Chapter 4: Learning to Make Room — Introducing the Beings of Reproduction, Instituting ‘A Whole New Diplomacy’

Author: Matthew David Segall


In chapter 4 of his inquiry into modes of existence, Latour begins the difficult task of appropriately ennunciating how it came to be that the Moderns, despite having conquered the whole world, still lack the room to deploy the values — legal, moral, fictional, political, economical, spiritual, psychological — that they so cherish. Even the values of physical science became impossible to localize and equip after the entire earth and sky were submerged in an abstract space-time filled by the mathematical motion of matter-energy. Where, it must be asked, is the Mind that measures, calculates, and understands the infinite system of the Universe standing? On whose authority was this Mind granted access to the Ideas at work in Nature? Latour’s inquiry into the modes of existence cannot even begin until after the Cartesian Constitution leading us to repeat such poorly posed questions has been torn to shreds.


There is hope for the values of the Moderns, if only they are willing to give up all the bad habits and confused composites that come along with the “institution of matter” (118). Ecologizing Modernity will require instituting “a whole new diplomacy” (103) adequate to a pluriverse in which neither Nature nor the Mind can be said to exist. The alternative non-Naturalist, non-Idealist Constitution that Latour is trying to annunciate has summoned many modes of existence to the negotiating table. In chapter 4, Latour turns his attention to the difficult task of introducing us to the beings of reproduction [REP]. He also attempts disamalgamate a poorly formed composite causing a confusion of the beings of reproduction with the immutable mobiles of reference [REP ~ REF]. This confusion is the “double category mistake” through which “the notion of ‘matter’ emerges” (110). Poor Descartes gets blamed for more than his fair share of philosophical damage (we might at least admire his genius before we shame him for his mistakes), but Latour cannot avoid dating the emergence of the idea of matter to his (in)famous meditations. After Descartes, the Modern world “[begins] to believe that the thought of matter describes real things, whereas it is only the way the res cogitans–itself dreamed up–is going to start imagining matter” (110).


Imagine instead that the nascent, still scattered people of Gaia are waking up from Descartes’ dream. Imagine that the flood of Materialism has receded, and that all the faux battles waged by “spiritualists” against “reductionists” have grown quiet for lack of interest. Imagine you are an Earthling once again, returned from outer space to re-inhabit the solid ground of common sense experience. The interlacing ecological complexity of our common sense world of earth and sky, of plants, animals, and persons, makes the mathematizable quantum and relativistic realms of science look like “child’s play” in comparison (120). The world of common sense experience is more unfathomable, more mysterious, than the micro- and macroscopic worlds described by physicists, since, as Latour reminds his readers, the former “has been infinitely less explored than the other!” Latour wants to re-introduce Moderns — a people so obsessed with their theories of matter that they’ve entirely neglected the material practices that make these theories possible — to the beings of reproduction [REP] that, for several centuries now, have been so rudely silenced by the bizarre institution of matter. One of these beings, Gaia — no longer content to remain the unacknowledged background of human history — is now intruding to return the favor by rudely ignoring the Modern pretension to a risk free, double-click Science that might grant total control over a 3+1 dimensional world, as if this world were made of pure “knowability” (112, 121). Such a world would leave no room for life. Luckily, Gaia is no homogeneous substance or geometrical form, but a proliferating ecology of expressive, inventive, and active beings, each of whom, like us, is at risk from moment to moment of disappearing forever should they fail to be articulate, original, or insistent enough to subsist as themselves in an environs swarming with differences (99-101). Latour introduces us to the beings of reproduction [REP] so that the “matter” of materialism, “the most idealist of the products of the mind,” can be de-idealized (106).


