I'm following up on Balder's suggestion to give Latour his own thread. To start I'll pull over posts on him from the OOO  thread. Note the posts are from different pages and discussions, so there aren't direct connnections of flow between them. I also didn't identify the poster, page or date; too time consuming. One can search on the info in the post(s) to identify that if they want. Consider the following as belonging to the autonomous being of the dialogue in itself.

In Sean's paper: "See Harman (2009) for a valuable presentation of Latour’s process metaphysics of enactment. Suffice it to say there is much in Latour’s work that is relevant to an integral post-metaphysics."

Latour is a key figure in SR and OOO, and Harman and others use Latour liberally. In The Speculative Turn there are at least 140 references to him. He also writes chapter 20 in TST. Perhaps Sean's use of Latour is one bridge between integral and SR?

Latour quoting Souriau in TST:

“Let us therefore reject any temptation to structure or hierarchize the [multiple] modes by explaining them dialectically. You will always fail to know existence in itself if you deprive it of the arbitrariness that is one of its absolutes” (316).

It seems it is here where we might find divergence with Sean's kennilingus pluralism?

Smore Latour:

“In the last section of the work, Souriau in fact applies himself to the problem of how the modes are enchained…. In order to avoid this continual exaggeration, to allow the modes to ‘keep their distance’, to mutually respect their different types of verification, we have to define yet another mode (one of the ‘second degree’ as he says) and which is defined this time by the movement and the variation or modulation of one mode into another: this is what he calls the plurimodal. Only they can make the superimposition of the ‘traces’ finally ‘compossible’, and give metaphysics the amplitude that it should have…. But now it is variation itself that has to be considered equivalent to true beings. Alterity alters yet another degree. Difference differs even more differently.

“Heidegger is a typical case of a melody played on just one note, but the danger would be no less if one moved too quickly to define the unity of the melody by some collectivity greater or higher than the modes. This is why Souriau devotes the whole of his last chapter to guarding against the danger of returning too quickly to unity…. In the same way that each mode  has the same dignity as all the others, one can say that each composition has the same dignity as all the others, without harmony or totality being able to predominate” (330 – 32).

Here's Adam Robert of host blog Knowledge Ecology from week 2:

In this sense I respect a good deal of what the Integral Theorists are doing with regards to engaging in “post-metaphysical thinking” (i.e. post-Kantian philosophy) whilst still attempting a rigorous account of ontology or metaphysics. I share the desire to accomplish this task with the Integral Theorists, even as I differ with them on many important issues.  Antonio, I found your comments regarding the “AQ” in “AQAL” to be almost identical to criticisms I have made in the past. I really do find the quadrants helpful, but beyond that the AQAL system feels very heavy to me- almost like an OS that takes up so much space on a computer that it can’t actually perform any of the functions it is designed to run.

If am overly critical here, let me say this: I am on the whole sympathetic to the aim and trajectory of Integral Ecology but this chapter in particular is difficult for me as I feel mired down in the complexities of the system. In this sense I agree with Whitehead and feel that we could perhaps put more emphasis on description, rather than so much on classification. On this last point I am very favorable to Bruno Latour’s work (another Whiteheadian), and his call to “follow the actors,” which to me sounds more like Whiteheads emphasis on description over classification. At the end of the day, I really enjoy methodological pluralism and the usefulness of the quadrants, but find myself skeptical of the lines, waves, and states. As always, there is more to be said here, but that’s all for now.

Related to the link on Harman and Latour's interaction, Latour sees both as necessary without emphasizing either. But more importantly he notes that the object to interpret another via relation needs an 'intermediary.' And here Edwards again becomes a resource by noting that there are intermediary holons like artifacts that bridge this gap. Recall above the reference to the relationship between two objects being itself a third object. You'll find much support for this in the linked Edwards' essay, but in kennilingus so more easily translated and digested in 'integralist' terms.

Theological Implications of Object-Oriented Philosophy: Factishes, Imperatives, and Cthulhu

by Sam Mickey

Harman articulates this metaphysics by drawing on many philosophical sources, including specific attention to the following.... process-relational philosophy, particularly Alfred North Whitehead and Bruno Latour, for whom human-world relations are not primary but are merely a special case of any relation, different only by degree.... Indeed, object-oriented philosophy makes room for an object-oriented theology, wherein divinity can be articulated in at least three ways. 1) God is one object among others, analogous to a fetish or, more perhaps more appropriately, to what Latour refers to as “factish gods,” which have real autonomy and are not merely constructed (although Harman and Latour would define this autonomy differently).

You can read a summary of it in Prince of Networks, starting about the middle of page 14.

One way he [Harman] seems to differ from Kant, as far as I can tell, is that he follows systems views in seeing things-in-themselves as systemic emergents: a real object, depending on and emerging from, its constituent parts, but in its objectness it is an emergent reality that is greater than, and irreducible to, its parts.  I think he is following Latour's principle of irreduction.  Both Harman and Latour are interested in defending emergent particulars from approaches which attempt to reduce objects (here, meaning any form or process or actuality at all) to other things, in a way which undermines or erases them (scientifically: what is real is not this particular X, but its underlying parts or processes; or spiritually/metaphysically: individual X's are not real or primary, as they are each only momentary and illusory expressions of a universal Real).

