LATOUR/ LE GUIN: Subjunctivity and the declensions of immanence

Andrew Gibson has published a very interesting quote from Ursula Le Guin concerning the increasing hegemony of the indicative mood and of the model of certainty. She makes a plea for restoring the dignity and potency of the subjunctive mood and of the powers it invokes.

I think we can relate this to Latour’s notion of the different modes of enunciation and thus of modes of existence. The indicative mood is dominated by double-click, the illusion of transport without transformation. The access to what Samuel Delany calls degrees of subjunctivity is not just linguistic but equally ontological, giving access to other powers. The interesting implications of Le Guin’s idea go beyond “narrativity” and the beings of fiction, because she is appealing implicitly to a notional subjunctivity that may be present even when syntactically the mood is indicative, as in much of the enunciation in fiction.

« What might be called the second empiricism (James calls it radical) can become faithful to experience again, because it sets out to follow the veins, the conduits, the expectations, of relations and of prepositions —these major providers of direction. And these relations are indeed in the world, provided that this world is finally sketched out for them—and for them all. Which presupposes that there are beings that bear these relations, but beings about which we no longer have to ask whether they exist or not in the manner of the philosophy of being-as-being. But this still does not mean that we have to “bracket” the reality of these beings, which would in any case “only” be representations produced “by the mental apparatus of human subjects.” The being-as-other has enough declensions so that we need not limit ourselves to the single alternative that so obsessed the Prince of Denmark. “To be or not to be” is no longer the question! Experience, at last; immanence, especially » (Bruno Latour, AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE).

From subjunctivity to prepositions and declensions the metaphor changes, but the lesson is the same: a recovery of the many powers of language allied to an exploration of the abundance of beings and of their modes of existence.

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