Latour Gifford Lectures 2013: A Question of Agency (2/6)

  1. Blind watchmaker against blind watchmaker. Foundations based purely on who built what.
  2. Latour’s ‘translation table’ gets another showing.
  3. Requires endless translations and transformations.
  4. Theos (entity) Nomos (agency) Demos (people).
  5. At no point in Hume’s dialogue does he encounter the very way of acting religiously.
  6. One regime of truth. Umbrellas, mistresses, religion (!) One size fits all for Hume.
  7. Natural religion sweeps across all 16 dimensions in the table.
  8. Nature 1 and Religion 1 alongside each other. ‘natural religion’.
  9. Features of nature imparted on religion and poured back over nature.
  10. Chain of references darting between each. Table to follow.
  11. To call something scientific – taking a risk.
  12. Must rely on translation after translation.
  13. Relativism brings anxieties to scientists (!)
  14. Humble material activity vs. Mysterious nature of scientific revelation.
  15. Accept the humble nature of scientific endeavour. Nothing wrong in admitting this.
  16. Climatologists: stand on your own ground!
  17. Rich anthropological reportoire – how would we know the world without it?
  18. No outside supreme court of nature. Talking about matters of fact.
  19. Multiverse / secularity / non-naturalists / non-modern collectives.
  20. Latour has been using Hume’s Dialogues as a framework for this lecture today.
  21. Aaand over. Questions to follow. Again, apologies for the stream of tweets.
  22. Question 1: main points of the lecture?
  23. Rearrangement of the categories of nature and religion.
  24. Not the name but the attributes that matter. No anthro in anthropocene per se. Classic Latour in a nutshell.
  25. As an aside, Latour is rocking a lively Jackson Pollock-esque tie today. #blgiff
  26. Another question on anxiety/(lack of) authority of scientific worldviews.
  27. More Qs on social sciences and Catholicism.

Latour Gifford Lectures 2013: Once Out of Nature (1/6)

  1. Latour opening his series of Gifford Lectures with a quote from Patrick Geddes…
  2. Geddes was a Scottish urban planner. Designed the garden city plan for Tel Aviv.
  3. The concept of earth as a ‘geohistorical’ narrative.
  4. Science as practice / politics as non-human too / religion freed from political epistemology
  5. Lectures as ‘mediations on a political theology of nature’.
  6. Introduces the term ‘oowwab’ (out of which we are born) to replace ‘people of nature’.
  7. Actually, it should be OWWAAB. Out of which we are all born. Apologies. Too many Os, Ws and As.
  8. Work will revolve around ‘animation’ of entities.
  9. The expression ‘nature’ doesn’t define what is assembled in practice.
  10. Nor does ‘religion’ qualify the people, rites and attachments proper to those practices.
  11. Exteriority and universality as exercised above agency by those who are religious.
  12. Gaia as inside and outside, unified and multiple, animate and inanimate, controversial and decided.
  13. Questions from the floor to follow. Apologies for the stream of tweets.
  14. Latour gives a shout-out to Haraway. And considers that ‘care’ is something that should be worked with more. #blgiff
  15. The enthusiasm of the surgeons shows clearly enough that we can not distinguish “belief” from “knowledge”.
  16. Ironically climatologists the most interested and worried about state of the world, despite scientific distance.
  17. A rather relevant tweet from @LatourBot re: belief and knowledge of epistemic groups.

Latour’s Gifford Lectures

The 1/6 was last night. All of them are being streamed live by Edinburgh here, which is a pretty decent quality save for a few freezes. 2/6 is tonight at 17.30. 3/6 is Thursday night and the following 3 are on Monday (25th), Tuesday (26th) and Thursday (27th) next week.

I was tweeting the key points from last night’s opening lecture ‘Once Out of Nature’ and intend to do so for the remaining 5 (@samhind10). I also uploaded a number of slides that were presented alongside as quick as I was able to printscreen them, save to my dropbox folder and upload them to my mobile phone. Sometimes there are benefits to watching a lecture on a laptop screen from your bedroom instead of actually being there.

