Chapter 11: Welcoming the Beings Sensitive to the Word

Author: Tim Howles, University of Oxford

And so we arrive at chapter 11 of AIME, ‘Welcoming the Beings Sensitive to the Word’. Here, we find religion as the next mode of existence to be encountered.

To get us going, then, may I offer a provocative suggestion? Could it be the case that religion is in fact the concealed dynamo of Latour’s entire intellectual project? And, moreover, that it has functioned in this way from the very beginning?

Some such account seems to be what Latour himself is increasingly nudging us towards believing. For in a number of recent interviews and articles, he has drawn our attention to a little-known detail of his CV, namely, his early doctoral work with André Malet, the first translator of Bultmann into French (Latour, 2013; for more references cf. Schmidgen, 2013). Latour recollects how, seen through the eyes of Bultmann–Malet, religion began to reveal itself to him in a new mode – not merely as doctrine, not merely as praxis, but as ‘a process of transformations, inventions, glosses and diverse rationalizations which, taken together, sketch out […] the question of fidelity or treason’ (Latour, 2013, p.288). This is precisely the project of AIME: indeed, we could hardly have come up with a more apposite marketing gloss for the dust cover of this book! Religion, then, was the first mode of existence that Latour observed in operation. Or, to put it another way, by foregrounding his intellectual heritage in this way, Latour is acknowledging the biblical text, even more than the documents and inscriptions of laboratory science, as a kind of Ur-source – a Quelle, we might say – for the Inquiry we have before us.

Having resourced him for the journey of a lifetime, however, religion now stands in need of Latour’s help. For as with all the modes the grubby imprints of modernity have besmirched its pristine robe. And nowhere is this more evident than in the (re-) appearance of strong forms of religiosity in the contemporary world, a phenomenon that Latour disdainfully describes as ‘fundamentalism’ (300, cf. Latour, 2014). For Latour, fundamentalism is directly bequeathed to us by the modern constitution. And it is highly pernicious. For fundamentalism (as Latour defines it) justifies its existence by means of ‘a desperate quest for substance, guarantees, substratum’ (299). This is what is known in the business as ‘onto-theology’ (space will not allow further explanation of this important concept in twentieth-century theology, but for a useful introduction, cf. Westphal, 2001). And this, for Latour, is precisely the wrong ontological tenor for religion to assume.

In this chapter, then, we arrive at Latour’s attempt to articulate the beings of religion [REL] contra their interment within the prison-cell of modernity.

Writing (I should admit) as a theologian, I found Latour’s ideas in this chapter both complex and thrilling. At times I feared that [REL] was situating itself on the razor’s edge of (what we might call) orthodoxy, even where that word is taken in its most generous and in its least confessional sense. After all, if we are to disabuse ourselves of any form of transcendence that has ‘immanence as its opposite rather than its synonym’ (299), what are we left with? Surely what is normative for religion, what defines (dare I say it) the essence of religion, is its ability to posit something more than merely the immanent? Can religion remain intact if the supernatural is flattened in this way? And yet, just when I feared it was about to collapse into aporia, I found [REL] appearing once again on the horizon as something that recognisable, something that does indeed chime with my personal experience and, albeit sketchily, with a theological heritage (of sorts) that it is possible to trace, something that is curiously objective and even (dare I say it) curiously transcendent. I should not have been surprised. After all, this has been Latour’s claim from the very beginning: ‘I am not making a relativist argument (in the sense given this term by the papacy) about the impossibility of reaching any truth whatsoever, but only an argument about the fact that there are incompatible felicity conditions that nevertheless allow us, each in its own way, to reach incontrovertible judgments […] on the truth and falsity of what they are to judge’ (18). By contrast with so much twentieth-century theology, then, what Latour is offering is not a re-construction but a re-pristination (to use an old theological term) of religion. This is religion freed from the encrustations of modernity. This is religion made available to those who have never been modern.

