CONFESSIONS OF AN ONTO-NAUT: Latour’s post-empirical autobiographical vindication of religion

The best approach to understanding Bruno Latour’s AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE is to read it through Nietzschean spectacles, viewing it as confession and autobiography disguised as anthropology. It’s title should have been CONFESSIONS OF AN ONTO-NAUT, as Latour has explained elsewhere his 40 year voyage from religious hermeneutics to ontological pluralism. The treatment of religion in this book is a point where the autobiography takes over and leads him to present monotheistic religion as a separate mode from the polytheist religions, that he assigns to the mode of metamorphosis.

Latour’s anomalous treatment of religion shows up very clearly the conflict between two sorts of empiricism (autobiographical fidelity and ethnographical investigation) that traverses the mode of existence project. His inclusion of “religion” among the modes of existence, and his explicit limiting of that religion to the monotheist variety, lead us to doubt his impatiality and his representativity. The latent normative autobiographical thrust of his “descriptive” ethnographic project is apparent in this case.

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