Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Harman on “Early and Late Latour,” Oregon State, 25-Feb-2014

5 October 2013

Graham Harman: “Early and Late Latour,” Critical Questions Lecture Series, School of Writing, Literature, and Film, Oregon State University, 25th February 2014

The French theorist Bruno Latour continues to expand his already extensive influence in the social sciences, and is slowly emerging as a force to reckon with in philosophy as well. Latour has long been known for his actor-network theory. But beginning in 1987, Latour worked in secret on a parallel philosophical system in which networks are just one among fourteen separate modes of existence. This secret system was recently unveiled in Latour’s new book An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence (Harvard University Press, 2013). This lecture will examine the principal features of Latour’s new system and ask whether Latour’s proclaimed philosophical shift is significant in its own right, and also whether it might have new implications for the various fields that take inspiration from Latour’s work.

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On Latour and Simondon’s Mode of Existence – fragments of a fictional dialogue yet to come

4 February 2013

On Latour and Simondon’s Mode of Existence – fragments of a fictional dialogue yet to come.

Yuk Hui, intervention given in a Workshop on Latour@ Denkerei, 28 Jan,2013

This intervention from its outset searches a dialogue between Simondon and Latour, a fictional dialogue, that nevertheless exists though it hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened, or should I say it was once about to happen, when Latour praised Simondon’s Du Mode d’existence des objets techniques, and commented that it is a work that didn’t yet find its successor. But it does exist, this fictional dialogue, or at least we can talk about its mode of existence if you prefer since being fictional is also a mode of existence. We cannot draw a squared circle but we can think of a squared circle, it has meanings, this was an example given by Husserl as a critique of Frege’s logism. The secrete philosopher of Bruno Latour, Étienne Souriau hold a similar idea in his Les différents Modes d’existence. A fictional object or character doesn’t occur in time and space as a physical object, or a historical event, but it does exists in works, in the socio-psychological life and the imagination of their readers and witness. Modes of existence is always plural, it doesn’t follow the rule of contradiction, it is rather key to what Latour calls ontological pluralism.

LARB review of Latour’s Enquête sur les modes d’existence

5 January 2013

By Stephen Muecke: “‘I am what I am attached to’: On Bruno Latour’s ‘Inquiry into the Modes of Existence.'” Los Angeles Review of Books, December 28th, 2012.

His new book, Enquête sur les modes d’existence (An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence), sold out of the first print run of 4,000 in 10 days. But it is not just a book; it is also a project in interactive metaphysics. In other words, a book, plus website. (Unheard of! A French philosopher using the Internet!) Intrigued readers of Latour’s text can go online and find themselves drawn into a collaborative project (so far only in French, but the English web pages will be up soon, and Catherine Porter’s translation of the book will be out from Harvard University Press in the spring). Simply register on the site, and you are free to offer commentary, counter-examples, snippets of movies, images, whatever. You may possibly graduate to the status of co-researcher, and even be invited to a workshop in Paris down the line, to thrash out the thornier problems.

METAphorisms

4 December 2012

Berlin-based META Magazine presents METAphorisms by Tim Morton and Tammy Lu. Aphorisms by Morton, drawings by Lu.

META asked artist Tammy Lu and philosopher Tim Morton to meditate on classical metaphysical vocabulary, by means of philosophical musings, color, form and motion. (…) Here, she takes on Morton’s philosophy by providing visual, topical and poetic maps, objects of all shapes and sizes, growing and enmeshing, and so it dawns on us that we are objects ourselves, entangled with other objects, no matter if these are bees or coffee machines.

Gilbert Simondon’s transindividual

17 November 2012

Speaking of Henning Schmidgen, I encountered his name once again this week: this time on the back cover of an interesting new book (new in English, that is), Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual by Muriel Combes (translated by Thomas LaMarre). There is also a substantial afterword by LaMarre entitled “Humans and Machines.”

Here is what Schmidgen says about the book:

This book is highly recommended to all of those wishing to better understand the radical importance of Simondon in current debates about networked affectivity, nonhuman agency, and the politics of nature. (…) Combes constructs an innovative form of multiplied materialism.”

Other endorsers include Eric Alliez:

Published in 1999, Muriel Combes’s succinct book remains to this day the best introduction to Simondon’s opus. But it does better: it introduces through Simondon the most contemporary stakes of an ontology of relation turned toward a politics of individuation.