In common with all the modes, Latour returns to ‘experience’ (323, cf. 11) as the touchstone of his methodological approach. What shared experience is most congruent with the values housed within [REL]? Building on his extended discussion in Jubiler, ou les Tourments de la Parole Religieuse (Latour, 2002), a work that provides a vital context for this chapter, Latour proposes that this will be the experience of love-talk.

For Latour, what is distinctive about love-talk is its person-forming effect: ‘words of love have the particular feature of endowing the person to whom they are addressed with the existence and unity that person has lacked’ (302). Religion, then, does not share the ontology of the beings of [REF], whose veridiction is the aligning of representations for the transmission of information about distant objects. Nor does it share the ontology of the beings of [MET], whose veridiction is the manufacture of a subject’s interior life by means of psychogenic networks. No, the labour performed by the beings of [REL] is always directed to connecting people and making them present to one another. In linguistics, this is described as ‘phatic’ communication. But for Latour it is a much more embodied phenomenon. Have you ever been transported into (as it were) a new world as a result of a gentle word or a warm gesture freely offered to you in love? Have you even felt time frozen around you as you have weighed up – calculated, even – the risk and reward of investing in a loving word or gesture to somebody else? If so, perhaps you will recollect the density of being that collects around such moments. Well then, for Latour, you have been visited by the beings of [REL]. In a notion borrowed from the work of Michel Serres (Serres, 1993), these beings are ‘angels’ (303), messengers from the outside.

The work of chapter 11, then, is to make audible the address of these beings once again.

First, how do the beings of [REL] address us? Not through a logos given once and for all, but through fleeting speech-acts, now appearing, now disappearing, through alteration and flow, through a stream of words that can never be pinned down into a single utterance. This is what Latour calls their ‘reprise’ of speech (306).

Second, how is the address of the beings of [REL] to be received? Not as dogma. This would be to calcify their transmissions, to pin them down, to trap the nimble beings of [REL] like flies on sticky paper, to transmogrify their words into double-click. From the ‘deictics’ of evangelical propositionalism to the pseudo-science of the Intelligent Design movement to the dictats of the Catholic magisterium – for Latour, all such forms of religion are in the business of hegemony rather than diplomacy (and no doubt we will all have our own experiences of institutionalised religious communications to add to this list). The beings of [REL] are not at all like this. Rather, they create hesitant exegetes of those they address. Consider the examples of those addressed in Scripture (Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Paul, to name but a few): ‘are they not always accompanied by doubt as to what or who was just seen’ (310)? Absolutely. And, indeed, this is the very mark of the fidelity of such saints. For those who are truly religious ‘what matters is that no one is ever exactly assured of the presence [of the beings of REL]; one must go through the process again and again to be quite confident that one has seen them, sensed them, prayed to them’ (309).

Third, then, what do we understand about the beings of [REL]? The crucial point is this: they cannot be reified. Or, if you will indulge me with one more theological term at this point, they cannot be hypostatised. We cannot specify an essence up there, in the supernatural realm, that we might come to know. Any attempt to identify the address of these beings with a ‘who’ or a ‘what’ or a ‘why’ would be to mistake transformation for information, that is, to mistake religion for science. It would be to seek from the beings of [REL] a form of knowledge they are unable to provide. ‘The word God cannot designate a substance’, writes Latour, ‘it designates, rather, the renewal of a subsistence that is constantly at risk, and even, as it were, the pathway of this reprise, at once word and being, logos’ (310). The beings of [REL] do not find their essence in addition to or beyond other beings. They partake of being-as-other. Or, as Latour whimsically suggests elsewhere, ‘God is another mediation’ (Latour, 1998, p.434).

What are we to make of all this?

In a useful article (albeit written before the publication of AIME) Jan Golinski suggests that Latour’s conception of religion will likely prompt a ‘backlash’, comparable to the backlash experienced in the so-called ‘science wars’ of the 1990s (Golinski, 2010). He suggests that this will be prompted by Latour’s definition of religion as merely ‘an expression of representational practice’: on the contrary, religious people, Golinski thinks, ‘will still want to insist on the ontological reality of the things they believe in and will not be happy to have their religion reduced to the manipulation of signs that lack any reference to the real world’ (Golinski, 2010, p.60).

