Bruno Latour poses the question: “What Is the Recommended Dose of Ontological Pluralism for a Safe Anthropological Diplomacy?” and replies with a typology of stages on the way of pluralism. It is clear that many questions and objections of the type « How can the pluralist disagree with the monist because for him everything is true? » or « For the pluralist evil spirits are just as good an explanation for epileptic seizures as a neuro-physiological one », far from representing decisive objections, belong to a low level of integration of pluralism, to a beginner’s understanding.
It is interesting to look at the long-term evolution of two pluralists, Paul Feyerabend and Bruno Latour, to see what a greater integration of pluralism can comport of fluidity and multiplicity of thought. First, I will distinguish several phases in Feyerabend’s intellectual development, and then briefly compare the sequence with Latour’s. Feyerabend ttraversed five phases that are relevant:
1) process ontology – Feyerabend has always made heuristic use of process ontology since at least the 1950s, basing himself on Hegel, Mach, and Bohm.
2) epistemological pluralism – this is a radicalisation of Popper’s methodology for the sciences, elaborating a methodological pluralism not only for the sciences but also for the arts, and for the conduct of life.
3) epistemological anarchism – in the 60s, in a series of conversations with von Weizsäcker concerning the history of quantum mechanics, Feyerabend came to see that even this pluralist methodology was both descriptively inadequate and too constraining when compared to the concerete practice of science. This is Feyerabend’s phase of deconstruction of Popper.
4) tradition (or ethnographic) pluralism – in the late 1960s, as a result of new educational policies the University of Berkeley, where Feyerabend taught, received an influx of students of all sorts, who had been excluded from the educational process before. Feyerabend declined to teach them a new doctrine of pluralist anarchist principles, deciding that this would be simply perpetuating the same domestication or murder of minds and souls that rationalists had always perpetrated on the non-rationalist traditions.
5) ontological pluralism – Feyerabend argued that this relativist pluralism needed to be reinforced with an ontological pluralism derived in part from pseudo-Dionysos. He emphasised the realist aspect of pluralism, that many traditions and hypotheses receive support and confirmation from Being but not all.
Latour from his own accounts of intellectual autobiography seems to have followed the sequence 4-3-2-5-1, finishing with the addition of process ontology (Whitehead) where Feyerabend begins from that position.