BRUNO LATOUR, IRONY AND IMAGISM

Lacan’s concept of the “imaginary” does not exhaust the register of images but represents only one particular regime of that register. This insight underlies Deleuze’s cinema books, which continue, in sublimated form, the critique of Lacanian psychoanalysis that is contained in ANTI-OEDIPUS and A THOUSAND PLATEAUS.

Bruno Latour’s philosophical style can be viewed as a generalisation of Deleuze’s pluralist style of imagistic conceptualism, or conceptual imagism. I have often referred to this style embodying a pulsation between image and concept as characteristic not only of Deleuze’s style but also of Continental philosophy in general.

Bruno Latour describes his own style in a similar way, talking of his philosophical life as a “life among conceptual characters” composed of a pulsation between imagistic character and intellectual concept, between actor and actant.

Graham Harman agrees with Searle and Chomsky denouncing the obscurantism of Theory, its irony, lack of straightforwardness and of engagement. However, straightforwardness may not be as desirable or attainable as he seems to think. After all, Harman is the thinker who tells us straightforwardly that we cannot say anything straightforward about the real object, as it withdraws.

For Harman only the non-straightforward or “indirect” approach of art can hope to say something of value about the real. This dualism between obscurantist disengaged irony and straightforward engaged vivacity does not exhaust all the possibilities.

Latour cannot possibly be an ally for Harman on this point as he proposes 15 “tones” of enunciation in his modes of existence project. In Latour’s poly-tonal system of modes of existence the only straightforward tone, called “Double Click”, loses all hegemony, as it presupposes one can reproduce information exactly, identically, without transformation, outside networks.

It also seems very strange to hold Latour up as a paradigm of escape from irony. There are many sorts of irony, many ironic tones, not just one. For example, Latour is a master of deflationary irony, taking his adversaries at their word to show up the absurdity he sees behind it.

Latour situates himself and his work firmly on the side of textuality and of “écriture” as opposed to straightforwardly putting one’s ideas into transparent language. This means that in his work style and content cannot be separated easily, and that Latour is constantly avoiding provocation, constantly “hedging”, diplomatically negotiating meaning.

The irony of Harman’s naively hailing Latour as a paragon of non-irony is quite touching.

Latour cites Nietzsche, Greimas, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida, Lyotard, Serres amongst his influences. He is no dupe of the myth of universal correlationism. Harman has replaced this pulsation between image and concept, between actor and actant, with a partition that only his real objects can overcome. Unfortunately these real objects are by his stipulation themselves partitioned off behind the wall of withdrawal.

Note: I have commented on Harman’s synchronic travesty of Latour’s diachronic ontology here.

Latour’s project of digital humanities, of which AIME is just one possible exemplification,  deconstructs these sorts of demarcations and partitions. There is no pathos of a universal correlationism to be overcome.

Latour’s conceptual style operates between Nietzsche and Bultmann, between revisionary hermeneutics and conservatory exegesis. My regret is that he ultimately gives primacy to reprise over revisioning.

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21 Responses to BRUNO LATOUR, IRONY AND IMAGISM

  1. landzek says:

    Wow. You are so good and voiced in the terms. You really should write a book.
    I think would be helpful to many people including myself .

    .
    I don’t think that I am in correct in understanding that Harmon does view things through and escape; if the withdrawn object is any indication, from what talks I’ve heard of him he definitely speaks of something more something that escapes our ability to pin it down. To me I think that’s what I am attempting to contain by the term transcendence, and through associating reality with transcendence. And is why I say a partition is needed: to limit intuitive interpretive reduction of free agents of transcendence. There needs to be a domain of a sort by which we no longer refer ideas to their perceived origin, and rather refer such ideas to their apprehension. I think once we shift the focus from free agents who are interpreting things freely within the possibility of an unknown universe, to the possibility of what is being apprehended in common such that free agents may be able to say something novel upon it , then the philosophical discussion might appear to look differently.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. landzek says:

    Hey Terrence. I think a lot of things I encounter you probably already encountered or it seems like you’ve already encountered.

    I think I’m beginning to understand when you argue against scientism. Despite all my science type idea, which is really just a feeling of how there should be a sort of science about this situation that we are concerning ourselves with;

    It’s funny I had a little interaction on a post by 3 pound brain. And he or she likes to talk about a science, and he seems to have a not very much patience with the continuing continental arguments.

    But yet it seems like a lot of his posts I tend to agree with, yet when we began talking about them it seems like we don’t really agree.