However, in the light of this chapter, I suggest we can put Golinksi’s claim to bed as unfounded. Latour does not lead us into the realm of apophatic theology and the beings of [REL] are not to be taken as merely Feuerbachian projections. There is ballast to Latour’s theology. For although the beings of [REL] function via displacements and mediations within time, as has been described above, they nevertheless point to an experience that is found outside time. In Latour’s words, they bring news that ‘the time has come’ (312). Thus, ‘[religion] has only this one distinctive feature, but one that is entirely of its own making: the time has come in spite of and thanks to the passage of time. No other mode can offer this; no institution but religion has extracted this contrast, cherished it, amplified it, preserved it’ (316). So the time has come,while time is still going on; God is here, whereas he is coming; God is going to come, whereas he has come. This is certainly a delicate dialectic and requires nuanced elaboration. But my suggestion is that somehow, in the midst of this dialectic, transcendence is allowed back in. This is not the old sort of transcendence, the one that leads inexorably to onto-theology. Rather, this is a ‘good’ or ‘small’ transcendence, one that seeks its ontological footing not in substance but in subsistence. For Latour, this new sort of transcendence – this ‘good’ or ‘small’ transcendence – is the real meaning of the Incarnation, ‘God with Us’ (320).

It is only when the beings of [REL] are correctly instituted in this way that ‘piety’ – religious praxis, we might say – can finally return. Previously, the reign of onto-theology had caused piety to be directed to ‘another world, in an unhealthy competition with access to remote beings’ (322). But now, piety can be directed back down to the present moment, to acts of charity and grace towards ‘our neighbours’ (322). For Latour, if the beings of [REL] are seen, our eyes will be looking not up, but out, to those most proximate to us. After all, Latour asks, inverting the words of Christ as given in the Gospel of Mark, ‘what use is it to save your soul, if you forfeit instead the world?’ (Latour, 2009, p.463).

The challenge is afoot, then, for diplomats of the nonmodern world. Will we recognise the tonality of the beings of [REL]? Will we listen to their address?

This will certainly not be straightforward. For Latour, whenever we incline our heads to listen, interference threatens. The address of the beings of [REL] is everywhere scrambled. In fact, on the digital platform of AIME, Latour offers a wonderful example of interference in action. In the middle of the nave of the église de Saint-Menoux near to Moulins in the Auvergne region is found a déberdinoire (a sarcophagus-tomb). This strange monument has traditionally been attested as a cure for madness. Upon visiting the church, all a pilgrim had to do was to put their head through a hole in its wall … and wait

Image

Image: ‘Creative Commons Saint-Menoux Débredinoire’ by Accrochoc, licensed under CC BY 3.0.

But visit this small church for yourself and you will notice that the priest himself is still to be convinced about such miracles. For he seems to have placed a notice next to the déberdinoire that reads as follows: ‘this is not a compulsory ritual […] in fact, it is recommended to the visitor not to indulge in superstitious practices’. What better explanation of the interference that threatens the beings of [REL] in our world. Cure … or salvation? So much is at stake. It is imperative that we tell the difference.

I should add one final (bibliographic) word for the sake of completion: all those interested in Latour’s work on religion will be advised to consult Adam S. Miller’s recent book Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology. In this book, Miller offers a nuanced and provocative interpretation of Latour’s religion, albeit working with pre-AIME texts and therefore with a slightly different Latourian lexicon. However, whilst it is highly-recommended, it would be prudent to approach Miller’s book as a creative appropriation, rather than a systematic exegesis, of Latour’s work; for more, consult Terence Blake’s review here.

Tim Howles is a doctoral candidate in Theology at the University of Oxford, working on the relationship between Bruno Latour and Michel Serres.

