Chapter 9: Situating the Beings of Fiction

Author: Andre Ling

Chapter 9 is a challenging and remarkable exploration of what Latour terms the beings of fiction. It is challenging, quite simply, because it demands that the reader accord reality to something so readily opposed to what is generally considered ‘real’ – and this entails a certain amount of conceptual acrobatics. It is remarkable because it purports to do for language, meaning and the symbolic what has just been done for nature; that is to reveal an amalgam and use Latour’s razor to separate out the different modes of existence that it conceals. In my view, it is, in a sense, one of the most important chapters of AIME. If you can go with it, your playing field just got very large indeed.

By now, readers will have understood the importance of prepositions, which indicate the orientation proper to a mode of existence; that give meaning, sense and direction to the trajectories we trace through networks of heterogeneous beings. Prepositions prime us to encounter beings in the correct mode, the mode that will allow those beings to be judged on their own terms, thereby avoiding category mistakes. It is not surprising if the mind boggles at sentences such as this: “in this inquiry, trajectory, being, and direction, sense, or meaning, are synonyms.” It is as though ontology and epistemology have collapsed into each other, which is not surprising if we remember that, for Latour, what are commonly referred to as objects and subjects are merely mutually-constituted opposing poles on a continuum fabricated through specific kinds of practice [REF]. However, we are also warned that “if everything makes sense, this does not mean that everything makes signs.” Sense corresponds to the trajectories of modes, whereas a sign would be a particular mode of meaning (i.e. existence) that would “form a sort of regional semiology and ontology proper to a particular mode.” It is with this in mind that Latour takes us on an adventure into the weird world of fictional beings. Doing so will entail a rejection of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities (the former essential to beings themselves, and supposedly knowable only through science, the latter experienced by the subject and lacking in objective reality). Similarly, the idea of a unified reality (the res extensa or nature) opposed to multiple divergent (“mental, social or collective”) representations (all restricted to a cordoned off world of language), will be revealed as a second-rate solution to a problem that demands more subtlety and nuance.

The term “beings of fiction”, Latour insists, “does not direct our attention toward illusion, toward falsity, but toward what is fabricated, consistent, real.” Rather than accept the position that fictions can only be “incapable of truth,” his inquiry proceeds by asking the opposite: what might, instead, make them capable of a their own particular truth. First, these beings must be granted a reality that is not merely ‘interior’, belonging to ‘imagination’ or the ‘suspension of disbelief’ inside “the human mind”. Rather, they must be shown to possess a certain exteriority, one that Latour aims to trace through an exploration of works of art, which “impose themselves on us after imposing themselves on those responsible for their instauration, for the latter are more like constituents than ‘creators’.” As opposed to mere products of imagination, we are told that beings of fiction “offer us imagination we would not have had without them” (emphasis mine). Rather than the painted canvas or a piece of music constituting a plane onto which subjectivity is projected, to fill it with meaning, “the work demands that they, insignificant amateurs, brilliant interpreters, or passionate critics, become part of its journey of instauration.” Such works “engender multiple subjectivities” but they also demand that we “learn how to make ourselves sensitive” to them. As such, works of art – which “populate the world” – require a certain subjective investment for them to attain their full existence:

“To say that beings of fiction populate the world is to say that they come to us and impose themselves, but with a particular wrinkle: as Souriau pointed out so rightly, they need our solicitude […] But if we don’t take in these beings, if we don’t appreciate them, they risk disappearing altogether. They have this peculiarity, then: their objectivity depends on their being reprised, taken up again by subjectivities that would not exist themselves if these beings had not given them to us. It’s weird, yes…”

To reveal the workings of these beings of fiction, Latour takes us on a whirlwind journey through the history, sociology and anthropology of art. What he finds remarkable is the manner in which these diverse fields of study have traced out the contours of works, sketched them out in all their detail. What we find is an almost endless network of materials and patrons and audiences and trends and venues and so on, with every detail adding to the richness of it.

With the first slice of the razor we grant fictions their own mode of existence. But we must continue wielding our razor if we are to distinguish this slippery mode from others. Like all modes, existence is the “extension” of a particular being, a prolongation of its “being”. But how are we to properly understand the persistence of beings of fiction? Here’s Latour:

“I suggest situating it, quite classically, in a new way of folding existents so as to make them the blueprint for a kind of expression that nevertheless cannot be detached from them, a mystery that the hackneyed theme of form and content signals but does not analyze.”

