This essay serves as an introduction both to this special issue and to the works of Peter Sloterdijk. It starts out from the opposition between the critical and the affirmative projects in modern philosophy. It is my intent to demonstrate how Sloterdijk displaces this opposition in favor of what I propose to call a “jovial modernity” and a post-Heideggerian philosophy of Gelassenheit or “relief.” After a general outline of the Sphären-project, I discuss the shifts in Sloterdijk’s development of Ernst Jünger’s critical concept of “mobilization” and show how his engagement with critical theory has gradually transformed from an aesthesis of the event, through a Nietzschean “transvaluation of all values” – generosity instead of resentment as motivating force of critique – or “retuning” of Heidegger’s concept of the Lichtung, into a “poetical” and “global” constructivism. This is followed by the unraveling of three layers that have constituted the 1999 scandal following Sloterdijk’s reply to Heidegger’s letter On Humanism: Sloterdijk’s actual text on humanism and Bildung in the age of genetic engineering; the scandal and the mass-medialization of philosophical critique; and the hypermorality of the last, but still all too dominant generation of Frankfurt School theorists. Finally, I draw some political conclusions by opposing another source of inspiration for Sloterdijk’s “joviality,” the Luhmannian theory of complexity, to the bivalent “passion for the real” that, despite all that has happened in the twentieth century, still seems to inform both the realist projects of philosophical critique and the Heideggerian belief in the “Kehre.”

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