Bibliography

Golinski, Jan, (2010), ‘Science and Religion in Postmodern Perspective: The Case of Bruno Latour’ in Thomas Dixon, Geoffrey Cantor and Stephen Pumfrey (eds.), Science and Religion: New Historical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.50-68.

Latour, Bruno, (1998), ‘How to be Iconophilic in Art, Science and Religion’ in Caroline A. Jones and Peter Galison(eds.), Picturing Science, Producing Art (New York: Routledge), pp.418-440.

Latour, Bruno, (2002), Jubiler, ou les Tourments de la Parole Religieuse (Paris: Les Empêcheurs de Penser en Rond).

Latour, Bruno, (2009), ‘Will Non-Humans be Saved? An Argument in Ecotheology’ in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute Vol.15, No.3, pp.459–475.

Latour, Bruno, (2013), ‘Biography of an Investigation’ in Social Studies of Science Vol.43, No.2, pp.287-303.

Latour, Bruno, (2014), ‘Beyond Belief: On the Forms of Knowledge Proper to Religious Beings’, speech delivered at the Studium Generale Groningen, available online.

Miller, Adam S., (2013), Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Orientated Theology (New York: Fordham University Press).

Schmidgen, Henning, (2013), The Materiality of Things? Bruno Latour, Charles Péguy, and the History of Science’ in History of the Human Sciences, Vol.26, No.1, pp.3-28.

Serres, Michel, (1993) La Légende des Anges (Paris: Flammarion).

Westphal, Merold, (2001), Overcoming Onto-theology: Toward a Postmodern Christian Faith (New York: Fordham University Press).

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14 responses to “Chapter 11: Welcoming the Beings Sensitive to the Word

  1. this is VERY interesting. thank you!!!

  2. The concept of religion presented in AIME is complex, perhaps excessively so. It seems to want to do too much, to me.

    It can be understood in a rather secularised form after the example of Michel Serres, who defines it as religiens, the opposite of negligens, as ‘the opposite of negligence.’ To act religiously is to act the opposite of negligently. I find that to be a profound idea and one that doesn’t necessarily require a God (or any specific God) in order to be enacted. Indeed, this ethos seems to lead us to Gaia rather than to God per se. In all of this it works very well with the diplomatic project as a whole.

    However, one would be remiss to ignore the carefully considered theological aspects of the way religion is presented here. It clearly can’t be reduced to the secular in the sense suggested above. And this, for me, engenders some problems. (And being neither a follower of any religion nor a theologist of even an amateur sort these criticisms may be naif.)

    First, and very simply, what is the point of a God that is utterly dependent upon His followers? If a God can only persist through the hermeneutical agonies of those who ponder and announce His name then He is not *reducible* to His followers but nor could He do anything but evaporate were their words to fall silent. There is no big Logos, only many little, creative, instaurative logoi. Why would anyone follow and announce such a fragile and, frankly, arbitrary deity? I ask this as someone who is genuinely uncomprehending. I don’t find the usual images of religious ontology persuasive but I can at least understand why someone would. This, not so much.

    Second, the identification of vulgar transcendence with ‘the Moderns’ implies (does it not?) that there was once a Golden Age where God’s real immanence (which — and this is a percept that goes right back to the beginnings of Latour’s philosophy — is constructed out of many little translations, many little transcendences) was appreciated and understood properly, in the way that Latour is urging us to understand it now. Not only is this dubious but it seems to me to harbour a repressed trauma — specifically, of the fact that Platonic transcendence (i.e. what, for Latour, is of the vulgar kind) radically historically precedes Christianity. Capital-T Transcendence was there from the beginning — indeed, long before the beginning (of Christianity if not perhaps Judaism).

    Sure, there were other more ancient elements mixed in there, elements more conducive to the image of religion that is being presented now — Buddhism, perhaps. However, if we are to believe, as Latour claims, that the modes of existence are *historical* then these sorts of questions must surely be asked — and, if possible, answered.