And so the “raw materials” can be made to produce something that is somehow folded in them. This folding of a being of fiction into its “ raw materials” is precisely what characterises all those technical beings [TEC.FIC] that we have populated our world with, from mobile phones to corkscrews. If we focus on the materials, we will never find the figure that (and I risk this word here) ’emerges’ from them. On the other hand, the figure cannot exist without these materials, and the price that must be paid for their preparation (exacted across extensive networks of heterogeneous beings).

This is invention, novelty locked up in funny little beings, fictions, that art sent out on a mission into the cosmos in search of a target they may never reach. Each little fictional being aimed at a something that might not have been there to continue the relay by means of which the figure can – in at least one sense – persist. These figures can be understood as ‘distributed materials’ that ‘hold together only as long as the disturbance continues’. It is by no means guaranteed, however, that the figure forms, that it works; there is a certain composite of the materials and the figure that is required for the figure to hold, for its truth to be expressed. On the other hand, all this depends critically on the manner in which the figure and its material are held together; the more strongly you hold it, the more strongly it will hold you.

And there is no ‘external judge’ at work here. Rather, “what is true verifies itself […] by a quite particular path of verification;” objective criteria cannot be established and yet all criteria can equally not be abandoned. Thus, those who would speak of the truth of the work discover themselves subject to its normative power, which it imposes on its constituents on its own terms and can, thereby, be prolonged a moment longer. But the work does more than that: it engenders them as audience and author alike.

Latour sums this point up like so:

“If we call the beings of fiction fictive or fictional, it is not because they are false, unreliable, or imaginary; it is, on the contrary, because they ask so very much from us and from those to whom we have the obligation to pass them along so they can prolong their existence. No other type of being imposes such fragility, such responsibility; no other is as eager to be able to continue to exist through the “we” whom they help to figure. In a sense, the beings of reproduction may be the ones they resemble the most [rep · fic]”

But perhaps what gives beings of fiction their true comeuppance is their promiscuity. Indeed, we would be short-changing ourselves if we kept fictions in isolation from the other modes. Indeed, fiction lends its curious powers of figurative communication to all the other modes and in doing so unleashes semiotized beings across all the modes. These beings of this mode

“… have a kind of ubiquity that allows all the other modes to figure their own reality for themselves. What fiction does for technology and metamorphoses—it folds and reprises them—will be done by all the other modes with the help of fiction. Without figurations, no politics is possible— how would we tell ourselves that we belong to any particular group? [FIC · POL]; no religion is possible—what face would we put on God, his thrones, his dominions, his angels and his saints? [FIC · REL]; no law is possible—fictio legis being indispensable to the daring passage of means [FIC · LAW]. Still, this doesn’t mean that we live in a “symbolic world”; it means, rather, that the modes lend one another certain of their virtues”

The fecundity of scientific invention can be linked to the crossing of beings of fiction and beings of reproduction (something Stengers traces in detail in Cosmopolitics II). “How can we speak about remote galaxies, particles of matter, upheavals of mountains, valleys, viruses, DNA or ribosomes without having at our disposal characters apt to undergo such adventures?” Indeed, “no science is possible, and especially no abstract science, unless the world is populated by these little beings capable of going everywhere, of seeing and submitting to the most terrible trials, in place of the researcher trapped in her body and immobilized in her laboratory.” But of course, in the case of ‘science’, these beings of fiction are required to “bring something back,” from their excursion. The data that is generated, for example, through some kind of experiment requires the fictional figure to faithfully hold it together in a coherent manner. It is for this reason that a scientific fiction (a factish?) can be said to be well made, or not. These beings work precisely because when they are sent off, they bring something back. Whereas the figures of science must return, there is not a similar need for those of fiction. However, there is nothing fundamentally different between the figures of science and the figures of fiction; they are just made to relay in different ways; they are made of the same stuff.

We are then redirected to a particular  moment in the history of the moderns when perspective in European art enabled a (misguided) unification of what the artist and the scientist thought they were exploring  i.e. a faithful representation of what is out there. Suddenly, science became correlated with the the idea of correspondence as the mimetic resemblance of a model and its copy such that “the real world, the one described by the sciences, then appears to bear an uncanny resemblance to the world depicted in paintings, in the sense that there is an original to describe and a copy that must be faithful to it.” Latour links this to one of the conditions for the notion of res extensa, “a fairly innocent misunderstanding about the crossing between fiction and reference, a scholarly enthusiasm originating in the arts.” Will electrons ever be the same again for me?