Concerning Bryant's comments on some of the challenges to substance, it seems -- just based on the quotes you offered (I can't view his blog from work) -- that, in identifying substance with systemic activity, he is aligning possibly more closely with Latour than Harman.  Latour rejects the category of substance and speaks, instead, of subsistence...

Another of Bryant's blog posts is relevant to recent comments above:

"Contrasting my position with Harman’s might be helpful here. For Harman objects have a withdrawn essence that is self-identical and enduring beyond any action on the part of the object.... For me, by contrast...the [object] is not an abiding identity that stands behind the deed. The object is nothing more than its acts but is its acts and sustains itself only in its activities.

"With that said, it doesn’t follow from this that the agency of an object is purely an exo-quality or a result of interactions with other objects. There are endo-processes and exo-processes. Endo-processes consist of activities taking place within an object that are completely unrelated to anything else in the world. while exo-processes are processes that unfold in collaborations with other objects. Here my position can be distinguished from Latour’s."

I personally think he would do well to align more with Latour, who speaks in terms of subsistence, and various modes of subsistence, rather than "substance."  This would be more in keeping with Bryant's "process" conception of so-called substance.  Also, his idea that the processes that take place within an object are "completely unrelated to anything else in the world" looks, to me, like pure fantasy.

To relate this to Latour’s principle of irreduction, I propose a corollary principle, that infinite reducibility equals irreducibility.  To put this succinctly: rather than viewing the irreducible particularity of things as related to Harman’s withdrawn substance (island-like thing-in-itself-ness, wholly divorced from all relationship), we can, following Morrison's principle, discover it in the infinite potential for reducibility itself. 

I understand that Latour is working on a new philosophical position -- related to subsistence -- which has not yet been published.

As a reminder Latour wrote Chapter 20 of The Speculative Turn.

Latour also has an interesting chapter in The Speculative Turn which deals with a variant of IMP -- what he calls plurimodality.  Philosophy here consists in building a spectrograph, a means of 'registering' various modes of being and 'enchaining' them in various assemblages (again, none of which -- a common theme -- can be taken as a final One or Totality).  The generative pivots for this approach are prepositions as concrete realities -- a philosophy of the preposition.  This reminds me, of course, of Nancy's emphasis on being as "with" -- but it also puts me in mind of my old language experiment, where in my primarily verbal grammar prepositions leapt forward with new force and import.

From another angle I'm reading Latour's chapter in The Speculative Turn. He talking about using prepositions to understand existence. He gets this from Wm. James and Souriau, this notion that prepositions are "neither an ontological domain, nor a region, territory, sphere, or material." They are that which "prepares the position...to what follows" (308-9). Looking at the definition of preposition we find that they "typically express a spatial, temporal, or other relationship." Well, well, our image schemata again. And per Latour this prepositional approach heals the subject/object split, for it paves the way or prepares the position taken by any particular suobject in its autonomy. It's akin to our old friend khora in that way, as a pregnant womb that prepares for the birth of, or sets the stage for, duality.

Latour uses Souriau's term instauration to denote what is not idealism or realism, or even their in-between. Like the preposition it pre-positions both of them. "Instauration allows exchanges or gifts that are interesting in other ways, transactions with rather different types of being.... No being has substance. If it persists, it is because it is always restored" (311).

Continuing after that he discusses that there are multiple beings for any suobject. In Bryant's terms it enters into a variety of different local manifestations and with each one the suobject is part of that assemblage and hence a unique being. He seems to question that there is a distinct being of the suobject apart from its multiple instaurations, tracing this back to Aristotle's substance. Granted Bryant also criticizes Aristotle's One Substance, that each suobject, being constructed, has its unique substance. But it seems Latour is saying that since a suobject is never without relations of some kind, and that it has multiple substances depending in which local manifestations it participates, that there is no one unique substance apart from that. I'm not sure he's saying that so will need to read further.

Yes, I believe I brought up that essay a few pages ago in this thread (and then dropped the ball).  From your description above, and from what I recall of what I read, I do believe Latour is saying that.  His idea appears similar to the "multiple object" concept that Esbjorn-Hargens has adopted, where we conceive more of a series of overlapping assemblages than a wholly closed-off substance.

In the second mode, the thing, he says something interesting about thought akin to what I've said above. But the concepts are getting a bit thick and deep, so not sure how much akin it might be. Quoting Souriau:

"Let us take note that [thought] cannot be conceived as the product or result of the activity of a psychic being, itself conceived in a thingy fashion distinct from the assemblage of the thing....[this thought] is purely and simply liaison and communication.... In the final analysis, it is above all systematic cohesion, liaison, which is here essential and constitutive for the role of thought" (319-20).

