Latour’s Pandora’s Hope

Bruno Latour
Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies
Area: Digital Media

•    “Do you believe in reality?”
•    Science studies has added reality to science
•    Science Studies (SS): relatively sure of daily practices
•    Descartes: mind requires artificial life-support to keep it viable
o    Looking from inside → out: constant gaze
•    Fear of the mob rule
•    Offering the mind a body—not a spectacle but a lived self-evident, unreflexive extension of the self
•    How is it possible to imagine an outside world?
o    Make the world into a spectacle seen from the inside
•    When SS say there’s no outside world, refuse to grant it the ahistorical, isolated, inhuman, cold, objective existence that was only given to combat the crowd
•    Factish = fact + fetish
•    What does it mean to be “away” from the forest?
o    From this POV there’s no difference between observation and experience: both are constructions
•    Never a resemblance between stages
•    Munsell code (ex: find exact paint sample by matching numbers)
•    Complete rupture between “thing” and “sign”
•    The chain must be reversible
•    Amplification: “We have been able at every stage, to extend our link with already-established practical knowledge, starting with the old trigonometry placed ‘behind’ phenomena and ending up with all of the new ecology, the new findings of ‘botanical pedology’” (71).
•    From text we return to things, displaced a little further
•    2 Major misunderstandings:
o    SS seeks a social explanation
o    SS deals only with discourse and rhetoric, but doesn’t care about the outside world
•    SS: rejects the idea that science is disconnected but doesn’t mean it embraces the social constructivist side either
•    Two types of historians:
o    Pure Politics = externalists
o    Pure Science = internalists
•    Initial vocab is different from final vocab
•    Vocabs of content v. context
o    Context: what explains science is society
o    Content: sciences explain themselves
•    Chains of transactions
o    Exoteric resources: daily papers
o    Esoteric resources: university textbooks
•    One cannot change scientific fact: others need to bring about the transformation
•    Is it rhetoric or proof that finally convinces scientists?
•    Mobilization o the world
o    “The first loop one has to follow can be called the mobilization of the world, if we understand by this very general expression all the means by which nonhumans are progressively loaded into discourse. It is a matter of moving toward the world, making it mobile, bringing it to the site of controversy, keeping it engaged, and making it available for arguments” (99-100).
•    Scientists make the objects move around them
•    2 parallel series of artifacts
o    “In a place of a collective of humans and nonhumans we now have two parallel series of artifacts that never intersect: ideas on the one hand and society on the other.  The first series, which results in the dreams of epistemology and the knee-jerk defensiveness of science warriors, is simply annoying and puerile; the second, which results in the illusion of a social world, is far more damaging, at least for those like me who try to practice a realistic philosophy” (111).
•    “Construction” is in no way the mere recombination of already existing elements
o    Mutual exchange of properties
•    Double meaning of fact: that which is made up and that which is not
•    Who is doing the action in this new medium of culture?
9: “As if it had not been devised so as not to be overcome!—phenomenology leaves s with the most dramatic split in this whole sad story: a world of science left entirely to itself, entirely cold, absolutely inhuman; and a rich lived world of intentional stances entirely limited to humans, absolutely divorced from what things are in and for themselves.”
13: “To avoid the threat of a mob rule that would make everything lowly, monstrous, and inhuman, we have to depend on something that has no human origin, no trace of humanity, something that is purely, blindly, and coldly outside of the City.  The idea of a completely outside world dreamed up by epistemologists is the only way, in the eyes of moralists, to avoid falling prey to mob rule.  Only inhumanity will quash inhumanity.”
13: “This is the argument of the book…can our representations capture with some certainty stable features of the world out there? … Can we find a way to fend off the people? … Conversely, will we still be able to use objective reality to shut the mob’s too many mouths?”
64: “How can we qualify this relation of representation, of delegation, when it is not mimetic yet is so regulated, so exact, so packed with reality, and, in the end, so realistic?  Philosophers fool themselves when they look for a correspondence between words and things as the ultimate standard of truth.  There is truth and there is reality, but there is neither correspondence nor adequatio.”
130: “According to which of these two contradictory features is stressed, the same text becomes either constructivist or realist.  Am I, Pasteur, making up this entity because I am projecting my prejudices onto it, or am I being made up and forced to behave that way because of its properties? Am I, the analyst of Pasteur, explaining the closure of the controversy by appealing to his human, cultural, historical interests, or will I be forced to add to the balance the active role of the non humans he did so much to shape?”
Class Notes
•    What is the limit of rhetoric?
o    Given the history of science?
•    Science: lock on objective reality
o    Rhetoric: decoration? Flourish?
•    Things change in the 20 Century: questions of objective shifts
o    What consequences—voracity of nature of science, work, speaking “truth,” rhetoric contributing something else
•    Latour: looking at science as activity
o    Science: social activity?
•    Do you think Latour belongs in a course on rhetorical theory?
o    Should he be saying “rhetoric” but doesn’t?
o    Dynamic: seems to suggest rhetoric
•    Put in context with what else we’ve read—how does he fit in?
•    Assigning of agency
o    Accounting for interactions—who’s responsible for what?
o    Vitalism
•    Speed Bump: locating all of these things into a material object
•    When technology fails, we notice the technology
•    How we talk about the technology
•    Technology as a co-actor, not a tool
•    Burke: agent and agency
•    In the interaction, what comes first?
o    How does the world become populated by things we interact with?
•    Human/Nonhuman (H/NH) constantly interacting
o    Constant loops of interactions
•    Means and ends
o    Kant: treat humans as having an end (purposiveness?)
•    Humans become the end of technology
o    Requires us as an audience
•    Technology imbued with motive? (not really…)
o    Creative function in the mind
•    Not one person’s discovery
•    Science: politicized—above/outside realm of politics
•    Compact history
•    Might v. Right
o    Might: someone has power, not much you can do about it
•    One can’t bring about change, others need to bring about transformation
•    If we keep philosophical discussion too much, are we doing more harm?
•    Might of science: mist to subsume all humans to obey all laws of nature
•    Facts may be what they may be
o    Global warming (ex.): Latourian H/NH interaction
o    Less rhetoric: scientists prove this is the case and what we should do about it
•    Direct connection between what we know and how we act
o    More rhetoric: interpretative: convince people what to
•    Indirect or no direct connection between knowledge and action
•    What it is people do with what they know
•    Claming final truth is a different way of talking
•    How does the way of talking misconstrue things?
•    The object itself has an impact on environment
o    How do we talk about relationship with these objects?
o    The environments we’ve built constrains or enables us in these ways
•    How do we find responsibility for an act?


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