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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Latour and distributed morality

I just finished our reading course of Latour's AIME. The least chapter is dedicated to MOR, the fifteenth and last of his modes of existence. MOR is the mode of existence of the scruples and he says morality is spread everywhere. Morality is neither human nor a human second creation but rather is built from felicity conditions that feature in each mode of existence. To be sure, different modes have different norms associated to it - for the beings of metamorphosis, felicity is to stop existing, like for a trickster while for the beings of reproduction success is to persist. Persistence itself carries a felicity, but it is morality only for some modes - morality is in the world as much as its relativity. These are genuine norm, I guess, because they can be completely different within different modes that are also distinct tonalities of morality. Morality is therefore spread everywhere, and I guess it is therefore distributed - no part is the single guardian of morality. This comes with no surprise in a monadologist like Latour: each being carries morals (or values) as much as each being carries some knowledge. Values are therefore entwined in the way things are - the complexity of organizing desires and passions has to do with the difference between the different things and their different ways to exist. Morality carries therefore an unavoidable relativity.

As a consequence, everything can appeal to me. This can be read in a (perverted) Lévinasian way. Not only the (human) face appeal to me as an other that takes me out of the same, but all others could appeal to me. Latour talks about how a glacier could appeal to me while flying over the pole. A rebuttal according to which if everything is equally an appealing other, nothing is an appealing other - and we are outside the realm of ethics and heading back to ontology - to the same - wouldn't work. Everything can appeal to me, can call me ethically, but not everything does, or does at once. So, I am hostage to what appeals to me. Hence, plurimorality. However, a (nonperverted) Lévinasian could still say that this would be only compassion, and not duty. But then again, this is not clear if we make a particularist turn: each other appeals me (or not) in a different way. The Lévinasian, I guess, would still be unsatisfied for there is a dimension of law that is lost. Is it?

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