Harman on Latour on God and Metaphysics


Graham has a post up on Latour and metaphysics. I’m doing a reading course with a PhD student on Latour’s work this semester and Graham’s take is largely true: he’s a metaphysician at times, not when he’s about to be trapped, or perhaps better put, he doesn’t accept the dominant model of truth of Western metaphysics. In May, I’ll give a lecture in French in Montreal at a two-day workshop on Latour where I’ll look at this more closely (and get a chance to hear others working more thoroughly through Latour in other disciplines), since I want to underline a certain notion of truth that Western metaphysics has in the main disavowed (since it wants to be a third party on the scene), which some have called Sophistic but is even earlier in terms of Homeric notions of the trial. I’ll post a link to that program when it’s online, but here’s the abstract:

Dans son cours de l’année 1970-71, Michel Foucault a identifié deux conceptions fondamentales de la vérité. Premièrement, il y a la notion de vérité qui a produit la philosophie, ce qu’on déclare comme si par un tiers qui juge objectivement et ne participe pas à ce qui est étudié. Mais en revanche, Foucault a aussi identifié une conception de la vérité dans les textes d’Homère et  d’autres figures de l’époque archaïque de la Grèce antique. Cette autre conception de la vérité fut  produite d’une situation de contestation, dans un espace  d’argon. Cette notion de vérité, nous
 le savons bien, ce trouve chez les Sophistes. Le but de cette présentation est de démontrer la façon dont Bruno  Labour travail à partir d’une conception de la vérité qui précède la naissance de la philosophie occidentale, tel que Foucault nous la identifié. L’objet n’est pas de dénoncer Latour comme sophiste, dans le but d’éviter l’étude de son oeuvre. Plutôt, j’aimerai démontrer l’importance et la rigueur desa pensée, et non seulement en ce qui concerne les sciences, comme se fait trop souvent d’ailleurs, mais aussi pour analyser sa philosophie en ce qui a trait à la sémiologie et la réalité matérielle des signes. 

This brings me to Graham’s other point:

Another point to consider… Latour is a practicing Roman Catholic. This entails belief in God, and such belief normally entails belief in a real omnipotent entity that exists outside the mind. Yet this is not Latour’s concept of God. His concept  has nothing to do with the mode of existence he calls [REF], a scientific mode that enables us to link actors in such a way as to approach the strange and the distant. Instead, Latour’s concept of God is a purely immanent one (as far as I can tell), a God that does not exist outside the processions and rituals that make God present. Now, this is a pretty huge sacrifice to make in comparison with mainstream religious belief: denying the very existence of a God-in-itself outside all networks. What could possibly lead Latour to adopt such a position? A mere methodological devotion to empiricism? Hardly. The reason is that he simply does not think that anything could exist in a non-relational sense.

It turns out that in May, again, I’ll be presenting on Latour’s theology with that same PhD student doing the reading course at MUN’s annual religious studies conference. Graham’s “as far as I can tell” is about as far as I’ve gotten but that’s a couple of months off.

Source: on Bruno Latour and metaphysics | Object-Oriented Philosophy