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Friday, 13 March 2015


In his third Gifford lectures, Latour remarked how difficult it is to conceive what is not capable of intentionality - what is, so to speak, not an intentionality-bearer. The issue is, he claims, not that people quit animism, but that most of them became inanimists. To be sure, bearing intentionality doesn't mean to act intentionally always: the presence of different actants in the world accounts for inintended acts. He says: final causes seldom reach an end but rather are interrupted by other final causes. Just like Whitehead's satisfaction, it only for a short period of time that an actual entity enjoys fulfillment of its aims. Actants interrupt each other and therefore there is plenty of unintentionality in the world. But unintentionality is a byproduct of the spread of intentions - a crowd of whos gives an impression of a what. Latour puts things in a Derridian way: providence is itself spread, he aims at a political theology with a plurality of providences as opposed to a single, architectural design that encompasses every act. This is a world of as many architects as there are things - and there is no way to simply count them; still these are the architects on which we stand. These architects are also like messiahs - another design can save us from our current fate. (As we wrote in our updated fragments of Heraclitus, there are no fate, but there are fates.)

How can we make the idea that an-intentionality could be fully replaced with unintentionality seem attractive? We often think of lack of intentionality in terms of objects and (categorical) properties, objects with no dispositions (capacities, tendencies, potentialities). Non-intentionality is a chapter in an actualist conception of the world. But further, it is a chapter of what we can call distinctness atomism - the version of atomism according to which things are distinct and don't interact. Why do these objects have these properties? Well, it was not intended. What could be interesting to think is that in Latour multi-intentional universe, most things are also unintended. It is not about denying a designer - by saying that there is no design - instead it is the denying the effectiveness of the many designs; there are gaps between them, they are not concerted. It is as if we were heading towards some sort of poli-atheism: the many designers are not powerful enough to take care of the world because they are not concerted. In any case, much is unintended, this much is what can then be described in terms of objects and (non-dispositional) properties. In other words, the issue is now what is the best strategy to exorcise the single-designed world - a multiplicity of intentions and unintentions or rather a Spinozan route of exorcizing all forms of (local and global) transcendence.


  1. I love the idea of 'polyatheism!' How many ways are there to be without an uber-organising God? Many more than one, that's for sure.

  2. why use a psychological term like intention here does this signal some pan-psychic commitment on your part?