Even the so-called “inert” entities of the inorganic world forcefully insist and express themselves. The concept of “force” that has proven so irreplaceable to physicists in their study of microscopic particles and far away galaxies is, we should remember, a concept that emerges from and gains its meaning only by continual reference to experience, to our feelings of attraction or repulsion, of being forced, in one way or another, by the insistent presence of an other. As Schelling, speaking to the Newtonian scientist, wrote in his Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature (1803), “you can in no way make intelligible what a force might be independent of you. For force as such makes itself known only to your feeling. Yet feeling alone gives you no objective concepts. At the same time you make objective use of those forces. For you explain the movement of celestial bodies — universal gravitation — by forces of attraction and maintain that in this…you have [a physical ground of explanation for] these phenomena” (transl. by Harris and Heath, CUP, 1988, p. 18).  In point of fact, experience can grant us no such physical principles, if by “physical” it is meant that which exists “outside” experience, in the so-called “external world” of mute matter in motion. All our scientific knowledge of distant quasars and black holes hits its mark, not because the Mind has correctly represented the formal essences of Nature, but because our organism (equipped with its world-wide network of geometrical notations, telescopes, satellites, computers, and well-trained peers) has succeeding in translating the lines of force at work outside itself into the feelings of life at work within itself. All our knowledge, no matter how abstract, must make its final appeal in the courtroom of experience, since the court of Reason, having disavowed the the facts of feeling involved in all its acts of knowing, has as a result been cut off from its only means of relation to concrete reality. If everything were submerged in abstract “space-time/matter-energy,” science could never follow the threads of experience, could never arrive at the immanence of a truly de-idealized material (106).


It is not entirely clear at this point if Latour is willing to follow Schelling and Whitehead all the way to a full-blown panexperiential ontology. But what is obvious is that the beings of reproduction [REP], whether physical “lines of force” or biological “lineages,” do not mutely persist like undead zombies: to keep on existing as material existents, they must loudly insist that their values matter. Else they risk extinction. There is no “blind necessity” maintaining the substance of these beings. They can never rest inertly in a simultaneous sameness, nor can they succeed at succession through mere inertial momentum. The beings of reproduction must continually re-produce themselves by passing into and through others, taking little leaps to cross the hiatuses punctuating this world at every twist and turn of its becoming. These tiny transcendences force beings to risk passing through each other in order to remain in existence as themselves: “To obtain being, otherness is required. Sameness is purchased, as it were, at the price of alterations” (110).


When Science forgets the beings of reproduction [REP] by confusing them with its own mode of existence [REF], the formal knowledge produced and employed by it begins to seem as though it dropped into the minds of scientists from heaven. Luckily, the careful practice of scientific abstraction can easily be shown to be a concrete job at every step (110). The material universe referenced [REF] by Modern Science is not made up of objective facts that might speak for themselves and so put an end to every human debate (119). Rather, scientific knowledge “is the labor of a whole chain of proof workers, from those whose hands are black with dirt to those whose hands are white with chalk” (110). Science is a local practice, after all. Its knowledge [REF] is relative to the subsistence [REP] of its networks. Scientists–including their “languages, bodies, ideas, and institutions” (102)–are beings of reproduction [REP] contingently composed and recomposed from moment to moment by the same lineages and lines of force they pretend to study as “matter” whenever it appears “outside” themselves. We need not fear the eternal silence of infinite space, nor the mute mindlessness of inert matter. No, we have never been Modern, we have never lived in a geometrical space, and “this whole matter of matter has to have remained just a simple mind game” (117). We can imagine another, more coherent world: a world that leaves us room not only to think, but to breathe, to live. If we grow sensitive again to the multitude of earthly existents within and around us — to the swarming differences articulating the face of Gaia — maybe we can annunciate an ecological alternative to Modernity before it is too late, before the “grave events” (122) already expected of the coming century ramify so severely that the adventure of civilization has its unacknowledged ground pulled out from beneath its feet. Perhaps Hegel was partially right: after several thousand years of self-negation, human history has reached its end. But it has ended only so the Moderns (or the people who come after them) might reawaken to the multi-billion year geostory they have been sleepwalking through.