The next post is a collection of the tweets from lecture 1 made using Storify.

Stiegler interviewed by O’Gorman

In Configurations 18 (3) Fall (2010). There’s a mention of Latour within:

Latour is a high-ranking philosophy professor [agrégé de philosophie], a philosopher, but he is in a state of philosophical denial [une dénégation philosophique]. For example, he will not put up with phenomenology, he will not bear transcendental questions, etcetera. He asserts an empiricism, an associationism, which is certainly something very efficient and very fruitful. But at the same time, I always have the impression, because of this denial, that there is a certain blindness, a certain naïveté even, in Latour’s reasoning process, a certain cynicism. (463-464)

Stiegler finds interest in Latour’s focus on the ‘banal “thingness” of the thing’ (464) that he thinks philosophy has had a tendency to pass by. Ultimately though it seems he’s a little put off by Latour’s distaste for phenomenology and transcendentalism that I think Stiegler still sees as being the experiential seeds of life (albeit an already technical one). Latour believes this is a narrowing of the world to mere human experience (whether or not this is a technical one). Presumably, then, Latour and Stiegler are going to contest whether the ‘thingness’ of the thing is separate from our conception of it – or whether the human subject’s access to the thing is thus the only way to conceive of the thing. Latour doesn’t think so; Stiegler does (?).

In another passage he discusses Simondon and his theory of individuation:

He shows that psychic individuation is never purely psychic; it is always already social. I believe that if psychic individuation is always already collective, it is because it is also a technical individuation. I have tried to show, drawing on Simondon, that psychic individuation attains social individuation by means of technical individuation, and by interiorizing technical individuation. And this is what I call the phenomenon of transindividuation—it’s a phenomenon of selection. (466)

It’s this psychic as collective that’s so important to Stiegler’s (political) project. Moreover, it’s that the psychic individuation as already collective individuation is courtesy of/via technical individuation that enables Stiegler to focus on the technicity of human life and it’s wiring through technical objects. Again though I think Stiegler has a tendency to not only downplay the autonomy of technical objects but also to assume a uni-directional role (technology writing/scripting/defining humans). His enduring aim is to re-evaluate the constitution of humanity through technology, and that as memory aids, technical objects structure human life from within that life (or, ‘stabilizes a repetition’ – 462).

Latour’s (1996 – Aramis) notion of ‘quasi-objects’ moves two degrees beyond Stiegler, I think. Not just that this is a bi-directional process (technology writing/scripting/defining humans and humans w/s/d technology) like a game of table tennis, but that this is an already human-technical collective/assemblage (albeit with kernels of human and object withdrawn – like Graham Harman might suggest). Thus I think Stiegler doesn’t pay enough attention to the ‘event’. That is, the instances, moments or situations in which this techno-human life is played out, when one can maybe pull apart, interrogate, unravel etc. the human and non-human – however difficult this may prove. Rather, he too quickly assumes a generalized ‘we have always been technical’ thesis.

I’m going to read another interview with Stiegler in Theory, Culture & Society tomorrow and will go through ‘Relational Ecology and the Digital Pharmakon’ (2012) at Culture Machine too.  I’ll post if anything sparks my interest.


Halsall Interviews Latour

There is a new issue of Society and Space hot off the press which, amongst other things (including a heart-warming set of tributes to the late Neil Smith) includes a short interview with Bruno Latour as conducted by Francis Halsall. It’s mainly on art and his ongoing Modes of Existence project. Although it does turn nicely into a discussion of the Enlightenment and the Gaia hypothesis, which is the subject of his upcoming Gifford Lecture Series at University of Edinburgh, outlined below:

Facing Gaia. A new inquiry into Natural Religion

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia, this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression of “natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite notion of ‘’natural religion’’.

There will be 6 lectures in total from 18 February – 28 February 2012. The details of which can be found in this publicity PDF.