An Inquiry into Modes of Existence – Latour (2013)

The Modes of Existence Project


  • Story about the scientist being questioned about his authority regarding global warming – and resorting to explaining ‘how science works’ as his defense
  • “If people don’t trust the institution of science, we’re in serious trouble”
  • Latour takes this “appeal to trust,” this shared “concern for a fragile and delicate institution
  • It is concern for the institution, not belief in, that sustains it
  • Trust arrises through transparency – through being ‘honest’ about the processes, materialities and encumbrances that go on ‘behind the scenes’
    • This is what Latour was trying to do with STS – not ‘relativise’ science, but render the values there more transparent, so people could trust science
    • After all, “we have the same enemies and we have to respond to the same emergencies”
  • Certainty versus trust / science versus Science (capital ’S’)
    • “When have you pleaded loud and log that scientific practice must be understood as a fragile institution that has to be carefully maintained if people are to trust the sciences?”
    • But Latour and STS have been “poor diplomats” – “The very worlds “network” and “fabrication” are sometimes enough to shock our interlocutors”
  • This is an example where the “values that people are seeking to defend” have been separated from the “account that has been given of them throughout history”
  • The project overall is:
    • sketching out how the Moderns should present themselves to the rest of the world, knowing what they are
    • the “West” seeing itself — becomes accessible to others
  • Method: Inquiry into the “category mistakes” bearing on “modes of existence”
    • “By comparing conflicts of values in pairs — scientific versus religious, for example, or legal versus political… — we shall observe very quickly that a large proportion of the tensions stem from the fact that the veracity of one mode is judged in terms of the conditions of verification of a different mode.”
    • Pluralism of modes
  • Similar to the ‘Felicity’ and ‘Infelicity’ conditions of speech at theory — i.e.: the context / support / infrastructure that must exist for a speech act to work
  • Occam’s razor should be more delicate — a small wooden box full of little surgeons tools, not Alexander slicing through the Gordian Knot
  • Modes of existence allows for a real diversity of cultures, a new look at the division between words and things, language and being
  • Rearranging – re-designing – “In other words why not transform this whole business of recalling modernity into a grand question of design?”
  • Economy to Ecology —> How will we present ourselves to Gaia?

Chapter 1 — Defining the Object of Inquiry

  • An anthropologies in search of the moderns, discovers ANT and realises that ‘network’ in he sense of a material infrastructure is the “belated result of the ‘network’ in the sense that interests our investigator.”
  • “We must be careful not to confuse what circulates once everything is in place with the setups involving the heterogeneous set of elements that allow circulation to occur” (Kittler’s horse, McLuhan’s medium)
  • The real network is a Le Carre style novel, not a technical infrastructure
  • This is noticed when something falls apart or fails — the ‘material’ network and the ‘network network’ converge when there is a crisis or breakdown
  • This is always a surprise – that the discontinuous series of heterogenous elements is always behind the continuous circulation of something else
  • ANT follows the principle of irreduction
  • ANT allows the investigator the same freedom of movement that the informants have
  • A user experience study in reverse — “the notions of surprise and trial, if we shift them slightly in time, can also serve to define how the informants themselves have had to learn, in their turn, through what elements they too had to pass in order to prolong the existence of their projects.”
  • Surprise as fundamental to research… but things are always surprising in the same way
  • [NET] for network — the technical sense of network as in actor network theory
    • Networks shock and surprise in the same way — and seem to extend to inherent boundaries
    • These inherent boundaries appear to correspond to domains — but this must be because of values of the actants within them because “fields don’t organise themselves into contiguous domains”
    • The values which constitute this internal domain resilience is difficult to study. Something “has something scientific about it”, or “sounds religious” — all “je ne sais quoi” of the domain
    • There is also another “internal boundary” that can’t be explained by domains — a “fluid”, a “pass” a “connection”, an “association” that we have to learn to qualify
    • There is “something legal” in Law, “something scientific” in Science
  • Boundaries are all treated as [NET]s and a list is created of all the associated, mobilised, enrolled, translated and participating beings
    • the ESSENCE of a situation arises from the list of other beings that allow it to endure, prolong, maintain, extend
    • the TRIAL is a reconstitution of a network: the investigation, the innovation (intervention?), the crisis
  • Why is it that the values of a domain are so difficult to uncover? What do appeals to institutions avoid?
    • “In short, why is theory so far removed rom practice among the Moderns?”
    • Theory is not just a “thin veil” over practice — there is a relation — if is not just “false consciousness” of ideology
  • We arrive at a method:
    • Network analysis [NET]
    • The detection of values [PRE]
    • Accounting for the fluctuating relation between the values and the institutions which are supposed to be harbouring them
    • + Diplomacy: It is difficult to learn to speak well to someone about something that really matters to that person

