Category Archives: Ontology

Chapter 10: Learning to Respect Appearances

Title: Habitual Care:  The Mode of Existence of Habit and its Politics

Author: John W. Wright. Point Loma Nazarene University.

Chapter 10, “Respecting the Appearances,” engages “the question of essence” (p. 264).   Why does it arise?  Latour argues that the question of essence gestures toward another “mode of existence.”  This mode of existence, later in the chapter named “habit,” accounts “for the apparent continuity of action” amid a world characterized by fissures, gaps, and heterogeneities – in other words, a net.  Latour calls “habit” the “most indispensable” mode of existence:  “the one that takes up 99 percent of our lives, the one without which we could not exist” (AIME, p. 264).  As Latour works through the chapter, he clarifies his overall ontology and the deeper ethical/political concerns that fuel the plasma that circulates unseen underneath his ontology. Continue reading

Chapter 6: Correcting a Slight Defect in Construction

Author: Josh Brahinsky

Why the gap between practice and theory? “Why is it so hard to follow experience?” In other words, why do Moderns doubt the referential and reproductive mediations of practice? Simple answer – we confuse our modes.

Construction is hard to imagine positively. Or, at least, in the world of fact, construction outlines the cracks.  The cracks in time Latour calls reproduction, cracks in contact, reference. Latour recognizes the challenge in the name, the word construction, so devoid of philosophical warmth that even naked, without social, its baggage has him revising as composition and now instauration.  For construction is both a sign of ignorance (not-knowledge) and has lost some of its density.  However, for Latour, construction suggests a doubled action (doubled author), uncertain direction (co-constituted trajectories between authors), and a qualitative judgment regarding construction.  Or at least it ought to, he says. Since we have denuded it of these connotations, and have forever tied it to “weak” knowing rather than “strong” being-becoming, Latour offers a new term. Perhaps, he hopes, instaurators instigate, reciprocally, without certainty, always concerned with quality?  Further, it is a concept that invites, and requires, certain respect for the resources, perhaps agency, of the beings that co-participate in this new version of construction.  You/I/We must “encounter beings capable of worrying you… articulable beings… beings that have their own resources.”   Neither raw material nor creative imagination, only grasped successfully in their own interpretive key. Continue reading

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.

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Without Mediation, No Access: Comments on Chapter 3

Author: Adam Robbert

Had Bruno Latour his own academy the inscription above the door might read “Without Mediation, No Access.” To new students of the academy the statement would appear paradoxical, even obscure. If to “mediate” is to come between, to intervene from the middle, isn’t mediation, then, that which must be in the way of access rather than its condition? Isn’t the goal of knowledge to remove all mediation so as to gain a form of direct access to the things themselves? The students would shake their heads, disappointed with the ambiguous nature of the engraving. The initiates, however, would offer a different, more complex, reading: Mediation separates, yes, but it also joins; mediation is the medium of exchange and communication, the linking element that builds a new bridge; it provides the conditions by which access becomes possible. To “access” itself means to come in close; to not just approach something, but to approach it in a particular way, to create an entrance by means of the bridge. What’s more, the initiates would be aware that bridges do not appear ready-made; they must be constructed though meticulous labor and with precise materials so as to connect each new entity that seeks to gain access to the others in the circuit. Worse still, the initiates would also know that bridges do not last forever; they must be continually maintained and reproduced; the access they provide is not granted for all time and for all places, but only to those places and those times connected by the right bridges. The cosmos, the initiates would understand, is a vast archipelago of different beings that can only access one another when the right mediators are in place, and then only insofar as the mediations can be stabilized over time.

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Introduction + Chapter 1: A Few Criticisms

Author: Philip Conway

Given the cursory and familiar nature of the opening chapters I don’t have a great deal to add just yet in terms of commentary but I do have one major criticism.  It concerns the definition of ‘The Moderns’ – perhaps the central plank of Latour’s political-philosophical platform.

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Summary of Introduction + Chapter 1

Author: Philip Conway

Greetings, tout le monde!

We’ve yet to establish a format for these posts.  What I’ve done here needn’t set a precedent for everyone else; I just hope that the following will be useful.  At the very least it’ll get us started.  I’ve written up a bullet point summary of the introduction and the first chapter – a melange of paraphrases and choice quotes.  Hopefully that’ll be enough to refresh people’s memories, provide an overview of the text and give us some jumping off points for conversation.  If I’ve missed something major or if you disagree with my interpretations then do let me know!

As these are the early, introductory pages and because we’ve not yet gotten our discussions going I don’t have much to add vis-à-vis commentary but I do have one critical remark to make about Latour’s definition of ‘The Moderns.’  That’ll come in a second post.

First, the summary.  Continue reading

An Introduction to AIME