Initially I was quite critical of Bruno Latour’s AIME project, as expressed in the book AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE. I felt very ambivalent about the book,despite approving of its pluralist perspective. When I first read it I had in the back of my mind the various pluralists that Latour does not cite very favourably (including Feyerabend and Deleuze, but also Wittgenstein, Lyotard, and Rorty). The book did not come off well to my mind from such a comparison: not really innovative, misrepresenting its predecessors, far more speculative than its empiricist rhetoric would have us believe, idiosyncratic where it makes claims to generality, ontologically evasive.

I had a second more favorable reaction when I saw the book attacked from a dogmatic and naive naturalist position, during the so-called the “pluralism wars”, that condemned the AIME project as dangerous relativism. This made me realize that I had come to a much more positive appreciation of the project, and that I wanted to defend it.

The so-called “pluralism wars” were a remake of a prior debate that I baptised the “moth wars“, when the partisans of a supposedly scientifically inspired naturalism called on us to set aside a century’s worth of critical examination of science and scientism, in the name of a definitory conflation of naturalism and the “scientific” worldview (which does not even exist as a unified homogeneous perspective).

Despite the pretention of these scientistic throwbacks (as Latour asks ironically: “Where have they been?”) to define pluralism over the protestations of those who have gone further than them along the path of immanence, some thinkers, including Latour, have tried to give an account of how things look from an actual pluralist perspective. It is a desolating experience to see the scientistic rationalists up to their old arrogant tactics of “We’ll define your position for you, now stop protesting and defend your position as we define it against our objections”.

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One Response to MAKE AIME NOT WAR

  1. Philip says:

    I had a similar reaction. I found the book (or the Report, as it is for Latour) quite frustrating the first time around. Reading it for a second time I found it to be much more enjoyable, particularly after having read Latour’s book on religion, which elucidated the [rel] chapters greatly. I don’t mind having to read a philosophy book twice in order to appreciate it properly but it does seem to be a bit of a fault for a text that is avowedly ‘diplomatic.’

    From the ontic pluralism of the ‘flat ontology’ to the ontological pluralism of the modes of existence, there is quite a leap. It will be interesting to see how people engage with it once the project is concluded. I get the impression that the Report is still gathering dust, unread, on quite a few bookshelves.


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