With things on one side and faithful copies on the other and no way to reconcile them we cannot discover the sense, or the mode of existence of a particular being – i.e. how it is prolonged. As Latour notifies us:

“To discover the sense is not in the first place to seek the connection between one word and another, but the connection between a word, a speech act, a course of action, and what must be put in its place if the latter are going to continue to have meaning, to make sense – that is, for them to continue to exist. Interpreting meaning is thus not to set aside all ontological questions while isolating the symbolic domain but on the contrary to take up the stray thread of ontology again.”

Perhaps, by now, that great big epistemological-ontological mash up that we noted at the start has been unravelled (at least a little), as we discover our entanglement in diverse modes of existence. And, as I gather Latour would have it, it is only a pluralist ontology that is capable of creating the continuous relays that constitute a trajectory made up of such heterogeneous modes of existence.

Otherwise we risk resting in a domain where the sign and the signified are destined to belong to utterly distinct domains or worlds. Worlds where words or symbols can only connect to other words or symbols, their relation to the ‘real world’ abandoned to obscurity or dismissed into non-existence. All of a sudden, the burden of all meaning, of all sense (and so, for Latour, all the burden of being) lies in an enclosure of words. In this sense, fictions have been expected to define all modes of meaning. This tendency is ‘a second best solution’. But, fortunately we can get out of this quagmire by recognising that we must not mistake one thing for another. For example, a being of fiction must not be confused with a being of reproduction. Instead, we are invited to understand the specific ontology of a being of fiction and the work that it does. After all, a sign only acquires and maintains its validity through it’s ability to establish a continuity between its predecessors and its successors. Just as it is despatched, so it must bring something back, or else it will fail. The nature of what is brought back and to which audience, however, will vary according to the nature of the being of fiction. Against a view that locates all relations inside the “human mind,” Latour proposes the existence of relations between diverse beings. As he insists, “it is the world itself that is articulated.” Our words are just associated with a fraction of these articulations. No doubt, we will need to learn to utter new words.

For, ultimately, it is the articulation of the world that demands our attention and requires that we move beyond the separation of the world into language or the symbolic on the one hand, and nature, matter or the real on the other. After all, it is the very real articulations of the world that we must grapple with, not just the words we have to describe them. A well crafted fiction may be able to bring back facts, but surely it can also conjure up figures – such as Gaia – that demand new modalities of attention, care and concern, new ways of inhabiting this slightly unsettling yet thoroughly exciting new/old world.

So where does this leave us? When I started out writing what turned out to be a rather lengthy summary, I found myself stuck on a phrase in which Latour described the impossibility of summarising a work of art without it losing its distinctive character. As I sought to shorten this chapter review, it struck me that this whole book I’m reading is ridden through and through with beings of fiction. My manner of prolonging it is also a transformation of it, and yet it persists. Have I undermined its distinctive character? Have I added to its texture? Does it still carry enough of itself to stay alive? Or is this one of those fictions that is destined to find no audience, or that will not make the relay? We have seen that while fictions possess their own unique mode of existence, none of the other modes could be what they are without their aid. Which led me to wonder: what would speculative philosophy be without its fictions? What “free and wild creation of concepts” (cf. Stengers’ Thinking with Whitehead) would be possible? The real question perhaps, in this collapsing world, is whether these fictions are up to the task of giving us a better grip. Perhaps we must learn to compose fictions that are up to the task of serving as faithful relays of the hidden articulations of reality – and while doing so, recognise that we are also composing an audience that must become sensitive to them.

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13 responses to “Chapter 9: Situating the Beings of Fiction

  1. Pingback: AIME Book Group Returns | ANTHEM

  2. Andre, thanks for a stimulating chapter review.

    I’d like to quibble over one line near the end: “a being of fiction must not be confused with a being of reproduction” (in the paragraph beginning “Otherwise we risk resting. . . .”). Maybe I’m misreading, but to me “must not be confused” makes them mutually exclusive. My view is that they should be opposed in one sense but identified in another.

    The framework for my quibble would be the “conceptual acrobatics” you refer to at the beginning. Such “acrobatics,” it seems to me, are required regularly insofar as Latour sometimes aims not to challenge values of Moderns but to offer accounts of these values more adequate than the accounts Moderns give (48, 64-65).