I'm still making my way through Latour's essay.  One (somewhat tangential) thought that occurs to me is that, if Integral Theory gives us a philosophy of pronouns, and folks like Nancy and Latour or Souriau give us philosophies of prepositions (Nancy's "with," or Souriau's modes), then we might begin to think that a truly "integral" approach would find ways to integrate philosophies appropriate to all the major parts of speech:  OOO for nouns, perhaps, and process philosophy for verbs...

Finishing Latour's chapter in TST I am left unsatisfied as to what exactly constitutes a "second-order" integration of the plural modes. I get that his spectograph is akin to a kennilingual psychograph, taking into account the various lines, or in this case, modes. But with both Latour (at least in this chapter) and kennilingus, we must certainly do more than just compare and allow for each to have its own domain enactments. Granted kennilingus uses not just nonexclusion but unfoldment (and enfoldment) and enactment (see excerpt B) in his IMP. In the excerpt he says that unfoldment is one way to integrate paradigms in that some have more inclusive complexity than others, therefore are a qualitatively better paradigm overall.

But what if we take two equally infolded paradigms? They what second-order paradigm is the arbiter? Is there a holon of everything (assholon)? We know from IS that that arbiter is consciousness per se (CPS), the final arbiter of altitude in general for All. And we also know that CPS in kennlingus is interpreted-enacted through a Vedantic and Vedantic-influenced Vajrayanic metaphysical lens. But what about Latour, who doesn't buy into this kind of metaphysics. Yes, he is countenancing metaphysics in the article, even God, but I'm not getting a sense of his integration of the plural modes. Other than a metaphor about a musical composition as opposed to its elements-modes-notes.

And while I'm on Latour's independent modes, he said something on p. 331* that reminded me of our earlier discussion about the different systems in a human being suobstances in themselves requiring translation between each other.** But still, what integrates them into a systematic assemblage with its own endo-structure, as Bryant might say. And further, what integrates all systems into an inclusive frame called an integral philosophical meta-paradigm (IMP)?

Latour hints at this on 331 with "variation itself....difference differences even more differently." But aside from the music metaphor that is left hanging. Perhaps he is referencing something like differance, as I explored in this thread by comparing it to kennilingual CPS?

* Where Souriau talks of a human being composed of the independent modes of body, mind and spirit.

** P. 72: "In Luhmann's theory the 'human being' is not conceptualised as forming a systemic unity. Instead it has to be understood as a conglomerate of organic and psychic systems. The former consists of biochemical elements, the latter of thoughts. Both systems are operatively closed against each other: no system can contribute elements to the respectively other system. The systems are however structurally coupled; i.e. their respective structures are adjusted to each other in such a way as to allow mutual irritations" (9-10).

In trying to get a better handle on Latour I've turned to Harman's Prince of Networks. One thing that strikes me right off is that media(tors) are also actants (suobjects) with a 'mind' of their own:

"A mediator...always does new work of its own to shape the translation of forces from one point of reality to the next" (15).

I'm reminded of Edwards' mediator holons, like words. Rhetaphor indeed. Word? (Aka henna?)

At 16 Harman notes Latour is proud to be guilty of what DeLanda and Bhasksar criticize as 'actualism.' After all, it is in the 'act' that defines a actant. Or what I'm calling via Bryant the local manifestations of an actant at any given time. However this does not fall prey to Bryant's criticism that a actant is stuck with any given actualization, for per Latour this is every changing and in each new locally manifesting assemblange the actant is made anew, while still retaining its autonomy due to its irreducibility.

Oh, and Harman credits Latour as being the progenitor of OOO.

In a sense irreducibility is virtuality, for the relations in any given locally manifesting assemblage are not predetermined. Nor is an actant's identity, since it is open to the novel. This is getting at the bridge between autonomy on the one hand and extended mind in an assemblage on the other. It's not clear yet but forming as I'm linking* to this assemblage of notions.

* Or 'jacking in,' as it was called in Neuromancer.

Yes, the question of the nature of an "actant" is an important one (for its compatibility with OOO).  I like the term, since it can nicely serve as a root term for "agent" in an enactive worldview.  But while Harman does consider Latour a progenitor of OOO, he later argues (in PON) that Latour's actualism is insufficient, since it doesn't make a distinction between primary and secondary qualities or (a point important to Bryant, not Harman) even see a need for any hidden potency or potential.  For Harman, it is important for objects to be able to exist, or to be possessed of qualities, independently of their relations (primary qualities).  For both Harman and Bryant, without this extra something, then even though Latour says objects constantly change, he hasn't accounted for how (since, as they both argue, objects in a relationist framework would be exhaustively defined by present relations and would have no reason to change).

I've tried, perhaps without complete success, to argue that my Morissonian reading of the principle of irreduction allows for objects to escape this problem of being relationally exhausted and therefore inert: infinite reducibility = irreducibility, and therefore in-exhaustion.

Views: 833

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

More from the OOO thread:

So from your reading of Latour how is his irreducibility different from what you're saying about infinite reducibility = irreducibility?

