The modesofexistence (http://modesofexistence.org/index.php/site/index) people have contacted the AIME reading group to solicit comments and greater participation. Here is the comment I left on their site:
I am a member of the AIME reading group, but unlike Adam I quckly felt the sequential format of discussion too confining. I would have liked to have a more variegated discussion on the AIME site, but this is still to come. A major obstacle for me is that I forget the conditions of use, which I quickly clicked through, but I think I had to agree to ceding ownership of my comments to the site. As I am writing quite a lot on the book and may publish my analyses in book form I do not think I will leave anything more than short comments on the site.
Fortunately I have my own blog and have published quite a lot of posts on the book. Another member of the AIME reading group Philip Conway has done the same on his blog CIRCLING SQUARES, and so all together we have managed to generate at least a three-sided inter-blog discussion. To this one must add Levi Bryant of Larval Subjects (http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/), who is working his way through the book and making some very interesting comparisons with the work of Niklas Luhmann.
Philip Conway has produced some very useful critical analyses of the chapters on power and on religion, and has posted insightful comments on Latour’s work on his blog for some time, beginning well before the publication of AIME. I myself on this blog have been analysing the philosophical status of the book, its philosophical sources, comparable projects by other contemporary philosophers, and I have concentrated on examining criticallythe crossing of the scientific and the religious modes.
I must admit that I have chosen a polemical style for most of my comments, but I think the book is very interesting in its scope and in its analyses. The idea of the digital platform is a potentially very fruitful initiative.
In the past I was involved with the project around ALL THINGS SHINING by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly. This book is in a very different style a pluralist treatise on modes of existence (called by them « modes of understanding of Being » and « modes of gathering). This project was not just limited to a book but included two series of podcast lectures, one by Hubert Dreyfus at the University of Berkeley and the other by Sean Kelly at Harvard. It was also associated with a blog (http://allthingsshiningbook.wordpress.com/). The blog did not live up to expectations because of
1) the lack of implication by the authors (Dreyfus never wrote for it, Kelly began with frequent articles and replies to comments, but quickly lost impetus, as the effort necessary for such writing is very time-consuming)
2) the rather hagiographic approach to the book, shutting its eyes to defects and lacks, not to mention outright inconsistencies, treating it as a work of genius beyond all but minor criticism.
3) the absence of any attempt to engage with the thought of other pluralist thinkers, the attitude that this was a unique and incomparable thought, an attitude that I have called « monological pluralism ».
So with reference to AIME my conclusions from that experience, which was very promising but which only half-succeeded, would be
1) more implication and feedback from Bruno Latour himself (I realise that time considerations may make this impossible). More updates on the progress made in the meetings, discussions and reports and on the possible directions for future transformations.
2) an active encouragement to get in and deal critically with the text. This does not mean saying « we’re open to people who do a simlar sort of ethnographic inquiry on one of our modes or on a new one, let them provide the documentary material and we will examine it ». This in fact closes off discussion for many who do not have the resources and training for such an investigation. It also denies the highly philosophical nature of the text and discourages direct philosophical criticism, which should also be possible.
3) a serious attempt should be made to link this project with other pluralist thinkers such as Deleuze (he really gets a poor deal!) and Michel Serres, but also with Bernard Stiegler, François Laruelle, and Alain Badiou. I would add to this list of pluralist ontologists William Connolly, and Dreyfus and Kelly. The book is not a lonely milestone projecting out of a swamp of bungling bifurcators and I think this scenography counts against its ambition to flourish into a collective collaboration.
My own personal conclusion is that I find the book very interesting, very stimulating, but also very flawed. I have done the best I can to widen the discussion and I will continue to do so. Thank you for this opportunity to participate in the collective elaboration, and I really hope that it goes beyond the level of a flashy gimmick but that it changes our way of doing philosophy. I will do everything I can to help it work.