I have been blogging about Bruno Latour’s philosophy over the last 3 years, examining it in relation to an array of other pluralist thinkers (Feyerabend, Deleuze, Serres, Connolly, Hillman, Laruelle, Stiegler). I have made several contributions on the AIME site, and I participated in a reading group devoted to summarising and discussing Latour’s book AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE. During the so-called “pluralism wars” earlier this year I defended Latour’s version of pluralism from the accusation of “anti-realism” and “relativism”. However, I am no uncritical disciple, and have offered criticism whenever it seemed necessary, in particular concerning Latour’s take on religion and on the relation between religion and science (in Latour’s AIME jargon this concerns the crossing [REL] – [REF]). This reflection on pluralism and religion is summarised in my review of Adam S. Miller’s very interesting and very well-written book SPECULATIVE GRACE: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology. Full review here.
To summarise the results of my intellectual reflection I wrote and made public, on Scribd and on academia.edu, a 49 page article concerning my reactions both to the book and to the AIME project, which I presented as a draft of work in progress. I have received nothing at all in response to my article. No comments, no critiques, no replies- neither from the AIME members, nor from the book’s official rewriters, nor from other contributors, nor from the vast number of people belonging to the interested public that we see referred to or that we glimpse in the videos.. One of the rewriters actually told me he was too busy rewriting the “report” to reply to me, when the whole idea of the book and of its “rewrite”, so it is said, is to provoke and to reply to “protestations”.
There is something wrong with this whole lack of discussion, and I think that the AIME platform, its structure and functioning, are part of the problem. But I would claim more generally that the whole conception of the AIME project as diplomatic rather than democratic is responsible for certain technical choices and communicative attitudes.
In particular, the “rewriting” is a process that takes into account and responds to the various “protestations” (and I think that this word is too reductive, giving hegemony to what should be just one part of a dialogue, where not all expression of other ideas should be reduced to protest) and so concerns my particular contribution among others, or it is a lure. Or rather it is just business as usual, comprising well-known names such as Isabelle Stengers, Kyle McGee, and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, as officially accepted contradictors. Plus a few academics with tenure and the right publications, to show that one is “open” after all.
I examine the AIME process from the point of view of a democratic pluralism, and I find the actual exchanges facilitated by their platform and dialogical behaviour too limited, constrained, filtered, and codified. I would like to say: prove to me that you are democratic, create open exchanges in parallel to the relatively closed ones that you have created up to now, multiply the dialogues, don’t make contributors and critics wait one or two years to see a “rewrite” that may or may not take into account what they have written.
Bruno Latour’s AIME is no longer a project but a process, a performance converging towards a competence. The indicators of competence – technical jargon, one-dimensional timeline, academic diffusion – are increasing. AIME from project to process is crystallising as party. I have come out in favour of the project. I support it. I am a fellow-traveller of the AIME process, I am not a member of the AIME party. Who represents me and people like me in the diplomatic negotiation? The
There are some possible dangers of the AIME process that are worrisome in terms of its stated aims. I speak of David and Goliath, that is to say a potential “MOOC-effect” of
(1) non-interactivity at the base level. The AIME project has organised the diplomatic exchange in terms of a pluralism that does not clearly manifest itself at the micro-level.
(2) the individual being swamped in the ocean of large numbers. This is not necessarily a factor of suffering for the individual, but it may generate affective protest. The inquiry seeks to cultivate sensitivity to protest. Not all protest is suffering, but all affect is cognitive or veridictive (but not infallible, affect needs cultivation and potentially rectification).
(3) the existing hierarchies being strengthened rather than weakened by the process
4) a process of alienation or of disindividuation in which “negotiation” replaces dialogue. If one side of the negotiation has become a force of disindividuation there is no encounter.
(5) monistic pluralism: an auto-poietic (i.e. closed) pluralism that has no dialogue with other pluralisms (for example: Bernard Stiegler’s pharmakon project, Dreyfus and Kelly’s ALL THINGS SHINING project, François Laruelle’s non-philosophy project).
My aim is not to condemn the AIME project but having said what I think is positive and worth pursuing, I wish to encourage it to go further in its ontological pluralism. I consider “diplomatic” pluralism to be a halfway house on the way to democratic pluralism.