Chapter 2 — Collecting Documents for Inquiry

  • Differentiation between first (observational, sensed, ‘des sense’) mistakes and second order (direction, value, ‘de sens’)
    • 1st order: of the senses
    • 2nd order: of ‘sense’ (as in orientation)
  • Category mistake example: Law is not formulated for the resolution of psychological/emotional resolution, but people expect a ‘successful’ legal decision to provide this for them. There are differences between “legal truth”, “objective truth,” “scientific proof,” “intimate reparations” (emotional truth), “fairness” (social truth)
  • What we try to distinguish here are internal mistakes to the ‘path’ (of, say, LAW, or SCIENCE) and 2nd degree mistakes which “produce hesitation about the path it would be appropriate to follow. It is sort of like “what do we expect from Law?”:
    • Felicity conditions (speech act theory) will be used to designate the verification conditions that must be met to avoid “mistakes of law,” “mistakes of the senses”, etc
    • Preposition mark the position-taking that comes before a proposition is stated — what constitutes its ‘interpretive key’. These are a little like “genres” of books (memoirs, essays, etc.,) that ‘colour’ the reading of a book. It would be a ‘category mistake’ to read a ‘document’ as a ‘novel’. The key signature of a score ~ interpretive key of a story, account, fact, document, etc. = preposition. The pre-position.
    • p.58 — “Let us recall that in “category” there is always the agora that was so essential to the Greeks.” – i.e.: “kata-agorein”
  • Early concern for the ‘fluctuations in the relations that the different modes have maintained amongst themselves” is exampled through [REL] and [LAW] — as each of these has “resisted the test of modernism” in different ways. Religion is mocked and scorned, and Law (although often made fun of) is still “Dura lex sed lex
  • Situations can be grasped
    1. in the [NET] mode —> as an unfolding of the network of associations (as far as necessary?) <— this gives the ethnographer the same freedom to manoeuvre that its objects of study do
    2. in the [PRE] mode —> as a set of qualifications of the type of connections that allow extension <— this is a recognition / respect for the values that informants cling to strongly
  • [NET] · [PRE] is a crossing that authorises the entire inquiry — from [NET] all networks are the same, but [PRE] gives us the pre-position from which to examine values which allow extension of a [NET]
  • Actor Network Theory retains some of the limitations of critical thought – it cannot distinguish the value to which informants cling
  • The intent of linking [NET] and [PRE] is to be able to ’speak well’ to the informants:
    • To describe network in the [NET] <—> TEST: faithfulness: is it factual and empirical?
    • To verify with actors that the [NET] is accurate <—> TEST: restitution — have we made ourselves understood by those we have shocked?
    • To explore the gap between the description and the account of actors <—> TEST: historical and speculative: Have we accounted for the historical fluctuations between value and network?
    • To propose a formulation between PRACTICE and THEORY that closes the gap between them and redesigns institutions that harbour the real values of the Moderns <—> TEST: diplomacy, architecture and design: are the future inhabitants more conferrable than they were before?
  • On Reason
    • “Each mode has its networks that Reason does not know” — so Reason (capital ‘R’) can only be known as designating the verification mechanism proper to any network
    • Rationality becomes the step-by-step tracing of a network, with a trajectory of veridiction and malediction, with a separate preposition.
      • “To understand rationally any situation whatsoever is at once to unfold its network and definite its preposition, the interpretative key in whicht has to be grasped”
    • Logos: Originally a word meaning “a ground”, “a plea”, “an opinion”, “an expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “to reason”
    • This transformation of Reason is perhaps why descriptions of networks are so funny / shocking / fetishised – as they defy ‘normal reason’. ‘Normal reason’ of modernism is upended the moment we look at the actual networks — but normal reason part of this strange decoupling of ‘what we do’ and ‘what we think we do’ of the moderns. I.e.: You mean there are actually ‘cables’ under the sea?