    Have you encountered this with people that you engage with? And I feel like you must have read some posts by 3 pound brain, what’s your take on his angle?

    Do you ever encounter a situation where you feel like you’re agreeing with someone but yet then when you talk with them you find that you definitely don’t agree?

    Lol.

    I mean you and I seem to have that kind of situation, but I think we agree more than we disagree.

    With certain people I find that when I talk to them the disagreement I find shatters the whole agreement that I thought we previously had. Lol.

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    • terenceblake says:

      This was my experience with Bakker (3 pound brain). We seemed to agree on some things, but finally he just wanted to impose his own point of view.

      Liked by 2 people

      • landzek says:

        At times I wonder if I am as in tolerant as I perceive some others to be in the entertaining of ideas, in the discussion of my own ideas and the considering of others ideas.

        Before I found word press I was involved for maybe two years often on on the ‘philosophy now ‘forum. It took me a little while to find out that there was probably 10 to 15 or maybe 20 regular characters who all would really reiterate and do the same things over and over. There are a couple who all they really wanted to do was insult your position and throw some little bits of philosophy from various authors that they knew really well and basically insult you for being an idiot, people who you couldn’t really engage with any sort of honesty because often the position was faulty, and it didn’t take long in a discussion to discover that week spot because then they would begin to attack an insult.

        Others all they wanted to do was share their opinion and never really wanted to get anywhere in a discussion except people sharing their views with one another.

        But it was instrumental for me because it allowed me to be able to begin to talk about what it is I really mean philosophically. It allowed me to see what terms I were using that were vague and discover it means to be more specific with what I was talking about. Once that happened though I began to get bored with philosophy now because no one was interested in actually discussing ideas or what I consider the object of truw philosophy.

        Your idea of concept blindness; i’m wondering if it is similar to the same type of obstacle that I encounter. For aside from the philosophy now people, it seems to me that many people are caught up in what appears to me as a kind of intellectualism. It seems to me that they have no reflection upon their own thinking, or rather that they take reflection upon their own thinking as A given ability of the thought or the thinker it self; in short they just assume what is given. It seems to me that even if they do have a legitimate reflection upon their own existence then often they have found an answer to it in other authors such as the p.m. authors, but any philosopher really, and then they stick to that dogmatic philosophy as if it’s really discussing the truth of this reflection that I’m talking about, as if they found the truth of it and then all the sudden they don’t need to reflect any more upon it because the truth is been laid out in that particular discourse.

        To me it’s very dogmatic and religious of philosophers to steak claims like that.

        It is interesting to me, if I might touch up on the topic of science for a moment, that really the science that I’m talking about is unfolding amongst those people that I feel are having an authentic reflection upon existence. Because I should emphasize that this science that I talk about seems like it should be there, and I emphasize seems. More in bit…

        Liked by 1 person

      • landzek says:

        … anyways; The idea of concept blindness I think defines very well at least roughly, what icy as people adhering themselves to dogmatic philosophical treaties. This is why I wonder when you talk about L’s non-philosophy if you are referring to himself or if you’re referring to some people that are appropriate his meaning as some sort of dogmatic true description of the situation.

        Because there’s very little in reading L9 philosophy that I do not somehow intuitively understand, as I have said, it’s as if Innoway and in a manner of speaking I wrote it myself. But I had the same experience with Lyotards The differend. And Badious being andevent. As well H being and time.

        But I do not adhere to what each of these authors are saying as if they are saying some truth of which I am apart somehow objectively but individually to the authors. I appreciate your being able to distinguish compare and contrast the various continental authors in their various ideas, but I wonder if that doesn’t mean that they’re all talking about the same thing the same object as I call it. It seems to me that you do not adhere religiously to dogmatic appropriations various authors yet you are able to speak of all these authors ideas as if indeed they are talking about the same thing addressing it in different ways.

        If you are following what I’m saying here, I am wondering if your idea of concept blindness at all figures in to the distinguishment that I am indicating right here, between those such as say you and I who don’t adhere dogmatically to various authorship, and those who do somehow.

        Any comment?

        By the way your latest post was totally rad.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. landzek says:

    … hey and you know what? If you haven’t noticed from my recent posts, i’m reading the English version of Christo fiction.

    It’s difficult for me to know how well do you know various authors, and seem to understand the general continental situation, yeah don’t see L as a significant mark of that situation. I know you have said things in general about L, and it seems he offends you in a larger sense. That is strange to me because I’m reading this book and he makes such cents that is astounding to me that someone else’s writing this book.