As to how or why an actant would change, it must do so in response to changing circumstances in its environment, like it or not, or die. That seems like a good enough motivation and cause. Given the malleability of such adaptive responses I don't see how it follows that the actant could possibly be defined or exhausted by any given present set of circumstances. And I also don't see how this somehow makes a particular actant somehow part of an amorphous general blob or metaphysical substrate, since it still retains its individual irreducibility.

Combine the above with what Latour said in this post about “variation itself” being that which contextualizes the plural modes and we might have something like the virtual differance at the core of an actants autonomy. Harman notes that he did not address Latour's later ideas or exploration of Souriau in PON, so perhaps he is missing this later aspect where we might find some resonance?

As to how or why an actant would change, it must do so in response to changing circumstances in its environment, like it or not, or die. That seems like a good enough motivation and cause.

I'm thinking that Harman and Bryant both argue that, if all actants are such that they are no more than what is actually manifesting at a given time, and that further, if actants are only defined by their relations to each other, then there would be no "changing circumstances" to prompt change for any given actant because all actants would be frozen in (because exhausted by) a single moment of actual relations (with nothing "in reserve" to allow for anything else to happen).  This is my understanding of their reasoning, at least.

Interestingly, and as I discussed near the beginning of this marathon thread, this is the mirror image of Nagarjuna's argument, that things which exist wholly unto themselves, independently of relations, would never change because -- being their own cause -- they would have no reason to become other.

(Something important is to be found between the horns of this dilemma, methinks...)

So from your reading of Latour how is his irreducibility different from what you're saying about infinite reducibility = irreducibility?

I'm not sure, yet.  He says things are both irreducible and always reducible, but I have not seen him link the two, such that "always reducible" equals or is the same thing as saying "irreducible."  But it doesn't appear to be a big step from what he is saying...

I'm not getting from Latour that an actant is no more than its present actualization, given that it does in fact change continually with changing circumstances. And I just don't see that the responsibility for change needs to reside within particular actants. Bryant notes in numerous places that the environment is always more complex than any suobject.* Now what he means by environment is not exactly clear to me. Is the environment just other suobjects with which a suobject responds? Or is there something more to an environment that is not just suobjects?

Bryant, like Morton, claims that there is no Nature as such, and this would apply to an environment as such.** This is because any given suobject cannot process all the external stimuli, that given its differences from the outside it can only translate within the limits of its suobstance. So what. That doesn't negate the  larger environment, which seems to be much more than the sum of the suobjects within it. And it is this something more about the environment that initiates change perhaps?

* As one example p. 144 of this version of TDOO. He never seemed to pin down what this larger environment was, other than just pieces of it get translated by a suobject. It seems to me that just because no particular suobject can ascertain its scope (if not its totality) that doesn't mean that a social assemblage cannot make some ontological statements about it. That is speculative realism after all, isn't it?

** See p. 146. Here there is no environment as such to which a suobject must 'adapt.' This is because in this case he interprets 'environment' to be that with the suobject creates due to its endo-structure. And yet he just got done saying an environment is always more complex than any suobject. He's playing with different definitions here and I think skirting the issue of this more complex environment. Due to this aversion the latter almost seems like some kind of amorphous goo which only takes shape by a suobject, ironic given his repulsion of goo.

Are you seeing Latour's account, then, as sufficient, and rejecting Harman's and Bryant's insistence on the need for a withdrawn (unrelated) core to account for change?

(To see Harman's critique of Latour, do a search in PON for "actualism," or read the final chapter which is an outline of his version of OOO).

I'm not drawing conclusions yet about Latour (or Harman or Bryant), just wondering and thinking out loud my own translations to this point.

And more:

Plus I was wondering how Latour might respond to Harman, rather than taking Harman's interpretation of him at face value. Lo and behold I found this debate between the two on Harman's presentation in PON. In fact at the end of 45 and beginning of 46 Latour is highlighting the virtual, which comes after Irreductions and is antithetical to his former actualism.

At 43 of the debate Latour just doesn't accept Harman's claim that he is a pure relationist, given the irreducible singularity of an actant. Just want I was getting at above. It's Harman's translation problem given his OOO commitments (blinders), that he's not seeing something in Latour that is there.

Correction: Virtuality is discussed at the end of 46 and beginning of 47. At least the start of it. Something tells me we're going to get much more heavily into the topic. What is interesting to me is that my several questions above are exactly what they are dealing with in this discussion. It let's me know that I'm on the right track in stalking my prey, to use Latour's metaphor. Even though I cannot clearly see it I can smell it in the near distance, catching a whiff here and there as the wind changes. I smell blood!

I'm just reading a bit in the a.m. before getting ready for work and it looks like pp. 52-54 are immediately relevant to both of our comments/questions above...

On those pages I learned that Harman doesn't understand Latour's new work. And that Bryant disagrees with Harman in the latter's claim that things must directly touch. Bryant found an adequate explanation via dynamic systems for how they never directly touch but only translate each other, which is one of Latour's points. However Latour is now agreeing that this infinite regress is a problem whereas Bryant gleefully accepts it. And he retains a suobject's withdrawn autonomy. Then Latour wimped out and said he didn't want to discuss this anymore. And we never got what he was getting at with the 14 modes, 2 of which are supposed to be 'unifying.'