So, can we follow Laour’s diagnosis of the “sort of coherent madness” (115) motivating Modernity’s mistaken amalgamations and bifurcations? Are we ready to give up the Mind of Science, with its universal Knowledge and its obedient Nature, in exchange for the far messier pluriversal practices of the well-equipped sciences? Are we willing to welcome the lively beings of reproduction back to the negotiating table, or must we continue to drown out their multiplex voices in a Flood of res extensa-cogitans (112)? Are we ready yet to grasp the modes of existence, not as different representations of the same underlying reality (that discovered and described by Science), but as uniquely enacted realities, each in their own right?

24 responses to “Chapter 4: Learning to Make Room — Introducing the Beings of Reproduction, Instituting ‘A Whole New Diplomacy’

  1. A fascinating and innovative chapter. He is no longer ‘arguably’ an ontological realist. For years he claimed that status in rhetoric but often contradicted his claim in argument. Now he has a firm basis for his ontology, not in matter but in the entities of [rep].

    This part is absolutely key, for me: “In the end, when everything works, when the network is in place, access is indeed obtained; you put your finger on a map, a document, a screen, and you have in your hand for real, incontestably, a crater of the Moon, a cancerous cell deep within a liver, a model of the origin of the universe. You really do have the world at your fingertips. There is no limit to knowledge.” (109)

    A firm, undeniable statement against ‘relativism.’ For years he has promised or implied such a commitment but never really been able to articulate it. The idea of a mode of existence comprising physical things is certainly an eccentric one but I’m beginning to think that he might just pull it off.

    Do the hard work and the world is yours – but don’t try to take shortcuts.

    The argument that ‘matter = knowability, therefore is idealist’ is really well made. A huge challenge to the ‘new materialists’ who so often appropriate his work without seeming to really understand it.

    • Re-reading the above I should add that, of course, all the modes are equally real – that’s the point of them – but as a sign of outward intent, an assertion of intellectual will, it’s [rep] that really does the job. I do hope that some people, somewhere are scandalised by such naive realism!

  2. Pingback: Reflections on Bruno Latour’s “An Inquiry into Modes of Existence,” Ch. 4: Learning to Make Room | Footnotes 2 Plato

  3. Another thought. (Yes, I’m having a conversation with myself but that isn’t unusual.)

    Take the mountain we keep coming back to. Is the mountain a being of REP? It certainly seems like it. The archetype, no? But take a trip through some basic geology and you’ll understand that were a mountain to exist as it simply appears – a pointy lump of rock with some snow on top – it would have weathered away to nothing millions of years ago. The mountain is reproduced by far larger geological processes of plate tectonics, etc. The process that reproduces the mountain is far larger than the mountain itself and therefore how can we call the mountain a being of REP? Passing through REF mustn’t we understand it as only *part* of a being of REP?

    What warrants the assertion that a being is one of REP? Does it matter? I’m not entirely sure.

    • Phillip, thanks for raising this issue. I’m not sure if Latour has said enough for us to make this determination regarding what counts as a being of REP yet. Whitehead would apply the distinction between a heap or aggregate and a whole or organism to help sort this out. Only organisms would count as genuine beings of REP; but remember for Whitehead atoms are included as a species of organism right alongside plants and animals. When it comes to mountains, it is impossible to say where one mountain ends and another begins. Perhaps Latour would say that the primary being of REP is Gaia. But this doesn’t help all that much, since Gaia is also embedded in a larger being that needs to reproduce itself: the solar system.

      • Yes, we learn a bit more about this in the chapter on habits. HAB (spoiler alert!) is effectively the mode of black boxes – it is what individuates multiplicities, what makes chains of ‘mini-transcendences’ into flows. I don’t think he answers the question of individuation as I’ve articulated it here he gives us some clues.

        It goes to show how complex this system is that the book is so long and detailed but there are still many important questions that are left unanswered or only answered quite schematically.

