Tuesday 2 September 2014

Patrice Maniglier on Diplomacy and AIME

In the new issue (187) of Radical Philosophy there's a review of Bruno Latour's An Inquiry into Modes of Existence by Patrice Maniglier (translated by Olivia Lucca Fraser) titled A metaphysical turn?. It's currently available to download for free.

It argues similarly to another piece by Maniglier translated by Stephen Muecke and posted to the AIME website earlier this year. This excerpt from Fictions and Attachments: A Comparative Metaphysics of Art and Commerce muses on and somewhat extends the concept of diplomacy that derives from Isabelle Stengers' work and which lies at the heart of Latour's project (which, by the way, is continuing past its previously advertised end date).

Both pieces are well worth reading.

A metaphysical turn? describes Latour's approach to metaphysics in a similar (but rather more sophisticated) fashion to how I have attempted to describe it recently. Of particular relevance is the concluding comment, which argues that Latour's philosophy:
surmounts both the hypercritical relativism of deconstruction and the rather ostentatious dogmatism in which the new, so-called ‘speculative’, metaphysics basks. (44)
Earlier on he writes that, for Latour:
Being isn’t the Separate (what should be reached) but the Confused (what should be disintricated, contrasted). What ontology has to resolve are not the problems of access, but the problems of equivocation. (40)
This gets at an important contrast with the reading of Latour that derives from Graham Harman. This popular reading, rather point-missingly, wonders whether Latour's work is a 'philosophy of access' or not. What should be becoming clear now is that 'access' is an irrelevant concept to philosophy, as Latour describes and practices it; or, to put it in other words, that 'access' is pertinent to other modes of existence but not to the philosophical mode.

Philosophers have props but no instruments.

Referential truth is none of their direct concern. Their pretensions must thus be duly deflated; the possibility of ontological co-existence is not something that they will bestow on the world, it is something that they themselves must undergo, that they themselves must achieve amongst themselves. Until philosophy itself is thus transformed it can be of no use to the 'planetary negotiations' that we apparently collectively face.

It will be interesting to see which side of philosophical history Harman's forthcoming Prince of Modes will come down on. I suspect that it won't be the same side as Maniglier.