    It is not enough to just claim that something is historical for philosophical purposes and then move on; historicity imposes an *obligation* — an empirical obligation to provide at least a schematic outline of the genesis of the historicised entity. This is something that AIME, as a work of speculative philosophy, singularly fails to do.

    So, to conclude, is Latour not Lovelockian rather than Christian?! His deity really does seem to be Gaia, not Jehovah. Now, I actually quite like that transformation! However, I can’t see it making much of a splash amongst the Faithful, diplomatically. From the admittedly impoverished viewpoint of my armchair anthropology of religion it seems to be a radically undiplomatic proposition that divests religion of all the comforting and/or terrifying Transcendence that makes it such a potent and lasting force in the world.

    • reminds me of Dewey’s Common Faith book and will fall as flat with the vast majority of believers who are as you suggest taken with the supernatural.

  3. My feeling is that religion is not a mode, but a complex of crossings. Latour just posits that it is a mode, with no argument. I think not enough work has been done on comparing Latour’s veridictive modes with Badiou’s truth procedures. Latour combines “love” and religion in one mode, but this is incoherent (unless you are blindly channeling “God is Love” or some such creedal slogan). Badiou separates them and argues that love is a truth procedure but that religion is not on the same plane as the truth procedures. For Badiou, religion is not a truth procedure (in Latourese, religion is not a mode), rather it is a general conception of truth in rivality with philosophy. This is interesting as Latour is very vague and contradictory about the status of philosophy in the book.

  4. To spell out Latour’s refined discussion of religion in clear: God does not exist in any referential sense. Jesus Christ probably never existed and we don’t even care whether he did or not – all that is REF. Catholicism prior to the Protestant Reformation was not about belief at all. The Inquisition had nothing to do with religion, which had nothing to do with belief. The Catholic religion only became perverted with the wars of religion and the Scientific Revolution. God as “being of the word” was forgotten and a double-click God of belief took His place. This is not anthropology but autobiography disguising its prejudices as “empirical” metaphysics.