At the end of 73 Latour asks an audience member a question, since that member agreed with Harman's criticism of 'serial redescription.' Per my last comment it seems Latour agrees with Bryant about an infinite regress via a suobject's system dynamics of maintenance.

Ah, I think we're getting to le differance with Latour's plasma, unformatted reality (80 and following). And on 83 we discern it by, like Bryant, drawing a distinction between the marked and unmarked space. And this circles around to my question about the more complex environment that a suobject translates through its marked space. So perhaps I understand a bit better Bryant's contention that there is no fixed structure to the environment, given that like differance or plasma it is unformatted. Still, like those other realities to which we refer with  concepts they are the cause of a suboject's being. And to which it must adapt or die (83). (He brings in Sloterdijk on 84 in this regard.)

On p. 99 a questioner is giving a speech, and he is again bringing up serial redescription. When it was first introduced above my response was it sounded quite a bit like Derrida's iteration, in that the past was repeated and yet always with something novel. On this page the questioner says something very similar.

On 114 Harman proves another of my points when he said:

"Once a thing is created, it's there. And it doesn't really matter how it was created; it's a unit."

This completely avoids the cause of the unit/thing which arises within an environment. Yes, once created it has it own autonomy and draws/maintains its own distinctions/boundaries. But what is this plasma (khora) from which it sprang? What are its ascendents and descendents, as Latour would frame it?

I think this is something Bryant needs to address better, as well:  how does an object come to be?  Regarding the "plasma" or background from which an object emerges, I expect Harman would avoid thinking of this in terms of a formless plasma or field -- which he might consider to be an undermining strategy -- and would say that that background is a jam-packed world of other objects.  (I don't know how, or if, he addresses concepts such as quantum superpositioning.)

And more:

Somewhere earlier in the debate Harman did say something to that effect, that it's all objects in the broader field or plasma. Don't have time to look it up at present. Still, if the field or plasma is always more complex than any given suobject (at least for Bryant), it would seem it is always more complex than the sum of all objects as well. And this plasma field doesn't have to be a metaphysical (ontotheological) formless stuff but could still be itself created and immanent. I'm thinking of both differance and hyperobjects here, neither of which requires quantum superpositioning.

As for causes, Latour talks about vectors and trajectories, which a student clarified as something akin to what I'm saying. How an entire field of events is required to trace out the various vectors in the creation of a singular actant.

Robbert posted a brief summary review of a recently released translation of the intro and first chapter of Latour's latest work. From Robbert:

"Recall that at the start of his introduction Latour gave us an account of an encounter, between the industrialist and the climate scientist; legislating between claims was the central issue. But also recall that this legislation will not be accomplished by an appeal to language games or speech acts (though it might include these). Rather, Latour now argues, this legislation will be attempted through metaphysics and ontological pluralism. To put it differently, it is being over language that is at stake for Latour. Here we might ask: Isn’t the appeal to metaphysics — to ontotheology, more precisely — what caused so much trouble in the past, before the advent of critical philosophy and the glorious decapitation of speculative philosophy? Wasn’t confusing beings with a single Being — White Men, God, Selfish Genes, Atoms, whatever — the whole problem with the violent nature of metaphysics to begin with? Maybe, but this is not what Latour means by 'metaphysics.'”

Bonnitta posted this very interesting essay by Latour on FB yesterday: The Compositionist Manifesto. It draws on Avatar for some of its imagery so I'm posting it here. It's a timely read for me since the topic of my talk in Berkeley this coming week (Magic Circles, Generative (En)closures, and Kosmic Foam) presents a similar view (via the Sloterdijkian metaphor of foam).

On p. 474 Latour said:

"Compositionism takes up the task of searching for universality but without believing that this universality is already there, waiting to be unveiled and discovered."

This was after him talking about progress. And it is here that I find some reservation with Bryant on teleos. We can see that by taking account of the compositional nature of suobjects, their dependent origination as it were, we enact universals without assuming they were a priori Platonist forms.

Same with teleos and progress; it may not be inherent to the world, but by virtue of understanding the compositional nature of it we can shift it into (enact) a progressive teleos that may not have been there from the outset. And by we I mean humans, given we have evolved to a point of self-consciousness, not to be confused with the prehensive sort of translation inherent to all structures, sentient or not. So in that sense this is indeed a developmental correlationist position and a necessary one if we are to actually progress into a fair and equitable society.


In light of my recent rumincations on objet a,* and recent email discussions with Balder on his upcoming paper,** I return to this post (p. 77) on Latour, prepositions, image schema and khora. In this post (p. 78 ) I ask how Latour integrates the modes and we got a vague reference to "variation itself....difference differences even more differently,” which I correlated with differance (aka khora depending on context). In this post (79) I said

“Combine the above with what Latour said in this post about “variation itself” being that which contextualizes the plural modes and we might have something like the virtual differance at the core of an actant's autonomy.”

