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Thursday, 6 March 2014

Latour and Rorty

Latour, in AIME, debunks the ontology, semantics and epistemology of what he calls the Res Ratiocinans. It is a mix of Res Cogitans and Res Extensa that makes the world intelligible and pictures knowledge as something free of any construction. It is a ready made material world indifferent to the activity of any actor, human or not. Its language is literal-ese, the privileged vocabulary to mirror the world. Other languages are pure metaphors, nothing but culture. Its epistemology is that of avoiding construction, even the best ones. It is a fanaticism: no construction can replaced revelation. Rorty's criticism of privileged vocabularies makes no appeal to ontology. His point is to distribute respect to all languages by making them all worth of the same blend of pragmatist anti-realism and Davidsonian capacity to convey a great number of truths. Latour's strategy is to respect all languages by taking them seriously ontologically. He can be read as an ontologized Rorty. Instead of hermeneutics, allagmatics. Instead of Lebensformen, modes of existence. Instead of coping languages, instauration and régimes de veridiction. Construction and reconstruction instead of deconstruction. It is interesting to ask about the political effect. Is it the same?

Latour makes an interesting (if Rortyan) critique of analytic philosophy in AIME, p. 144. It believes, he says, that clarification in thought could be done by an analysis based on the language of literality. It believes too much in what Latour calls Double Click - the way to make things magically look amenable to a literal description. Analytic philosophy is hostage to a fear for metaphors, believing that there is a single language tool for analysis, that of literal definitions. There is therefore a starting presupposition: there are no discontinuities to be disclosed by analysis, no discontinuities, at least, of the sort that leaves its marks in language.


  1. "Construction and reconstruction" wasn't this Rorty's move (via his kuhnian reading of Davidson on living and dead metaphors) pace Heidegger? That aside what are the benefits (if there are any) of ontologizing Rorty?

    1. To use Latour's words in his Intro to AIME, to make vocabulary relativism traffic in hard cash...

    2. well cashing/fleshing these matters out, for Rorty via anthropology, literature, psychoanalysis, politics, lab-work, etc, was central to his own pragmatist move away from ontology/metaphysics, I guess we will see which of these moves has greater efficacy/cash-value, I put my money on the players in these practices/places where decisions of/with power are made and see that the new speculative-crowd is already splintering (turning if you will) without even much of an impact in academic circles.