Here is a link to the full text, in PDF form, of Peter Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason. If you have any inclination to read contemporary philosophy I can recommend it very highly. Sloterdijk is much easier to understand, and much more direct in his style, than most other continental philosophy cats. He’s amoral but life-affirming—just how I like my philosophers! The only technical term he leans on is kynicism, which refers to the Greek version of joyful, “cheeky” cynicism, rather than the negative cynicism we know today. Diogenes, a brash philosopher of Plato’s time, is the original kynic.
This is an excerpt from the text:
Before we “really live,” we always have just one more matter to attend to, just one more precondition to fulfill, just one more temporarily more important wish to satisfy, just one more account to settle. And with this just one more and one more time arises that structure of postponement and indirect living that keeps the system of excessive production going on. The latter, of course, always knows how to present itself as an unconditionally “good end” that deludes us with its light as though it were a real goal but that whenever we approach it recedes once more into the distance.
Kynical reason culminates in the knowledge—decried as nihilism—that we must snub the grand goals. In this regard, we cannot be nihilistic enough. Those who reject all so-called goals and values in a kynical sense break through the circle of instrumental reason, in which “good” goals are pursued with “bad” means. The means lie in our hands, and they are means with such enormous significance (in every respect: production, organization, as well as destruction) that we must begin to ask ourselves whether there can still be any ends that are served by the means. For what good could such immeasurable means be necessary? In that moment when our consciousness becomes ripe to let go of the idea of good as a goal and to devote itself to what is already there, a release is possible in which the piling up of means for imaginary, always receding goals automatically becomes superfluous. Cynicism can only be stemmed by kynicism, not by morality. Only a joyful kynicism of ends is never tempted to forget that life has nothing to lose except itself.
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