    In valorizing fiction, Moderns offer accounts such as “suspension of disbelief” and “truthful lying,” which enclose fiction in imagination (240). Latour’s more adequate account, as you outline, is a circular process in which fictions engender us and yet depend on us. This process is real. While particular fictions may live and die, a fiction of some kind is always needed for human existence to continue (looking ahead, the paragraph beginning at the bottom of 292 seems to see beings of fiction and human beings emerging together).

    FIC, then, would appear to go hand-in-hand with human reproduction (REP). In this sense FIC and REP are identified. In another sense, however, they need to be distinguished. The REP of a rock is not the REP of humans. REP is a big circle, inside of which there is the smaller circle of FIC.

    Making REP and FIC mutually exclusive, it seems to me, would make Latour’s account a variant of the account Moderns give, rather than a genuine alternative.

    Granted, Latour could be clearer. He says that FIC “in a sense” resembles REP more than any other mode of existence (249). But something stronger would be better.

    My sense is that Latour sees FIC and REP more or less parallel because he is producing not a panpsychism but a pan-linguisticism or, maybe better, a pan-articulationism (256). FIC and REP are variant specific articulations within an overarching generic pan-articulationism. That may be why he is comfortable putting FIC and REP side-by-side on 249.

    Bob Wess

  3. A very well written summary, indeed!

    One interesting thing for me is where [fic] fits into this third group of modes, sandwiched inbetween [tec] and [ref]. Latour is very clear that there is a kind of temporal succession to these modes in terms of when they are first invented (or, better, instaured).

    From the online version of the book:

    “We can say that the three regimes divert each other successively: [tec] diverts metamorphoses to transform them into folds, which leads to a diversion of [fic] and an expression of forms in materials, and these in turn are diverted by [ref] to keep open a pathway through the successive transformations of material expression by maintaining a constant. Not only do these regimes divert one another, they are dependent on each other.

    The three modes align along a roughly sketched history of humanization – because with the second group we enter the human domain, à la Leroi-Gourhan, via the irruption of quasi-objects: technical, first of all, then fiction objects, then, much later, science. We are no longer talking about the background of the world, as with the first group, but about the irruption of new ways of differing, technology serving as a transition as a result of its ubiquity even in the non-human world.”

    So, taking him at his word here it seems impossible to maintain that [fic] might bear any relation to a sort of panpsychism, etc. [fic] is very obviously a relatively recent invention (in evolutionary terms), coming after technology (which has been around for hundreds of thousands of years at least) and before reference (which has been around for perhaps centuries).

    However, there is something of a tension – actually this is a tension found throughout the book. Just how ‘hemmed in’ can we take the modes to be? How generalised can they be? How far does their metaphysic stretch?

    Latour approvingly quotes the following from Deleuze & Guattari on percepts:

    “Percepts are no longer perceptions; they are independent of a state of those who experience them. Affects are no longer feelings or affections; they go beyond the strength of those who undergo them. Sensations, percepts, and affects are beings whose validity lies in themselves and exceeds any lived. They could be said to exist in the absence of man because man, as he is caught in stone, on the canvas, or by words, is himself a compound of percepts and affects. The work of art is a being of sensation and nothing else: it exists in itself.”

    He writes of this passage: “See the beautiful analysis of what Deleuze and Guattari call “percepts” in their search for contrasting the mode called here [fic]”

    In other words, D&G were in search of this mode, too. Now, of course, percept for D&G certainly is not something limited to human invention.

    So, my fundamental question regarding [fic] is this: what of birdsong (to take a classic example)? Is that [fic]? Non-humans (including birds, not just hominids) are said to be tool users [tec] so does the same go here for fictions also? Should we interpret the Leroi-Gourhan indebted evolutionary history of the modes to indicate only one specific lineage of these modal possibilities? (i.e. this is where we ourselves came across these modes, other species have found their own acquaintances with them.)

    [fic] can be summarised simply if abstractly as that mode that folds [tec] beings further by creating entities that shift from material to material without ever transcending their media. But isn’t that just the human instantiation of these capabilities? What of birdsong?

  4. this is what sticks in my craw “by creating entities that shift from material to material without ever transcending their media”, why aren’t they reducible to (the same as) their media, why aren’t they just extensions of human-being/acting either as say speech-acts or tools (books, film, etc?). Why create these ghosts-in-machines?