  4. Matt and Philip, like you I look forward to more on REP in later chapters. But the passage on “beings of reproduction” at 100-01 in the present chapter makes a notable addition, for it appears to turn Mont Aiguille into something akin to a romantic poet insofar as it insists that it is better to see these “beings” as “express[ing] themselves” than to see them as “prelinguistic.”


    • Yes, that bit is very important and Latour comes back to it several times in different ways later in the book. He acknowledges that there is far more to reality than language (of course) but tries to get away from the notion that language in any way ‘overlays’ other things or that things are in any way disconnected or disarticulated without it. The basic point seems to be that language is one kind of *articulation* among others. Non-linguistic beings are still capable of articulation therefore to speak of them as ‘pre-linguistic’ is very misleading. They are non-linguistic but that doesn’t make them ‘lack’ anything. Also, it implies that that things can be experienced without being enveloped within language (so they don’t have to become linguistic in order to be experienced). That’s a fundamental departure from e.g. poststructuralism. Important also is the recognition that language isn’t a mode (although fiction is).

      • All very helpful points, Philip. …and thanks for the HAB spoiler (and accompanying alert). I haven’t been reading ahead, so it’s nice to hear about what’s on its way.

        One point of contention: I don’t think Latour is making a fundamental departure from poststructuralism, at least not all of poststructuralism. I know a lot of American poststructuralists hang out on the same corner as social constructionists and linguistic idealists, but I think plenty of poststructuralists would agree that things can be experienced without being enveloped in language. That is certainly true for Deleuze, who is perfectly happy philosophizing about things outside of language and even about total nonsense outside of any expression or semiotic relation. It might even be true for Mr. nothing-outside-the text: Derrida. In the new book by the American deconstructionist John Caputo (The Insistence of God), he argues that, “on the level of theory, Latour has nothing to add to Derrida.” I think Caputo’s overstating it, but the overall point is that, regarding philosophical theory, Latour isn’t really that far off from poststructuralism. Hanging out on the same corner? Maybe not, but definitely on the same street (probably a Parisian street).

      • Sam, I have a two-parter for you: In your reading would you say that Derrida holds a similar position as Latour when Latour writes that language is only one articulation amongst many in the cosmos? Following on from this question, does Derrida have much to say about how nonhuman articulations encounter one another when humans are not on the scene? I’m interested in digging into this further if you the time to expand.

      • @ Sam

        Well, I’d question to what extent Deleuze was a ‘poststructuralist.’ Being a famous French philosopher from the ’60s to the ’90s doesn’t necessarily make one a poststructuralist necessarily. Where is de Saussure in Deleuze’s work, for example? I’m sure he’s there, everyone is, but he doesn’t hold the same place as he does for the likes of Derrida or even Foucault. Deleuze was more interested in the likes of Nietzsche, Spinoza, James and Whitehead – precisely the same people that Latour is drawing on. And while everyone drew on Nietzsche they did so in very different ways. Latour’s version is much more like Deleuze’s than, say, Foucault’s.

        In my mind to be a poststructuralist is to be a language-centrist. It’s phenomenology+linguistics (at risk of vastly oversimplifying things). I’d be happy for people to correct my impression on that but that’s been my working assumption for quite some time and it’s never failed me yet. At grad school I was taught in definitive and explicit terms that, and I quote, “language only relates to language.” That was the poststructuralist party line; its central tenet. If anyone strays outside that then, for me, they’re leaving poststructuralism.

        And as for Caputo’s claims, if he’s saying that of Latour’s work as a whole rather than just one or two specific parts of it then that’s clearly complete bullshit. I’ve not read his book but… come on. Anyone who can’t see the differences between Derrida and Latour really shouldn’t be in the business of public philosophical discourse. If Latour is ‘already in’ Derrida then Derrida is already in Kant and, as we know, everyone is just a footnote to Plato anyway. Latour definitely doesn’t acknowledge his debts to the likes of Derrida and (particularly) Deleuze as much as he should but to say that he says nothing that Derrida hadn’t already – I just don’t know where to begin with that.

