I agree with Clay Spinuzzi’s argument that Latour is presenting his views on religion as the result of an inquiry that he never actually carried out. They are disguised autobiography. Further, they are not new. The idea of religion as transformation not information is quite an old one, and we can see it very clearly enounced in the early Wittgenstein. Spinuzzi’s comparison of Latour’s notion of religion with the religions of renewal described in THE GOLDEN BOUGH is very interesting and confirms my argument that in the terms of Latour’s new book AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE it is illegitimate for him to include a separate chapter on religion as a distinct mode of existence. He should have included it in the chapter on the beings of metamorphosis along with the other, “pagan” and polytheist, religions.
Spinuzzi underlines, as I do, Latour’s passage from description in the case of the sciences to prescription in the case of religion. The question naturally arises: from where does Latour get the authority to tell us what “true” religion is? Seen in this light Latour’s later book AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE is an attempt to provide a legitimation for such claims. Despite its stated purpose as descriptive metaphysics it is in fact from beginning to end normative in its extraction of the essence of various domains (law, science, technology, religion) in the form of “modes”, each with its felicity conditions, that prescribe “correct” practice.