  5. Hi Philip,
    Thanks for your interesting and erudite comments above.
    Some brief thoughts in return from me, albeit mostly in agreement with what you have said.
    I do think that Latour’s account of religion will be intimidating for theologians, especially those diving straight in to its presentation in AIME. On reason is that – as with all the modes – it is to a large extent assumed that we will be familiar with the entire Latourian lexicon. And this is not likely to hold for those working in theology: by and large, we have not heard much of Latour. In fact, accounts of the genesis of the modern self that have been offered, for example, by Charles Taylor or even by Rene Girard have seemed more explicitly ‘theological’, easier to grab ‘off-the-shelf’ and discuss, and hence have had greater traction. In addition, as you correctly point out, [REL] seems at first glance so heterodox that it hardly presents itself in a register that will be recognised by the theological academy. It is almost as if theologians will not notice the challenge that Latour is putting their way. And as for the pious in the pews? Golinksi’s comments (as quoted above) may well ring true.
    And yet I am going to stand by my claim that there is more ballast here than it looks at first.
    In answer to your points above:
    Point 1: is it indeed the case that God will simply evaporate were he to cease being articulated in and through his followers on earth? The logic of instauration seems to demand that you are right here. And yet there are hints that something else is being smuggled in here by Latour. For if the veridiction of the beings of [REL] is that they come through reprise in speech, their specifications (and remember, these are two different things in AIME) seem to be much more concrete. Take this sentence, for example: ‘they are truly beings; there’s really no reason to doubt this. They come from outside, they grip us, dwell in us, talk to us, invite us; we address them, pray to them, beseech them’ (308). To use the language of AIME, the beings of [REL] seem to have some being-as-being as well as being-as-other (cf. 162). Has Latour subverted his own ontology here? Is there a crease or a fold in the flattened surface of his metaphysics? These are going to be serious questions. But I wonder if it will turn out that theology – contrary to what we might blithely expect – does in fact have some pretty useful mechanisms to handle these delicate distinctions. Off the top of my head, I might point to the concept of Vorgriff as given by Karl Rahner. Or, again off the top of my head, what about the ink that has been spillt for some twenty centuries now on working out how an immanent Godhead can reveal itself by means of the economic Trinity (from the Capadochian Fathers, through to Barth, Zizioulas and Pannenberg in the twentieth century).
    Point 2: as we know, other than his crimping of Assmann, this sort of careful genealogy is simply not what Latour is trying to do in AIME, which (as you say) is a work of speculative philosophy. This sort of approach is his inheritance from Serres I would suggest – even at the level of his footnote strategy. It is frustrating. And I agree that it will need to be done. To your references I would add more explicitly biblical explorations of Transcendence with a capital T: themes like the people of Israel ‘seeing’ but ‘not seeing’ the form of YHWH on the mountain; Elijah experiencing the ‘passing by’ of YHWH in his cave, a word which is (in its LXX form) is interestingly echoed in the ‘passing by’ (παρελθεῖν) of Christ walking on the water before his disciples; and so on. And yet, having said that, I wonder if Latour would add that sensitivity to the beings of [REL] has proved – in fact – far less common in history that we might expect. On the AIME digital platform I notice that he quotes Souriau in Les différents modes d’existence on the topic of those who ‘claim’ to be able to articulate God, as follows: (quote from Souriau): ‘terrible requirement. The only philosophers who would respond (the only ones to objectify the divine?) are those who dare to make the Word speak: St. Augustine, Malebranche, Pascal. In general, one could say that there is no divine testimony in the universe of human discourse, except in some twenty pages or so of all the Writings of all religions where one has the impression of hearing a God speak of God. And twenty is a lot. Perhaps there are really only five altogether’. Is Latour going with this? Is he one of the five? Is he catalysing a host to come after him? Not many who say to me ‘Lord, Lord’, etc, etc. Perhaps the ‘history’ of religion is only beginning with Latour? Gulp!

  6. “To get us going, then, may I offer a provocative suggestion? Could it be the case that religion is in fact the concealed dynamo of Latour’s entire intellectual project? And, moreover, that it has functioned in this way from the very beginning?”

    Of course, we must not ignore the fact that the acronym AIME means ‘love’ in French! The Inquiry may proceed in the mode of [pre], as Latour claims, but perhaps its ethos, its motivation is religious — [rel] being a mode defined by love.

    • Yes, I like this interpretation. As you say, ‘love’ is the paradigmatic example of [REL], the base-line experience from which Latour will build his ontology of the beings of [REL]. We might even say that this resonates with the sense that over the years Latour’s thought has morphed from an ‘agonistic’ form of discourse (patron saint: Machiavelli; period: the early Latour of ANT and Science Studies ; description: agents jostling with each other to be the presiding voice of a chain) to a ‘diplomatic’ form of discourse (patron saint: Dewey; period: the late Latour of ‘The Politics of Nature’ and ‘AIME’; description: agents making room for each other in a democratic polis). Or is that fanciful?

  7. This is precisely what I contest. Even if we grant that REL is a mode (I think it is rather a complex crossing) it is much more plausible to characterise it by attention than by love. Once you begin to de-mythologise you must go all the way, and there is no reason to stop at some sort of baseline Christian common denominator. People don’t just worship, they meditate, do yoga, celebrate pagan festivals etc. In terms of formal practice I meditate and do yoga. But most of all I read, and think, and write with all my being. My “religion” is there, and love is an inadequate description. Further, I find his description of love as constituting one as a unified person utterly false as far as my own experience goes. Like Deleuze, I find that love is much more an experience of multiplicity than of unity. I argued that we must read AIME religiously here: http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/empiricism-vs-hermeneutics-1-reading-bruno-latour-religiously/.