    • Yes, this is a fundamental issue. Latour remarks, rhetoric turned up to 11:

      “‘Populate the world? But that’s impossible—where would the beings of fiction go? Into limbo? Here’s still another mystification! You still have this immoderate taste for invisibles!’ […]” (p. 241)

      The phrase ‘invisibles’ recurs throughout. The modes are these ‘invisibles,’ it seems; and AIME is therefore the project of detecting these ephemera. I suppose Latour’s claim is ultimately that there are such things, that they are real and that, more significantly, we cannot think or live properly without better detecting and instituting them. However, the important question politically (or, rather, diplomatically) is that each mode has, to borrow Sloterdijk’s terminology, its own air-conditioning requirements. Reference requires different subtending conditions compared to religion. Moreover, these different modes produce different kinds of things (information, in the case of reference; tradition, in the case of religion).

      Detecting such nuances is, then, a matter of good collective health – of better understanding what makes us and our worlds tick and of better maintaining ourselves and the atmospheres in which we are immersed. It’s also the only way ‘we’ can present our most cherished ways and fashions, to others in a ‘diplomatic’ process.

      Bringing it back always to the heterogeneous materials needed for any course of action, always associated in one sort of way [net], for Latour, fails to register the specific nuances required to properly institute these modes.

      That’s the claim, anyway. Are ‘invisibles’ necessarily ‘ghosts’?

  5. I repeat my final paragraph, with a few notes added:

    My sense is that Latour sees FIC and REP more or less parallel because he is producing not a panpsychism but a pan-linguisticism or, maybe better, a pan-articulationism (256). FIC and REP are variant specific articulations within an overarching generic pan-articulationism. That may be why he is comfortable putting FIC and REP side-by-side on 249.

    -Note that panpsychism is rejected, not affirmed as suggested in the paragraph above beginning “So, taking him at his word . . .”: “So, taking him at his word here it seems impossible to maintain that [fic] might bear any relation to a sort of panpsychism, etc. [fic] is very obviously a relatively recent invention (in evolutionary terms), coming after technology (which has been around for hundreds of thousands of years at least) and before reference (which has been around for perhaps centuries).”

    -FIC, moreover, is put not in an originary but in a posterior position, posterior to a “pan” very different from panpsychism. In line with Latour 292, FIC is possibly originary only in conjunction with human beings, who obviously appear on the scene late in the day. In my post, FIC is not originary beyond Latour’s proposal.

    -If Latour sees FIC as distinctively human, FIC would seem not to include “birdsong.” But FIC and “birdsong” could be seen as differing forms of articulation posterior to pan-articulationism. “Birdsong” could antedate FIC without being any less posterior.

    • Yes, I think I understand now. Apologies. AIME can indeed be described as a kind of semiotics writ-metaphysical. Every mode has its own semiotic rulebook. So, it certainly is in a sense pan-linguistic or pan-articulationary or something along those lines, as you say. There is a resonance between [fic] and [rep] for those reasons, although, of course, [fic] cannot be overextended as Latour hems it in quite radically in historical terms.

      With regard to birdsong, I suppose the challenge I want to pose is this: can birdsong remain limited to the primordial modes of [met] and [rep]? Of course there’s nothing wrong with existing through these modes but I think there are loose ends here. Does existence really wait for human beings to come along before it experiences modal innovations beyond [tec] (which Latour acknowledges to radically precede the human)? Certainly someone like Elizabeth Grosz would want to argue that the phenomenon of birdsong demonstrates an expressive capacity beyond the workings of biological evolution per se. Likewise Deleuze & Guattari, who both Grosz and Latour are drawing on.

      All of that makes me question the historicity of the modes. Latour insists that each mode has a history but only the slightest hints of any mode’s genesis is given. If they were presented more genealogically perhaps it would be easier to understand if other animals might fashion existence in similar ways to [fic] and if not why not.

      I think this is certainly an edge that could fray upon closer examination.

      • Philip, no apologies needed. I agree with your questioning of the historicity of the modes. The core unresolved tension in the book, it seems to me, is between history and philosophy. On the one hand, the book presents itself as an “anthropology” of the “Moderns,” which implies that the modes are the historical formation of a culture. But on the other hand, the analyses of the modes tend to be more philosophical than historical. To me this unresolved tension is a sign that Latour’s reputation is inflated, but who am I to judge. Only time will tell if the book has a short life or stimulates enough discussion to qualify as seminal.

  6. Greetings to all, and my apologies for the prolonged hiatus. Work, travel and ill-health unfortunately, left me floored for too much of the last month.

