Sunday, August 31, 2014

Visualizing Sloterdijk [Chapter 3. Return to Earth]

"Beginning with the Benhaim Globe from Nuremburg made in 1492 -- the oldest surviving example of its kind -- and continuing up until NASA's photograms of the earth and pictures taken from the space station Mir, the cosmological process of modernity is characterized by the changes of shape and refinements in the earth's image in its diverse technical media. At no time, however -- not even in the age of space travel -- could the project of visualizing the earth deny its semi-metaphysical quality. Anyone who wished to attempt a portrait of the whole earth following the downfall of heaven stood, knowingly or not, in the tradition of sublime cosmography." (p.21)   
"Like all globe-makers and cosmographers since Benhaim, Schoner, Waldseenmuller, Apian and Mercator senior and junior, he [Humboldt] imposes the view of their planet on them from without, refusing to admit that the outer spaces are merely extensions of a regionally confined, herd-like, domestic and socio-uterine imagination." (p.23)

Figure 4. Peter Apian, Cosmographia, 1524
"This opening up into the infinite heightens the risk of modern localizations. Humans know, albeit in a confused and indirect fashion at first, that they are contained or lost -- which now amounts to virtually the same thing -- somewhere in the boundless. They understand that they can no longer rely on anything except the indifference of the homogenous infinite space. The outside expands, ignoring the postulate of proximity in the humane spheres, as a foreign entity in its own rights; its first and only principle seems to be its lack of interest in humanity. The delusions of mortals that they must seek something outside -- recall the space travel ideologies of the Americans and Russians -- necessarily remain very unstable, shakeable, auto-hypnotic projects against a background of futility. What is certainly true is that the externalized, neutralized and homogenized space is the primal condition of the modern natural sciences. The principle of the primacy of the outside provides the axiom for the human sciences." (p. 23) 
Figure 5. Earth and Sun
"The natural scientist is also confronted with a concept of the earth with a discreet philosophical shading: it is now the transcendental star that comes into play as the locational condition for all self-reflections. It is the exemplary hybrid in which the empirical is unified with the transcendental -- on the one hand, an ordinary object of ordinary research, and on the other hand, the singular carrier of human intelligences. As the star on which the theory of stars appeared, the earth shines with self-generated phosphorescence. When its strange, knowing inhabitants cast their thoughts into the homogenous emptiness, it is not least to return to their place from far outside." (p.25) 

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