Chapter 3 — A Perilous Change of Correspondence

  • Focus on “the assurance that scientific results do not depend on the humans who nevertheless produce these results at great cost”
  • Correspondence – p. 71
    • adequatio rei et intellectus — Truth is the conformity of the intellect to the things
    • Reality and truth — the world and statements about the world
    • “Scientific” as a mode of verification (amongst others)
    • Inherent contradiction to the claims of science:
      • It’s methods are ‘outside of nature’ — objective and relating as a ‘mind relates to a thing
      • It’s results are correspondent to nature
  • “Practice will always stay in the foreground rather than disappearing mysteriously along the way.”
  • What does adequatio rei et intellects “reveal (as a symptom) and conceals (as a theory)”
  • Inquiry bears on the identification of a type of trajectory whose seeming continuity was actually obtained by a particular leap over discontinuity (with its [PRE], values or prepositions)
    • It is precisely because the map does not resemble the territory that we are able to ‘know’ anything:
      “It is precisely because the map does not resemble the signposts, which do not in any respect resemble the prominent features, which in no way resemble the cliff of Mont Aiguille, but because all of them refer to the previous and sub sequential items by remaining constant across the abyss of the material dissimilarities, that I benefit from the comfort of this network.”
  • Differentiate between…
    • Reference (mediated ‘knowledge of’) — [REF]
      • “The work of reference, as we now know, relies on the establishment of a series of transformations that ensure the discovery and the maintenance of constants: continuity of access depends on discontinuities.” – p. 107
    • Reproduction (existence, self-sustaining) — [REP]
    • the attempts to solve the question of reference (adequatio rei et intellects) through maximising the two simultaneous requirements of mobility () and immutability (objective truth, unchangeable over time)
    • This is a vaguely derogatory term for Latour – an immutable mobile is something which covers over (like barnacles, obscuring knowledge) the CHAINS OF REFERENCE he seeks to uncover
    • “An object capable of being transported across distances without changing its shape. Immutable mobiles can be found in many forms: as inscriptions, machines, apparatuses or sometimes as people who have been trained to carry out a predictable sequence of actions.” – Glossary, “Latour: Hybrid thoughts in a hybrid world”
    • Perhaps like ‘prototypes’ or ‘stereotypes’ in Flusser
  • “No question: to refer, as etymology tells us, is thus always to report, to bring back.” p. 79
  • “Even the splendid view that one embraces from the Vercors plateau fascinates me less, in the end, than the humble effectiveness of map 3237 OT.”
  • Correspondence then is the production of the subject and the production of the object – which both arise simultaneously through the extension of networks, the identification of immutable mobiles
    • “Don’t we associate snakes with knowledge? — whose heads and tails grow further and further apart as their bodies grow longer and stouter.”
  • p. 81″Is there a mode of description that will allow us to consider existents and the map at one and the same time?”
    • We know that ‘maps’ are changeable and as such establish continuity through their discontinuity with the thing itself, but is there a way of allowing the ‘existents’ (the presumed ‘reality’) also “as a particular manner of establishing continuity through discontinuities.”
    • [REP] Repetition — existents maintaining themselves
    • “Not at all because the known ‘eludes’ knowledge in principle and resides in a world “of its own,” forever inaccessible, but quite simply because existents themselves are also going somewhere, but elsewhere, at a different pace, with a different rhythm and an entirely different demeanour. Things are not “things in themselves,” they belong “to themselves” — a different matter altogether.”
  • p. 85 — “The ethnologist finds something almost comic in the endless complaint invented by critique:
    • ‘Since we accede to known things by way of a path, this means that these things are inaccessible and unknowable in themselves.’
      She would like to answer back: ‘But what are you complaining about, since you have access to them?’
      ‘Yes,’ they keep on whining, ‘but that means that we don’t grasp them ‘in themselves’; we don’t see them as they would be ‘without us.’’
      ‘Well, but since you want to approach them, if you want them to be as they are ‘without you,’ then why not simply stop trying to reach them?’
      More whining; ‘Because then we’d have no hope of knowing them.’
      An exasperated sigh from the ethnologist: ‘It’s almost as though you were congratulating yourselves that there is a path to Mont Aiguille, but then complaining that it has allowed you to climb up there . . .’
      Critique behaves like blasé tourists who would like to reach the most virgin territories without difficulty, but only if they don’t come across any other tourists.”
  • Correspondence is then to “co-respond”
    • Risks taken by existence in keeping-existing, and risks taken by constants (immutable mobiles?) in order to maintain themselves
    • “… it is meaningless to speak of co-responding unless there are two movements in the first place, each of which will respond to the other — often multiplying their missteps.”
    • “What the canonical idea of objective knowledge [complete, continuous, contiguous, gapless] never takes into account are the countless failures of this choreography”
      • Reminscent of the Zizek story about the programming of reality being incomplete (without a programmer)
    • Dance of agency – Pickering
  • Double click — the Evil Genius — is the ignoring of networks as they pass — and the point from which ‘relativist’ criticism is levied