…and Robert Mitchell:

With remarkable concision, Combes covers the entirety of Simondon’s work, from his breathtaking theory of individuation to his philosophy of technology and technical objects, while LaMarre’s afterword helpfully links Combes’s account of Simondon to the work of authors such as Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Bruno Latour, and Isabelle Stengers.

…and Didier Debaise:

Gilbert Simondon was one of the most ambitious and inventive thinkers of twentieth-century philosophy but has for too long been unjustly neglected. Muriel Combes’s insightful book unquestionably ends this phase.

CfP: Phenomenological Approaches to Media, Technology and Communication

14 November 2012

Conditions of Mediation: Phenomenological Approaches to Media, Technology and Communication

2013 International Communication Association (ICA) Preconference
ICA Theory, Philosophy and Critique Division
17 June 2013, Birkbeck, University of London

Paper proposals are invited from a very wide range of perspectives, including but not limited to media history, media archaeology, audience studies, political theory, metaphysics, software studies, science and technology studies, digital aesthetics, cultural geography and urban studies. Though all proposals should relate in some way to phenomenological thinking, this should be interpreted broadly, ranging from core thinkers such as Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre to those with looser affiliations to phenomenology per se, for example Arendt, Bergson, Bourdieu, Deleuze, Garfinkel, Ingold, Latour, Whitehead and Harman.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Dr David Berry, Swansea University
  • Professor Nick Couldry, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Professor Graham Harman, American University of Cairo
  • Professor Lisa Parks, UC Santa Barbara
  • Professor Paddy Scannell, University of Michigan

Please send an abstract (max 200 words) of your paper to both Scott Rodgers (s.rodgers@bbk.ac.uk) and Tim Markham (t.markham@bbk.ac.uk) by 20 November 2012. Authors will be informed regarding acceptance / rejection for the preconference no later than 20 December 2012.

Henning Schmidgen on the early Latour

14 November 2012

This is one of the most informative articles I’ve read on the early influences on Latour’s work. The role of biblical exegesis is particularly interesting. And even the question of the Heidegger-Latour connection gets a little mention, which was the original impetus behind the reading group that launched this blog. Apparently the link is Latour’s philosophy teacher,  André Malet, who was into Bultmann, Heidegger’s one-time colleague, debating partner and friend.

Schmidgen, H. (2012). “The Materiality of Things? Bruno Latour, Charles Péguy, and the History of Science.” History of the Human Sciences.

This article sheds new light on Bruno Latour’s sociology of science and technology by looking at his early study of the French writer, philosopher and editor Charles Péguy (1873–1914).

In the early 1970s, Latour engaged in a comparative study of Péguy’s Clio and the four gospels of the New Testament. His 1973 contribution to a Péguy colloquium (published in 1977) offers rich insights into his interest in questions of time, history, tradition and translation. Inspired by Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of difference, Latour reads Clio as spelling out and illustrating the following argument: ‘Repetition is a machine to produce differences with identity’.

However, in contrast to Deleuze’s work (together with Félix Guattari) on the materiality of machines, or assemblages [agencements], Latour emphasizes the semiotic aspects of the repetition/difference process. As in Péguy, the main model for this process is the Roman Catholic tradition of religious events.

The article argues that it is this reading of Péguy and Latour’s early interest in biblical exegesis that inspired much of Latour’s later work. In Laboratory Life (Latour and Woolgar, 1979) and The Pasteurization of France (1988) in particular, problems of exegesis and tradition provide important stimuli for the analysis of scientific texts.

In this context, Latour gradually transforms the question of tradition into the problem of reference. In a first step, he shifts the event that is transmitted and translated from the temporal dimension (i.e. the past) to the spatial (i.e. from one part of the laboratory to another). It is only in a second step that Latour resituates scientific events in time.

As facts they are ‘constructed’ but nevertheless ‘irreducible’. They result, according to Latour, from the tradition of the future. As a consequence, the Latourian approach to science distances itself from the materialism of Deleuze and other innovative theoreticians.

Review of Sloterdijk’s “You Must Change Your Life”

10 November 2012

I feel a bit uneasy linking to the New Humanist, produced by the Rationalist Association, as their iconoclastic zeal doesn’t appeal to me, however I found this review of Peter Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life by Jonathan Rée interesting.

Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures, February 2013

29 October 2012

THE UNIVERSITY of EDINBURGH GIFFORD LECTURES 2013

[brochure PDF]

Facing Gaia: A new inquiry into Natural Religion

A series of six lectures by Bruno Latour, Professor at Sciences Po, Paris

18 February to 28 February 2013 at 5.30pm

All lectures take place in St Cecilia’s Hall, Niddry Street, Cowgate, Edinburgh, at 5.30pm.

The Gifford Lectures

The Gifford Lectures, which are held at each of the four ancient Scottish universities, were established under the will of Adam Lord Gifford, a Senator of the College of Justice, who died in 1887. For over a hundred years, the Lectures have enabled a most notable field of scholars to contribute to the advancement of philosophical and theological thought. Past Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh include William James, John Dewey, Albert Schweitzer, Niels Bohr, Arnold Toynbee, Sir John Eccles, Iris Murdoch, Charles Taylor, Michael Ignatieff, Wentzel van Huyssteen, Noam Chomsky, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Simon Conway Morris, Alexander Nehamas, Robert Veatch, Jonathan Sacks, Diana Eck, Mike Gazzaniga, Terry Eagleton, Patricia Churchland.

Abstracts:

Facing Gaia. A new inquiry into Natural Religion

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia, this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression of “natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite notion of ‘’natural religion’’.

18 February 2013 – Once out of nature

The set of questions around the two words “natural religion” implies that only the second word is a coded and thus a disputed category, the first one being taken for granted and uncoded. But if it can be shown that the very notion of nature is a theological construct, we might be able to shift the problem somewhat: the question becomes not to save or resurrect “natural religion”, but to dispose of it by offering at last a ‘’secular’’ version of nature and of the natural sciences.

19 February 2013 – A question of agency

Once nature and the natural sciences are fully “secularized”, it becomes possible to revisit also the category of the supernatural. Then, a different landscape opens which can be navigated through an attention to agencies and their composition. Such a freedom of movement allows the use of the rich anthropological literature to compare the ways different “collectives” manage to assemble and totalize different sets of agencies.

21 February 2013 – Gaia’s puzzling features

In spite of its reputation, Gaia is not half science and half religion. It offers a much more enigmatic set of features that redistribute agencies in all possible ways (as does this most enigmatic term “anthropocene”). Thus, it is far from clear what it means to “face Gaia”. It might require us to envisage it very differently from the various divinities of the past (including those derived from nature).

25 February 2013 – How many globes can be held on an angel’s fingertip?

The paradox of what is called “globalization” is that there is no “global globe” to hold the multitude of concerns that have to be assembled to replace the “politics of nature” of former periods. What are the instruments —always local and partial— that are sensitive enough to Gaia’s components for the limited technical and emotional apparatus of assembled humans?

26 February 2013 – War of the worlds: humans against earthlings

In the absence of any Providence to settle matters of concern – and thus of nature, its barely disguised substitute – no peaceful resolution of Gaian conflicts can be expected. The recognition of a state of war and the designation of enmity is indispensable if a state of diplomacy is later to be reached. Under the pressure of so many apocalyptic injunctions, what is a Gaian political theology?

28 February 2013 – St Christopher you’re not strong enough to carry the world!

Although the resources of “paganism”, New Age cults, renewed themes of Christian incarnation, and process theology offer rich mythological insights, it is not clear whether they are at the scale and sensitivity needed to face Gaia. A search for collective rituals should begin with works of art and experiments able to explore in sufficient detail the scientific and political composition of the common world.

Video: Conditions of Possibility, CUNY

22 October 2012

Video of “Conditions of Possibility” – 19 October 2012, CUNY (hat tip to dmf, who posts a lot of good stuff in the comments that I don’t always have time to re-post). Event starts at 34 min.

As part of the series Critical Theory Today, eminent theorist Slavoj Žižek joins Martin Hägglund and Adrian Johnston in a discussion about “Conditions of Possibility,” with respect to philosophy, literary theory, religion, and psychoanalysis. Drawing on such diverse and archetypal figures as Kant, Hegel, Freud, Derrida, and Lacan, the panel will explore the notion of philosophical critique and its transformation in contemporary theory.