    • But is Latour formally equating the two in this way? Is he saying that love = [REL] and [REL] = love? Or is it rather the case that love is the case-study, the test-case, the fuel-pack (as it were) that allows his exploration of the beings of [REL] to get off the ground?

      So here’s the logic:

      1. The Moderns are hamstrung by their false-identification of [REL] and [REF] (to give one example of a crossing that does damage to the former). This means that the Moderns come to religion with a false idea of their own selves: they believe (in the manner of popular psychology) that the human self must be ‘native, primordial, autochthonous and autonomous’ (301) and therefore the idea of a trajectory bearing down on their own soul as a ‘target’ (301), addressing them personally, from the outside and with great forcefulness and intent, just as the beings of [REL] do, is frightening.

      2. And yet, surprise surprise, the Moderns are more than familiar with just this experience. Every day, in every way, they experience ‘words of love [that] have the particular feature of endowing the person to whom they are addressed with the existence and unity that person has lacked’ (302).

      3. So there is the point of connection with quotidien experience that Latour can use to lever open the Modern Constitution, in order to open our eyes to the agency of the beings of [REL]. Thus: ‘the inquiry must return, as always, to experience itself, even if this seems quite remote from the domain officially recognised as religious’ (301).

      So, to conclude, Latour is not circumscribing the beings of [REL] to pews, prayer books and rosaries (entities normatively thought of as ‘religious’). He’s beginning with the experience of being brought closer, and then asking ‘which entities can achieve this’?

      Terence, if that for you is ‘reading’, then ergo there is your religious experience.

      Love, as it were, is an external fuel tank that can be discarded once the space shuttle is in the air.

      What do you think…?

  8. Still not happy.
    1) Religion is not belief: as anthropology this is just false and will not be accepted by any but a minority in a diplomatic assemblage. I happen to accept it, but for my type of religion, not as an acceptable general description. But this is nothing new, it goes back to Alan Watts (pop version) and even earlier to Wittgenstein (highbrow version). Non-autonoy of the ego addressed and traversed by outside beings is MET, no need for REL. I have already commented on how Latour gives a distorted description of MET aimed at distinguishing it from REL.
    2) Religion is not love, this is just one possible component. As to the Christian conflation of love and religion, this goes back to well before the book. In PETITE PHILOSOPHIE DE L’ENONCIATION, the conceptual prequel to AIME, Latour says (my translation): “I have chosen to call this régime of enunciation “religion” but I could have called it “love”, which would amount to the same thing – the first term is more collective, the second is more individual, but the historical religions that we know the best precisely defined themselves as religions of love”. Note: this is an argument from laziness or ignorance, not from research on our current religious situation. For me attention is more general descriptor than love. Many people practice yoga, meditation, relaxation, martial arts, formal or informal psychotherapy – these are practices of attention to the present and the close. Latour has no empirical research to back up his claims.
    Love is not an experience of unity but of multiplicity. Love as unity is once again Latour’s phantasm. I recently celebrated with my wife our 30th wedding anniversary. From the very beginning of our relationship my experience of love was of both of us being multiple, becoming more aware of that multiplicity and caring about it more. I do not think that Latour can just presuppose the essential co-belonging of religion and love.
    3) Latour’s project is not fundamentally empirical, he does not give primacy to experience. It is a priori and philosophical.The idea that my reading and writing are, or can be, religious experience is an idea that one can easily derive from yoga, but not from the “religion of love”.

    In conclusion, religion is not a mode but a variable complex crossing, often involving DC REF and MET and perhaps LUV (if we make it a mode. Personally I think love belongs in MET) to various degrees, and in combination with other modes depending on the local situations.

  9. Isn’t much in AIME a reworking of Latour’s “Rejoicing” which dates from 2002? Also suggest Levi Bryant’s work in “The Democracy of Objects” and “Ontocartography” possibly more productive for OOO than Miller?

  10. It seems to me well-done, and I would add that the structure of religion as a structure per se seems resilient enough to survive or even transcend the modernist experiment.

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