  5. Good questions, Adam. I don’t know, but I’ll say a little in defense of Caputo’s defense of Derrida. First, would Derrida agree that language is only one articulation among many in the cosmos? Yes. Derrida’s cosmology is full of multiplicities of articulations, numerous genres that are outside of language (even if they aren’t outside of the contextual textures he calls “text”). Of course, Derrida is very oblique and never really “holds” anything like “a position” in the singular, but he definitely criticizes the speciesism and language-centrism or logocentrism pervading the history of philosophy, and he affirms the deconstruction of nature/culture dualisms. Second, does Derrida say much about encounters between nonhuman articulations sans humans? He talks about animal-world relations, but aside from that, not much…at least not directly. Derrida never really says much about anything as much as he un-says things (like apophatic theology), touching on topics with so much tact that he never makes explicit contact. The good news is that he could be talking about object-object relations; the bad new is that he could be talking about anything, any other, any arrivant (“strange stranger” in Morton’s translation), any whatever (aliquid). Pluralistic realism? Sure. In any case, even if Derrida is a realist (like Michael Marder says, or hyper-realist, as Caputo says), he is far too vague for someone like Harman (see his critique of Nancy, who is very similar to Derrida but more explicitly object-oriented). Caputo’s point is that, at the level of theory, Latour isn’t adding anything. You could use the insights of deconstruction to analyze the relationship between a couch and the floor, Derrida just didn’t explicitly make that application. At the level of application, Latour clearly outdoes Derrida in explicitly specifying things. In any case, Caputo seems a little curmudgeonly with some of these comments. New realism makes him nervous.

    • Good points. I’m happy to accept that Derrida leaves open the possibility of Latour’s modes work but to say that he has already done it ahead of time is nonsense. Accepting the possibility of many modes of articulation is not the same as actually producing an account of them. At best Derrida is a ‘pre-position’ for Latour’s subsequent trajectories. That’s not nothing but it’s not everything either.

      The Derrida-as-realist line of argument is pretty laughable (if Derrida was a realist then surely he always was, so why are these realist readings only being produced now?). At best they can say that he leaves the door open to various realist claims. And that’s fine. I’ve got nothing against Derrida, in fact ‘leaving the door open’ is a perfectly valid philosophical conclusion. It’s not Derrida that’s the problem, it’s his teat-suckling acolytes.

      • I couldn’t agree more about the teat-suckling acolytes…and I like the image of Derrida with nourishing teats. One of the things that precipitated the Derrida-as-realist accounts is Derrida’s claim that Jean-Luc Nancy (a very Heidiegerrian deconstructionist) is a post-deconstructive realist. That is a big motivation behind Michael Marder’s realist Derrida. Another big factor is Graham Harman’s account of Heidegger as a realist (another relatively laughable idea, although not as funny as a realist Derrida). If Heidegger’s account of a reality withdrawn from presence counts as realism, then surely so does Derrida’s deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence and his argument that “every other is wholly other” (tout autre est tout autre). All that aside, I find Caputo’s treatment of this very annoying. He’s basically saying that his guy can do anything that the new theorists can do and his guy did it earlier and did it better. A bit cantankerous.

      • @ sam

        Yes, the teat-suckling is a vivid image, if I do say so myself. Maybe a little too vivid! It’s a common trope among senior academics, though – ‘oh but it’s all been done before’. It’s a kind of self-reinforcement. It’s effectively saying ‘I’ve seen it all before, it’s nothing new to me – aren’t I so clever?’