Then this post (80):

“Ah, I think we're getting to le differance with Latour's plasma, unformatted reality (80 and following). And on 83 we discern it by, like Bryant, drawing a distinction between the marked and unmarked space. And this circles around to my question about the more complex environment that a suobject translates through its marked space.”

In the following post I made a connection between Latour's serial description and Derrida's interation. At which point I started to make connection that differance and/or khora is the endo-relational structure of the universe at large. Here (80) I questioned per Bryant that differance is just on the 'inside' of an local object, since that object is 'inside' the non-local hyperobject universe-at-large's overpowering endo-structual gravity of differance. And here (80) I related it back to prepositions: “Differance is that which pre-positions identity and difference, i.e., the transcendental condition for their manifestation.”

And some thoughts from my emails with Balder. The preposition acts like khora in that it is that withdrawn core that prepares the space-time for actual occasions and is coterminous with them, a la Whitehead. Hence I'm wondering if prepositions, while parts of language, aren't themselves something prelinguistic and which tie language back to that basic categorical embodiment via image schemata? If I'm right about prepositions being more akin to objet a than being an actualization or local manifestation of a particular paradigm, then they might be more of an meta-paradigmatic function.

* According to this wiki entry, the 'a' refers to autre, French for 'other' "and Lacan's own exploitation of 'otherness.'

** Balder voiced his idea for the paper during this discussion on p. 78.

Thanks for cataloging and connecting the links here, Ed.  Here is one more post in this thread of speculations, from page 68.  As I mention in my paper, it was reading this chapter by Latour on prepositions, plus watching the back and forth between several OOO and Whiteheadian philosophers, not to mention our evolving conversation in this epic thread, that planted the seeds for my paper.  I had forgotten your linking of prepositions to the khora, but that makes sense to me -- esp. the way Nancy and Serres use them -- and I think it is worth exploring and developing further (I don't in my paper).  I also like your suggestion, in our email exchange, that prepositions -- in this light -- are perhaps pre-linguistic operators "which tie language back to that basic categorical embodiment via image schemata."  I do touch on the image schemas which may inform prepositions, but don't draw the connections you are making here.


Here's Shaviro's blog post on the Harman-Latour debate book. I addressed the debate earlier in the thread, some of which was linked above yesterday. A few excerpts:

"Latour objects to Harman’s characterization of him as a relationist by saying that he doesn’t understand (or doesn’t accept) Harman’s entire opposition between objects/substances and relations. Where the question of whether objects can be defined by their relations, or on the contrary have hidden nonrelational cores, is crucial for Harman, Latour suggests rather that this is a both/and, not an either/or. It is precisely because things are singular, that they need mediators, relations via translation and transportation, in order to have an effect, or assert their presence in the world. So it’s not a question of whether objects are defined by intrinsic substantial natures or by merely relational qualities, but rather that it is precisely to the extent that objects are singular and irreducible to external common measures that they need to establish modes of relationality.

"For Whitehead, an entity cannot ever exist apart from its connections, even though the entity itself is not reducible to these connections.

"As for eternal objects and God in Whitehead’s cosmology, it seems to me that they are not deployed in order to answer the question of how things can influence other things. Rather, they are there in order to answer a quite different question: that of how novelty is possible, of how creativity takes place, of how things can be something other than just repetitions of previous things.

"To get back to Latour — he says in The Prince and the Wolf that he is not as much of an actualist as Harman makes him out to be, precisely because he does not conceive things in 'punctual' terms. Where Harman seeks to revive a notion of substance in order to get away from the contemporary overvaluation of relations, Latour poses the issue quite differently. Several times in the book he says that, precisely because we can no longer accept the notion of substance, the question that exercises him the most is one of subsistence.... Indeed, Latour hints that his still-unpublished exploration of different modes of being (under the influence of Souriau) is really about different ways of subsisting. There are multiple modes of being, because there are multiple ways in which entities, without being substances, nonetheless subsist over time (and also, I would suspect, through space).

"Latour adds that what he now sees as the defect of his early treatise 'Irreductions' (part of the Pasteur book) is that it is in fact too 'punctual' — it presents as points what are really vectors. Now, 'vectors' is very much a Whiteheadian term as well — Whitehead insists on the vector quality of existence — and for Latour, vectors are important because they involve both movements of translation and transportation, and processes of subsistence.... For Latour (as for Whitehead, and in contrast to Harman) everything has 'descendants and ascendants' [I suspect that what Latour meant by the latter word was 'antecedents']."

Here, I definitely lean more in the direction of Latour or Whitehead than Harman or Bryant -- to the extent that the latter attempt to describe objects which can exist apart from all relations.  As we've discussed several times before, this just doesn't seem to hold up.  I think they make a good point that objects are detachable from (many) present relations, and therefore aren't wholly and exclusively determined by or reducible to them, but in my view there are other ways they remain related -- internally (to their own parts and processes, to the larger universe which provided the parts that constitute them, therefore to their own and to other objects' past(s); and for living systems, to the ongoing circulation of elements which are necessary to their autopoiesis or self-making, etc).