Chapter 4 — Learning to Make Room

  • [REP]·[REF] is an amalgam often called The Material World — which obscures the individual modes by claiming them identical (static, material world) — also “Nature” which is a premature amalgamation of all existents
    • Latour later names this ‘res ratiocinans”, a strange amalgam of “res extensa” [REP] and “res cognitans” [REF]
  • Repetition is swarming with difference — “It is hardly probably that this world obeys laws, for there is not yet any law and still less any obedience”
  • “But the grasp of existents according to the mode of reproduction is not limited to lines of force and lineages; it concerns everything that maintains itself: languages, bodies, ideas, and of course institutions.”
  • “Subsistence always pays for itself in alteration”
  • “We have to de-idealise matter in order to arrive at immanence and find the means, at last, to follow experience” – p. 106
  • FORMS are…
    • …what is maintained through a series of transformations
    • …an object that allows putting into form, or shaping
    • …formalisms that take isolated documents for the entire (this last sense is bad!)
  • P. 110 — “all, necessarily had to pas though a series of discontinuities [REP] to achieve continuity. To obtain being, otherness is required. Sameness is purchased, as it were, at the prince of alterations
    • Because I am always changing, altering in order to keep existing [REP], for something else to seem to me like it is not changing, it must also be changing, altering [REP] through hiatus. This is the co-respondence given to science, and what produces contestants, immutable mobiles, and what is revealed by chains of reference.
  • We must not confuse the ‘raw materials’ of technology, economy, etc., with ‘matter’ in the sense of [REP]·[REF]

