence abandoned by a sense of ne-cessity (Not-Wenidigkeit). It is indeed impossible to claim that the avenger would live like a leaf in the wind; chance no longer has any power over her. This way revengeful existence gains a quasi-metaphysical meaning in a postmetaphysical age: thanks to rage the “utopia of motivated life” realizes itself in a domain in which an increasing amount of people feel empty. No one expressed this more clearly than Stalin when he said about his colleagues Kamenew and Dschersinski, “To choose one’s victim, to prepare one’s plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed . . . there is nothing sweeter in the world.”
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