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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Collecting Documents for the Inquiry: Summary of Chapter 2

Author: Sam Mickey

Let’s look at chapter two of AIME.  As in the introduction and first chapter, Latour touches on a lot of issues in the second chapter, and a lot of questions and possible criticisms still remain.  We should bear in mind that we’re still early in the book, and Latour is imagining a reader who is patient and kind, demanding a final reckoning only at the end of the inquiry, not “after only a few pages” (p. 67).
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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

LA Review of Books on Modes of Existence

Stephen Muecke reviews the french edition of An Inquiry into Modes of Existence here.

Another Turn After ANT: An Interview with Bruno Latour

“This is a review, or preview, in the form of an interview, of Bruno Latour’s forthcoming book, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence. We discuss his intellectual trajectory leading up to actor–network theory and the pluralistic philosophy underlying his new, ‘positive’ anthropology of modernity.”

The interview with John Tresch is available here.