I'd like to read more of Shaviro on his understanding of eternal objects.  Harman objects to the idea that eternal objects explain change and creativity, insisting instead that eternal objects are unchanging and that they only allow for new arrangements of eternally existing qualities rather than for anything genuinely new.

The emphasis on vectors above aligns not only with Latour/Souriau, but also with Serres (another prepositional philosopher).

The debate previously linked has been removed due to a book being published on it, The Prince and the Wolf. One can get a peek at the free Google preview.

And finally from the OOO thread:

Two vlogs on Latour's Gifford Lectures, posted over on Matt's Footnotes2Plato.

And here is the first of Latour's Gifford Lectures: Facing Gaia.

Discussing a "political theology of nature," in which he articulates homeomorphic equivalencies across these domains.

The text to all six lectures can be found here:


Bonnie's Magellan Courses are just beginning a free telecourse on Bruno Latour's Gifford Lectures.  The recording of the first concall is available here.

Re-reading a section of Latours chapter in TST reminded me of a connection I made between prepositions as linguistic extensions of image schema, and thus a candidate for a metalinguistic organizing principle. Latour said:

"At the beginning of this presentation, I cited the sentences where Souriau was linking his project with that of James on prepositions as things we experience directly even though the first kind of empiricism has always denied it. ‘Here we would be in a world where the or rather, or the because of, the for, and above all the and then, and thus, would be true existences'" (331).

Latour or Souriau don't relate prepositions to image schema; I did that. But we can see the implication of prepositions via image schema "as things we experience directly."

Also in that section Latour goes into how philosophers get attached to a particular mode when in fact there are multiple modes. Latour noted that there must be a way to "enchain" the modes, i.e., integrate them. He suggests "variation itself.... difference differs even more differently" (331). I referenced this earlier in the thread as differance, and how later in the thread this is the withdrawn endo-relational structure of our known pluriverse.

Balder: This might be relevant for your paper in progress?

Sean shared with me a recent interview with Latour that was just published.  I wish I had known about this when I was working on my paper!  (I will also link to it on the thread I start for Latour’s work.)  I’m posting it here because of your recent comments about differance. 

JT: So your innovation was to apply such a perspective to the sciences: more medi­ation as a good thing, along with this ‘hiatus’, which calls for constant renewal and remaking. And of course this is how you described networks in general, long before AIME: in Irreductions (in Latour, 1988), in particular, you empha­sized that this constant process of maintaining, and adding, is not artificial: this is what being is. In AIME, you call this ‘l’être-en-tant-qu’autre’, but for a long time, this is how you’ve said all sorts of things – every sort of thing – exists. And you’ve connected it to Deleuze, and Péguy, and what Philippe Montebello (2003) calls ‘l’autre métaphysique’. But you also argue that this is not particular to the mode of existence you call ‘Networks’, or even to another mode, ‘Reproduction’ – the term you use in AIME to describe the work of collective entities, or societies as Whitehead (1976) calls them, in persisting in being.

BL: No, no! All of them are like that, not just networks. But it was only later that I realized that networks are just one of the modes, a meta-mode – a mode that is very good at multiplying connections, but not for listening to differences. The differences had to be found instead in the mode that I am calling the ‘preposi­tions’, or the antecedents. In this sense, what I’m doing is very much akin to Austin: a sort of ontological form of speech act theory. If you could ontologize speech act theory, you would get the concept of modes of existence.

On page 68 of the thread, I noted that Latour’s plurimodal approach struck me as a version, or the beginnings of a version, of IMP.  In what he says below, I think he confirms this (Sean notes he touches on the Big 3 here), but I think it’s interesting that he’s also questioning the modern notion of domains (on which Integral also relies) and is arguing for more of a braiding or a knotting of modes…

JT: So how is what you’re proposing – defining what belongs to science, what belongs to religion, what belongs to fiction or art – how is that different first of all, from the work of ‘purifying’ objects from subjects that was so important in your negative definition of the Moderns? And also, if it is different, how do you go about doing it?

BL: Well, that’s exactly what the inquiry is all about. All situations are mixed, that’s what you realize every time. In every situation, if you begin to do a network analysis, you will realize that, to the surprise of the people trying to make a purified domain. Babbage, for instance, is simultaneously a theologian, a politi­cian, a scientist, etc. That’s why we have never been modern, because we have never lived in these separated domains. But the fact that there are heterogeneous connections doesn’t mean that you cannot ‘color’ these connections. There are little bits and pieces, which give a different tone. So if you had said to Babbage with his machine: ‘You have written a beautiful novel about what the future of calculation will be’, he would be angry, even though he was indeed doing this, in a way; and Babbage’s anger would have to be registered. But not by saying ‘You’re just doing science’, which he obviously is not, but by saying, ‘OK, in this cosmogram that you are building, there are a few segments that had to be attached by a connectedness that is, for lack of a better term, scientific. Why? And why are you at the same time fighting for your rights by writing a patent, etc. If it’s all about science, why do you care?’ Ah: He has a few lines here that seem to be interested in transporting a connectedness and a type of association which we would call legal. The portrayal of associations is important, and has to be done every time, because it’s always heterogeneous and multimodal. But you don’t hear the harmonics between all these modes if you describe all of them by saying, well, Babbage is simultaneously doing science, politics, reli­gion. No! He’s not simultaneously doing science, politics, religion, because the association is much more refined than that, and it’s very important that this part of a network and this little bit of association be scientific, and not legal, and not fictional, etc. So, that’s why I compare it to going from a black and white to a color vision of an activity. It’s good to see in color. I mean, you could have black and white, but it would be a pity because there are colors which count a lot for these guys and they want to be able to distinguish them: this is red and not yel­low. And if we are not able to register these contrasts, our accounts of what happened to these networks will be limited.