    I think you have compared him to Whitehead. I admit I have not read Whitehead, but from what I’ve read on like the philosophical and Cyclopedia Stanford I’m not really sure I’d be so much interested.

    Anyways do you have any comments on my little Querry right here?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. terenceblake says:

    Laruelle interests me except for the part where he says he alone has these sorts of ideas, and very specifically excludes Deleuze and Badiou.

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    • landzek says:

      I just saw this, you made a few hours ago: perhaps this is what I’m calling or what indicates to me his bad faith. Because it indeed does appear as if Laruelle thinks he is alone except so far as people might be able to help appropriate his definitions specifically. Perhaps he does have a small mind; but then again perhaps it is significant because he is really marking the religious moment. On one hand talking about what I think is really a universal human fact that his been left out of the determination of what is human traditionally, yet on the other hand, taking this understanding as if the individual has been indeed chosen by some transcendental agent, by which perhaps one has a radical proximity in imminence.

      Liked by 1 person

      • terenceblake says:

        I do not think these authors are talking about the same thing but that they can be put into relation in terms of the things I want to talk about. On the other hand, anyone who has read Alan Watts, or Carl Jung, or Philip K. Dick has had thoughts similar to Laruelle’s and can feel that they understand him from within. The problem is that he does not take this into account, whereas for example Deleuze does.

        Liked by 2 people

      • landzek says:

        My question would be : if they are not talking about the same thing then what are they talking about?

        Liked by 1 person

      • terenceblake says:

        Different things.

        Liked by 2 people

      • landzek says:

        Lol. Is it safe to use the example as an analogy like one person is talking about a tree and another person is talking about a coffee cup and another a mountain and another a car?

        I would wonder if that is the case then what qualifies certain authors as Continental?

        I’m being totally open here I’m not making a judgment or being facetious.

        Is it then just a style of writing?
        A particular manner of approaching these various objects?
        I know that you wrote a post a while ago characterizing continental philosophers. I liked that.

        But one would think that I wouldn’t just be drawn to a style of writing. Because if one person was talking about a tree and I likes cups I wouldn’t be so interested in however stylized an author would be talking about trees; I just plain wouldn’t be interested.

        Simile I’m not a poet and I don’t just like poetry because it’s poetic. Even though I do like some poetry and some verse.

        I don’t like all music just because it’s music even though there are some people who enjoy everything that can possibly be music. I can enjoy sounds musical sounds but there something particular about some kinds of music that make me more interested in it then other.

        I’m not sure what allows me to see kant, hegel, faurbsch, kierkegaard, nietzsche, Witt, sarte, badiou, laruelle, zizek. And probably more than a few others as having a common interest as the post to other authors who consider themselves philosophers.

        Perhaps this is what I seek to explicate: how it is that some authors appeared to me to be talking about the same thing and other authors while they may be talking about the same thing who have completely left the topic of that thing.

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      • landzek says:

        … hey though if you mean that things that are different and so much is Viva diffetence, then it would seem that all these very things that are different really can be classified within a single category a.k.a. different it’s all perhaps that’s why I see them as talking about the same thing; this different thing of difference that appears in many forms.

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      • landzek says:

        Perhaps I should just ask you what you find interesting and or compelling with the authors you treat as opposed to other ones?

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      • landzek says:

        hey Terrence what are you make out of Laruelle thinking he’s the only one the only non-philosopher and yet he’s writing these books: to whom is he writing then? Lol I mean given that I understand what he saying I would figure that he’s not making an assumption upon a possibility that he’s the only person that falls under the category of nonphilosopher as described by his discourses insomuch as he is indeed writing it and putting it in books for people to read.

        What are you make of that?

        (and I’m not being facetious I’m not leading into anything I’m honestly asking what you make of that kind of contradiction)

        I mean obviously to me and so much is I understand what he saying quite intuitively, I was there for disapprove his proposal if it indeed is or amounts to that he is the only one.

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      • terenceblake says:

        For him he is the only conceptual non-philosopher working in philosophy. He does not say so explicitly, but he has criticised any rival philosopher (Derrida, Deleuze, Badiou). He thinks that humans are harassed by philosophy, and so are “naturally” in sympathy with non-philosophy.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: ON NOT TAKING LATOUR LITERALLY | AGENT SWARM

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