        One thing that is genuinely admirable about Latour, in spite of his various faults, is that he actively encourages people to take up his ideas and extend them, change them, betray them even. While he has, at this point, a very large army of followers I never get the sense that there’s a programme to be followed; a project to be participated in, yes, but not a programme to be followed. Actor-network theory, for instance, is to a tremendous extent based on his work but it’s also massively heterogeneous and nobody ever seems to need to justify themselves in relation to the Grand Master, they just get on with their own thing. For whatever reason being a supreme expert on Derrida seems to be a much bigger deal institutionally and there are much bigger egos attached to it. Maybe in twenty years the same will be true of Latour.

    • Thanks for the insight, Sam. I reacted to Caputo’s statements with skepticism, but I don’t know Derrida that well so it was tentative skepticism at best.

      What I do have a strong opinion about is the framing of Caputo’s question: “At the level of theory…”

      Following Chapter 3, and certainly much of Latour’s older work, it strikes that “the level of theory” is precisely what doesn’t exist. What is the level of theory opposed to? The level of things? Events? Empirical happenings? It indicated to me that Caputo and I weren’t reading the same Latour. So it goes…

      • Caputo seems very new to Latour…a bit of a Johnny-come-lately. But I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that a theory is different than its applications, like a real object is different than its relations. Even though Latour and Derrida play very different songs with vert different instruments, their interpretive keys are pretty similar.

      • I’m with you, Sam. Though for me there is still a distinction to be made between “a theory” and “at the level of theory.” Thinking theory is already the application of theory, even if the particular theory isn’t reducible to its application. I want theories about things and things on the same rung, which is just my sentimental ecological heartstrings harping for the thing-like nature of theory.

    • Thanks dmf, that’s a useful piece. It basically reinforces what I thought before (conveniently, for my ego). If Derrida is a ‘realist’ then he only fulfils the absolute bare minimum condition for that status – not hyper-realism so much as hypo-realism. He identifies something like a ‘desire for the thing itself despite the impossibility such a meeting’. Yes, it’s true that his entire corpus can be understood as being about that. But if it’s realism of any sort it’s the absolute bare minimum (‘love of the world’) – he doesn’t go beyond that to try and say something else of the world or produce something else in the world in spite of the impossibility of the meeting of the subject and the thing itself (other than that our ‘love’ of the ‘impossible’ compels us to live through the impossible – which is saying almost nothing).

      Indeed, the very fixation on the thing itself shows how Latour has moved away from this tradition; beings of REP are not things themselves, no mode can claim that title. However, we are no more estranged from REP than we are from anything else, we just have to learn to speak in the correct way, to articulate ourselves competently. That’s a pretty fundamental metaphysical difference. ‘Loving’ things themselves might stop one being a Berkeleyan but little more than that. Take Kant, strip out the transcendental, replace it with some linguistics, add a quasi-Freudian desire for the unachievable object and you have something pretty close to Derrida’s ‘realist’ position.

      “the thing itself always eludes our grasp, always gives the slip to the net of signifiers in which our desire had hoped to catch it up.” – Latour follows in this vein inasmuch as he rejects Modern absolutisms, of course, but surely he would reply ‘things only slip away and elude our grasp if our institutions fail, if our networks degrade, if they are shocked beyond our ability to maintain them.’ That’s a pretty fundamental difference too. Deconstruction does good work inasmuch as it detaches signifiers from having any *essential* or pre-given relation to signifieds and then destroys the possibility of structures of signifiers, taken in isolation, having any final, fixed configuration that would be free from flux and contradiction. In that sense it opens the door, as I said before, to Latour’s relativist (as in relationist) theories of truth – and it is in this respect that Latour is wrong to distance himself from deconstruction so radically – however it by no means anticipates them, much less does Derrida ‘get there first.’

      In short, ‘love of things’ is not enough! Messianic realism is barely realism at all. Latour gives us reality, gives us presence *here and now* and distinguishes between many ways of being present, being made present, being kept present, being kept *in* the present (i.e. being kept in existence). It’s not perfect but it’s progress.

      I must add that from what people have been saying on other blogs John Caputo is a nice, generous kind of guy. I still think he’s very wrong, though!

