Thursday 3 April 2014

Latour the polytheist

There are some really interesting bits and pieces hidden away, sequestered in the AIME website (which continues to evolve).  Here's the entry for God:
By convention, we retain the word "God" with a capital letter to designate the "truth requirement" carried by [rel] beings, as opposed to the deities that the specific frameworks of [met] beings explore relentlessly. It is this conflict that orchestrated the fight against idolatry (and, by extension, a great deal of anthropology). But we can also use the word god, lowercase this time, to designate the unifying principle of each mode; we need to be able to protect the various specifications that are particular to those entities too quickly confused in the so-called "sociology of religions" or the notion of belief.  
In aime there are as many "gods" as there are modes: there is a [rep] god, a [law]god, a [rel] god - responsible for emphasizing the contrast with the "end of days" - but also a [pre] god, the god of philosophers, and a [ref] god, the god of scholars. This is a practical polytheism which is added to the specific polytheism of [rel]'s God - He who is Father, Son, Spirit, Church, each latter reprising the former. There are as many gods as there are forms of enunciation, not because each enunciation has a different view "of" one God but because the word "god" resumes, for each mode, the unification and continuity obtained by the trajectory of each mode. This is why there is a [ref] god - of the laws of nature - as well as a [rep] or [tec] god, and an [org] god, of course, in the form of Providence or oeconomia. 
For aime, the question of God is resolutely constructivist in that it is necessary to completely invert its b.a.b. meaning - that which is lasting and guarantees duration - by its b.a.o. meaning - that which does not last and which must be constructed, maintained, faithfully preserved etc. At the same time, the critical constructivist inversion ("men make God in their own image") was not sufficient to grasp the [rel] meaning that Western history found and then lost, lacking the power to extract it from its parasitical notion of substance. With relation to God, aime must at once refrain from appealing to substance and critiquing it. And yet the outstanding feature of this mode of existence, ultimately, is God's dependence on man.
This would seem to tie into Latour's use of Jan Assmann's notion of translatability in his Gifford lectures - that ancient peoples saw their gods as being translatable, roughly equivalent, not necessarily incommensurable and even drew up tables of translation to formalise these translations.  Assmann's The Price of Monotheism details this.  Not read it yet but it's on my list...  Latour suggests that it's a cosmopolitical necessity to become able to see secular gods such as Gaia as being translatable with their religious counterparts—that's his 'peace proposal,' at least.