What Is Cynical Reason?

Peter Sloterdijk Explains

...Cynicism is enlightened false consciousness. It is that modernized, unhappy consciousness, on which enlightenment has labored both successfully and in vain. It has learned its lessons in enlightenment, but it has not, and probably was not able to, put them into practice. Well-off and miserable at the same time, this consciousness no longer feels affected by any critique of ideology; its falseness is already reflexively buffered.

“Enlightened false consciousness:” To choose such a formulation seems to be a blow against the tradition of enlightenment. The sentence itself is cynicism in a crystalline state.... Logically, it is a paradox, for how could enlightened consciousness still be false? ....

To act against better knowledge is today the global situation in the superstructure; it knows itself to be without illusions and yet to have been dragged down by the “power of things.” Thus what is regarded in logic as a paradox and in literature as a joke appears in reality as the actual state of affairs. Thus emerges a new attitude of consciousness toward “objectivity.”

SOURCE: Sloterdijk, Peter. Critique of Cynical Reason, translation by Michael Eldred; foreword by Andreas Huyssen (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), pp. 5-6. (Theory and History of Literature; v. 40) Original: Kritik der zynischen Vernunft, 1983.

Cinika Racio Difinita
(Esperanto translation by R. Dumain)

Review of Peter Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason,
by Michael Miley

Karl Marx vs. Cynical Reason: On Suppositions of Naked Self-Interest

Cynical Reason Today: A Selected Bibliography

Irony, Humor, & Cynicism Study Guide

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