Bruno Latour

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 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.

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    The links in my post just above are from this research group discussion.  I lost track of the discussion (and also set his book aside while working on other things), so thank you for the reminder.  I will dip back in.

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    Edward theurj Berge

    I read Conway's analysis of the Intro and chapter 1, along with the voluminous commentary. It is making a point I recently made elsewhere, that this thing called modernity is a western affair. The initial post challenges that it is 'western' in that others from other parts of the world are modern too. But only in so far as they have been educated in western institutions, implying that if left to their own cultural devices they would not be 'modern.' Thus it's a matter of class; the elite class gets a western education and enters modernity.

    Conway accepts per Latour that it's possible for "Chinese or Indian scientists and engineers have different concepts of science, objectivity and progress than European ones." But Conway says that Latour doesn't prove it, merely asserts it. Conway seems to be arguing that there is a universalism to modernity, yet per about this appears to come about by the west's influence on other cultures and not vice-versa. Conway does pay lip service to the latter idea in that non-Europeans "have, in one way or another, contributed to those institutions broadly claimed to be ‘European.’" But like his criticism of Latour he doesn't say in what ways they have contributed to the notions of modernity.

    I'm left with still wondering about how this thing called modernity might be, per Latour, more a western cultural artifact along with all its inherent assumptions. And if you don't accept them you aren't modern. And even worse, primitive.

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    Edward theurj Berge

    From Footnotes2Plato FB post:

    "I'm participating in a reading group with about 40 other scholars focusing on Bruno Latour's recently published book An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (2013). This week it is my turn to comment on Ch. 4, which is titled "Learning to Make Room." I'm going to cross-post my comments here, as well as on the blog we've set up for the reading group."