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Anders Klostergaard Petersen

A New Take on Asceticism: Asceticism as Training and Secession Suspended between Individuality and Collectivity

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Inspired by Peter Sloterdijk’s Du mußt dein Leben ändern. Über Anthropotechnik (2009), I present a novel take on asceticism as deliberate training. Understanding humans as training animals, I discuss how, with the emergence of kosmos or Axial Age religions, humans came to acknowledge this element and made it a pivotal part of their lives. After presenting three important complements to Sloterdijk’s argument, I present a new take on asceticism by relating it to the two main currents in classical scholarship, those of Durkheim and of Weber. Underlying the two perspectives is the transition in asceticism, highlighted by Sloterdijk in his understanding of the phenomenon as basically constituting training programs, from a ritually determined to an ideologically defined form encompassing one’s entire life. Finally, I argue with Durkheim and Sloterdijk that asceticism should not be reduced to a religious phenomenon only, nor to one exclusively characteristic of religions. It is a basic feature of human life enacted on a continuum suspended between the two poles of individuality and collectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-498
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

    Research areas

  • Axial Age, Durkheim, Sloterdijk, Weber, asceticism, ideology, kosmos religion, ritual, training program

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