    The discussion here has been really fascinating and has provoked some further thoughts… First a few short reflections on the relationship between REP and FIC, which also relates to historicity (evolution) and the question of what is originary and whether certain modes are, effectively, subsets of other modes. And I guess this also brings up the question of birdsong…

    If we posit pan-articulationism as the primary ontological character of reality according to Latour, with REP and FIC (etc.) as different modes of articulation, aren’t we still stuck with the more fundamental ontological question of how the modes come to be in the first place? I’m wary of speculating too much on this, but I’ve been reading up on Simondon and his notion of the pre-individual. Simondon has already proposed the notion that there are distinct modes of existence: the physical, the biological, the technical, the social, the psychological, etc. All these modes arise as a result of new types of individuation – a sort of crystallisation of becoming from the pre-individual field of potential. Rather than simply building on prior mode of existence they bring into being entirely new types of existence by drawing on a field of pre-individual potential. Thus biological individuation is not simply another individuation that modifies physical individuation, but the possibility of biological individual entails, somehow, the deployment of a potential that exists within the pre-individual that is not contained in the physical and is therefore fundamentally distinct from it (even though it may only have the opportunity to manifest where physical individuation has already been established). The reason I’m going through all this, is that I think we are still left with a question of what modes of existence arise from and whether we look to REP and MET as a sort of basis for the emergence of other modes or whether there must necessarily be something else that makes even REP and MET possible. This question, I think haunts Latour’s ontology.

    I also have a few specific thoughts about some of the examples given. Can REP and FIC be placed in a relation of bigger circle-smaller circle? Here Bob uses the example of REP for a human. But I suddenly find myself wondering whether REP even makes sense at the level of the human. Is our REP not, perhaps, more cellular and genetic than it is human? Is it not more useful to think of the human as something fundamentally composite, composed of myriad REPs, interwoven with countless FICs, POLs, RELs, METs, etc. What we have then is a tangled mess of multi- and cross-scalar articulations of divergent types rather than a unit – the human – and this perhaps challenges the circular account which locates FIC as a subset of REP.

    In terms of birdsong, my knee-jerk reaction would be to look to TEC rather than FIC and, as noted, we can quite comfortably locate TEC well in advance of the emergence of humans. This is also something Lynn Margulis proposes in her work on cellular existence, blurring the lines between the distinction between biological evolution and technology. Having said this, I am not entirely sure where and how the line should be drawn between TEC and FIC in a genealogical (historical, evolutionary?) analysis and particularly as it pertains to the question of animals. In some sense, I find myself unable to think Latour’s modes of existence without positing something like Simondon’s pre-individual, that field of potential that permits new modes of existence to emerge as a result of new rhythms of individuation amidst pre-existing modes of individuation.

    But all this also leads me to think that Latour’s ‘modes of existence’ could also be thought of as ‘modes of entanglement’. Moreover, AIME is really quite anthropocentric project (and the question of birdsong gets at this nicely). Perhaps that’s not surprising as we are dealing here with an anthropology of a particular type of human (the moderns). While AIME obviously integrates non-humans in multiple ways (on the one hand by listing out the numerous technological entities, materials, etc. that we must grapple with – and on the other, by proposing that each mode of existence is in some sense a non-human being), almost everything here is viewed (it seems to me) through a very anthropocentric lens. Perhaps this is not a problem, given the nature of AIME as a project: we (moderns) are indeed trying to make better sense of our own entanglement with reality. But I can also see why Latour would want to open these modes up to further discussion because there is a huge risk that the distinction/discernment of different modes remains somewhat arbitrary (and anthropocentric).

    • “Is it not more useful to think of the human as something fundamentally composite, composed of myriad REPs, interwoven with countless FICs, POLs, RELs, METs, etc.”

      Yes, I think that’s certainly true. There’s a hint of Tarde (or Whitehead) here, more so than in Latour’s ANT work (although the lines between these works are blurred to the point of disappearing). It seems that, in AIME, humans (or any concrete organisms, really) have to be thought of as societies of many elements and, consequently, as compounds of many modal movements all at once. It is only through the analytical tools of philosophy (operating in the mode of [pre]) that we can break this down to conceptually distinct forms of becoming. Reality in its concreteness is utterly heterogeneous. However, Latour’s claim is that, despite all of this, the individual resonance patterns of each mode can nevertheless be detected in experience.

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