      • Derrida does say much more about the world than Caputo indicates in that essay. Technology, sexuality, animals, cosmopolitics, time, space, and place all figure into Derrida’ writings. Even math and science! Vicky Kirby’s Quantum Anthropologies is a good guide for seeing how Derrida engages math and science. I think that the Kant + linguistics + Freud equation produces Lacan’s realism. Derrida is a Husserlian and Heideggerian. From the people in his own generation, Derrida saw Deleuze as the person philosophically closest to him.

        Here’s a little more from Caputo’s latest book to trouble the boundary between Derrida and Latour. A few features of their shared interpretive key: “hybridism, contamination, and anti-essentialism; contextualism, relationalism, and differentialism (différance); the critique of humanism; the aporias of mediation and representation (the dangerous supplement) and the critique of pure immediate presence; concatenations of translations and chains of signifiers; the politics of democracy as a politics of rogues; the unpredictable and the surprise of being overtaken by events; the critique of Rousseauianism, of pure and noble savages; the love of puns and neologisms; the autonomy of what I have constructed (the decision of the other in me); recasting truth in terms of practice (facere veritatem). What Latour calls non-modernism is indistinguishable from the basic framework of deconstruction. […] In general, whenever Latour writes ‘Science Studies,’ read ‘deconstruction.’”

        Graham Harman calls Caputo’s reading a “butter-fingered treatment of Latour.” I agree, but I’m happy that it provides an impetus for dialogue. Also, although Caputo seems like a nice guy, I have to agree with Harman that Caputo gets pretty testy in his treatment of younger scholars (like Harman, Martin Hägglund, and Quentin Meillassoux).

        Are there no things themselves for Latour? Or object themselves? If so, that definitely sets Latour apart from object-oriented folks like Harman and Bryant, for whom ontological realism is about the being of objects themselves (paraphrasing Bryant’s Democracy of Objects).

      • Philip, regarding your questions about poststructuralism above, Deleuze talks about Ferdinand de Saussure (and Hjelmslev and other structuralist linguists, with Lacan close by as well), and probably more important than that, he talks about structuralism a lot. Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus are good places to look. Also, you can find these discussions in Deleuze’s interviews in Desert Islands, and it’s all over the secondary literature. In general, Deleuze mentions structuralism and structuralists a lot more than he mentions Whitehead. Unlike Latour, Deleuze is really more Bergsonian than Whiteheadian.

        If poststructuralism means linguistic idealism or the idea that language only relates to language, then none of the people usually labeled poststructuralist deserve that label (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Judith Butler). Language-centrism is not at all an accurate definition of those thinkers. In fact, logocentrism is a common point of critique for them. Poststructuralism is a very sloppy label that was mainly used by Americans for handy (all-too-handy) categorization in lieu of actually reading their books.

        Caputo thinks Latour is great, and he thinks he made incredible progress in continental philosophy of science. Caputo isn’t saying that Latour is just Derrida 2.0. He just argues that Latour is closer to Derrida than most people admit. I think Caputo knows he’s misreading Latour. It seems to be some kind of provocative counterpoint to Latour’s undiplomatic misreading of deconstruction. I should add that Latour doesn’t seem to like Deleuze any better than Derrida. When Latour does acknowledge any debt to Deleuze, it’s normally to say that, while he’s read Deleuze, he doesn’t find Deleuze helpful for empirical analysis (which I commented on in the previous post:

      • @ sam

        I cannot hide my ignorance so I don’t try to. I don’t know Deleuze or Derrida well enough to pass anything like expert judgement, I’m just going off my impressions. Thanks for the pointers! I completely accept that Latour owes more to Derrida than he lets on but Derrida is hardly the most significant influence. I don’t think he’d get in the top 10 to be honest.

  6. Pingback: Towards an abstract for my presentation at the International Whitehead Conference, “Re-imagining Late Modernity’s Reductive Monism” | Footnotes 2 Plato

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