Just discovered through Adam Robbert’s site, Knowledge Ecologies (click here), that a provisional portion of Catherine Porter’s upcoming translation of Bruno Latour’s An Inquiry into Modes of Existence is now available: click here (pdf).
“Is there a way to bridge the distance between the scale of the phenomena we hear about and the tiny Umwelt inside which we witness, as if we were a fish inside its bowl, an ocean of catastrophes that are supposed to unfold? How are we to behave sensibly when there is no ground control station anywhere to which we could send the help message, “Houston, we have a problem”?”
– Bruno Latour, Waiting for Gaia
It appears that Bruno Latour is seeking a new epistemic-ontological account that revises our understanding of Science and Modernity, and “objectivity through trust in a scholarly institution” without leaving those who serve such institutions the sense that the sciences no longer serve the values for which they have been fighting. What he offers is a set of questions and investigations that ponder the need for a revaluation of the Concepts that have guided scientific inquiry during the modern era through a process of reformulations that revisions these within what geologists now term the “Anthropocene Era”; thereby, broadening the spectrum of possibilities that an all too too narrow framework of modernization no longer affords us, and extending an inquiry that seeks new conceptual tools to evaluate the truth and decisionary differences between facts and values of our present philosophical problematique.
The Modern Era has passed from us, the Anthropocene Era – a historical category that moves us beyond the Holocene, that situates itself in the historical trajectory we term the scientific and democratic, emancipatory age of the industrial revolutions to the present day is upon us. This anthropocene era measures us within a new vision of culture and nature by entangling the once divided realms into a meshwork of culturenature: a strange composite object that certain scientists resolve into a mythical and scientific appellation as “Gaia”. As he states it: “If I wanted to dramatize – perhaps overdramatize – the ambiance of my investigative project, I would say that it seeks to register the aftershocks of the modernization front just as this front is suddenly bumping up against Gaia.” With the arrival of this new era of the Anthropocene things have become more complicated, the past has been altered and the future shattered beyond any form of emancipatory visioning. “And what is worse: “we” no longer know who we are, nor of course where we are, we who had believed we were modern . . . End of modernization. End of story. Time to start over.”
But where are we going and who are we becoming? What brave new world lies before us…
Well to understand where we are heading Latour tells us we must first look backward and finally offer a realistic description of the modern adventure itself, one that will allow us to give “comparative anthropology a more credible basis for comparison”. Some will argue against such a conclusion, saying that the urgency of our moment, the moment of global transformation with all its entailing dilemnas is upon us: climate change, late capitalism and its failures, etc. Yet, Latour, tells us that because of the urgency of these issues it is in itself more urgent that we take the long look back, understand just what brought about this dark heritage, “reflect slowly” on its problematique before we can offer real solutions going forward. But to do this we must first instigate an inquiry that “will allow us to clarify, fairly systematically, for a large number of unexpected subjects, CATEGORY MISTAKES bearing on what I have called the various MODES OF EXISTENCE”. This will be an inquiry into the “conflicts of values” – the scientific versus religious, legal versus political, or scientific versus fictional that inhabit the tensions between various modes. As a part of this in depth inquiry we will need to accept a “pluralism of modes and thus the plurality of keys by means of which their truth or falsity is judged”. Bruno Latour like a time traveling diplomat from the future moves between the dystopia of economics and the utopia of ecology formulating negotiations for a habital world that is always coming toward us as pure acceleration…
To discover more of Bruno Latour’s new work read the first chapter of An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: click here (pdf). Also on the AIME project site is a description of the 15 Modes of Existence: click here.