The stirring speech given by Peter Sloterdijk in Lucerne in October 2022.
From time immemorial, humanity has had to organize their “metabolism with nature.” For Marx, the most important factor in this process was labor. When Prometheus, according to the myth, brought fire to earth, another crucial input was added. Fire has been used to cook food and harden tools for hundreds of thousands of years. In this sense, it can be said that all history implies the history of the uses of fire.
But whereas trees could only be burnt once, labor and fire shifted with the discovery of underground deposits of coal and oil. Modern humanity, according to Peter Sloterdijk, can be considered a collective of arsonists who set fire to the underground forests and moors. If Prometheus were to return to earth today, he might regret his gift; after all, what looms is nothing less than Ekpyrosis, the demise of the world in fire. And only a new, energetic pacifism can prevent this catastrophe.
Peter Sloterdijk (b. 1947) is one of the best known and widely read German intellectuals writing today. His 1983 publication of Critique of Cynical Reason (published in English in 1988) became the best-selling German book of philosophy since World War II. He became president of the State Academy of Design at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe in 2001. He has been cohost of a discussion program, Das Philosophische Quartett (Philosophical Quartet) on German television since 2002.