… And if you don’t have a vocabulary to describe and register those colors, those differences, people will fall back on the old language of domains, and say, ‘let’s not mix science with politics, etc., etc.’ Science studies has been very good at unfolding the diversity of the associations, but as long as there is not a successor to the notion of domains, we’re stuck, because people will always fall back on this language. And they’re right: because what they want is a way to register, to hear these distinctions, which are there... It’s like having a nose with a very great ability to distinguish small differences and being speechless when you have to describe them. So my outlandish interpretation is to say that the Moderns have been able to detect all these values, but they have never actually spent any time determining what they were. And they enshrined them into domains: this is science, this is religion, this is law. Luhmann made his systems out of these things, in an argument that does not hold up to a single inquiry – but that was because he didn’t have another vocabulary. So they’re right, those who say there is something missing when you say there are no domains: there are, but the question is how do you register them. Science in its official version is very badly registered with this subject/object dichotomy. Nothing is justifiable and solidly established with the subject/object divide, because reference chains have nothing to do with that. That’s where the diplomacy comes in.

JT: You present AIME as preparing for a new form of diplomacy. This is where you’re going to take someone who is a lawyer, or an artist, or a scientist, and take a project of theirs, or an object of theirs, and apply your definition to it, and ask them, for the scientist for example: ‘Does this work for you? Do you agree that this element, this strand, is the color of science, but this strand, is also eco­nomic, and this strand is technical, and this strand is aesthetic? And what exactly is crucial about this one strand which defines you, the science strand, which to you is the fundamental definition?’ I’d like to hear more about how you plan to operationalize the next part of the project.

In the interview in the last post Latour is discussing how difference is in the mode of prepositions. And these antecedents can be organized into speech act theory, an ontology of the modes. Which is what I've been getting at in my recent comments, only using image schemata (stigmata) which pre-date linguistic prepositions. I'm recalling L&J's basic categories, how we differentiate ourselves from an environment, as well as Bryant's translation. And of course differance per se.

"I think it’s interesting that he’s also questioning the modern notion of domains (on which Integral also relies) and is arguing for more of a braiding or a knotting of modes…"

Which is what I was getting at in the last series of posts in the OOO thread with the Borromean knot. One point of which is that "all situations are mixed," not really in one domain (or quadrant or zone) only. Domains are useful but not pure, always contaminated, a lesson from the progenitor of all domains, differance.

You might remember early in the thread I was also posting pictures of various types of knots, beyond the Borromean (which is, as inthesaltmine also points out, perhaps still a bit limited, and still echoing "domains").  It gets at the linking, and the potential separability, but other knot structures get at the complex entanglement of modes that Latour seems to be suggesting.  I need to understand knot theory better to know whether this intuition has merit, but I have been thinking that "wild knots" might be a good symbol (esp. if we retain Latour's "irreduction," or my reading of it: objects being irreducible because they are also ongoingly reducible).

To clarify, wild knots are, in some sense, bottomless: their strands, while entangled, recede off indefinitely, with no final closure.  This suggests, to me, ongoing potential for enactment (reduction, analysis, unfolding, insight) 'in and through' any of the modes or strands of inquiry, which in each discipline and with each researcher assume various unique braids...

"You might remember early in the thread I was also posting pictures of various types of knots, beyond the Borromean (which is, as inthesaltmine also points out, perhaps still a bit limited, and still echoing 'domains')."

Indeed. Recall I said in this OOO post:

But my Muse immediately spoke and said: "But even those that promote hyperbolic space assume it is something that exists independently of the objects within it, a matrix in which objects move and have their being." And here I'd agree with Bryant (and Einstein) that space curves under the gravitational force of mass. And it doesn't do so in perfectly geometrical or mathematical forms like some sort of Platonic ideals. Mass is not perfectly or evenly distributed so the curvatures of space so produced are rather quite twisted, thus making our abstract attempts to iron them out into perfect forms rather vain and narcissistic. Hence even hyperbolic Borromean knots are just too tidy and perfect, and assumes that ideal spaces and forms presage material forms in some sort of involution.

Oh, yes, I remember.  What do you think of my second, clarifying post above?  I don't think the (Latour-influenced) use of knots I described there entails any such presuppositions.

Reply to Discussion


What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2019   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service