Chapter 5 — Removing Some Speech Impediments

  • [REF]·[POL] — A dangerous amalgam between knowledge and politics. “The moderns are those who have kidnapped Science to solve a problem of closure in public debates.”
  • Critique of Double Click [DC] requirement of straight talk, about facts, etc.
  • Double Click values: Literalness — where language correspondents directly to reality
  • Double Click critiques full chain-of-reference descriptions as figurative, ordinary, incomplete
  • Experience starts to ring false through [DC] — “Experience will have been lost from sight, and with it, of course, any possibility that the Moderns may be ‘empirical’, that is, may draw lessons from their experiences.”
  • Res ratiocinans is Latour’s name for the thing that Double Click wishes to turn everything into — that is, an ontology wherein “all distinction between what the world is made of how one can know this, and how one can talk about it vanish.”
  • [REF]·[POL] — is the res ratiocinates — space where ‘straight talk’ allows [POL] to close off debates by dismissing those who do not engage in straight talk, who “express themselves more or less awkwardly: poets, rhetoricians, common people, tradesmen, soothsayers, priests, doctors, wise men, in short, everyone—and of course scientists, whose ways and means will cruelly disappoint the Double Click sectarians…”
  • The prohibition on speech that explains the gap between theory and practice:
    • First — make claim that speech and reality are inseparable
    • Second — require that the world (ontology) and words (epistemology) be complete separate
  • The term articulation better describes the world and words — “If we speak in an articulated manner, it is because the world, too, is made up of articulations in which we are beginning to identify the junctures proper to each mode of existence.”
  • Magritte’s Pipe: “This is not a pipe either — just one of the segments along the path of a pipe’s existence. The articulation of the pip with itself, then the articulation of this first articulation with the word “pipe,” then the articulation of these first two articulations with the picture of the pipe…”
  • Everything ‘passes by way of others’ in order to exist — hiatuses and articulations — so everything that is a sign is also a signification

Chapter 6 — Correcting a Slight Defect in Construction

Chapter 7 — Reinstitution the Beings of Metamorphosis

  • Freud was wrong: “Demons do not exist any more than gods do, being only the products of the psychic activity of man.”
  • Psychogenic networks are not produced by the human mind
  • “The infrastructure that authorises them to possess a psyche seems to escape them completely.” 
  • “Everything happens “in their heads,” because of the radical, essential, distinction between Object and Subject.
  • “…the networks that gnaw, burrow, and shore up psyches?
  • “The anthropologist has one advantage over this Evil Genius (and perhaps also a capacity not to curse and thus not to kill) quite simply because she can now take advantage of several ontological templates, rather than just two.” [subject / object]
  • In a way this chapter is about the post-human … ecological psychology – the idea that our ‘selves’ do not instaurate solely from within us
  • The beings of [MET] are those invisibilities, peculiar aliens, bad vibes… 
    • Burroughs: My concept of possession is closer to the medieval model than to modern psychological explanations, with their dogmatic insistence that such manifestations must come from within and never, never, never from without. (As if there were some clear-cut difference between inner and outer.) I mean a definite possessing entity. And indeed, the psychological concept might well have been devised by the possessing entities, since nothing is more dangerous to a possessor than being seen as a separate invading creature by the host it has invaded. And for this reason the possessor shows itself only when absolutely necessary.
  • “As if there were something diabolical in the Moderns’ insistence on the internal origin of their emotions: this division between the most constant of their experiences and what they allow themselves to think about it. Whence the anxiety of our anthropologist: aren’t the Moderns dangerously alienated? Wouldn’t that explain a large part of their history? As if there were a madness of the Subject after that of the Object.”

Chapter 8 — Making the Beings of Technology Visible

  • [TEC] is hidden by Double Click and the form-function relation
  • Confusing technology with the objects that it leaves in its wake
  • Key notion of ‘shifting’
  • “‘The modernisation front allowed the Moderns to represent themselves,’ we speculated, ‘as the people who put an end to superstitions and finally discovered the effectiveness of technologies.’ “
  • “Gilbert Simondon had already broken the path in his book On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, a text as famous as it is little read.”
  • Its more surprising that Moderns ‘grant so little room’ to the beings of technology (metamorphosis is contaminating, gods and religion have not managed to keep their ‘ontological ranking in the face of the sciences’) – but technology?
  • And yet for a thousand books on the benefits of objective knowledge—and the mortal risks that challenging it would entail—there are not ten on technologies—and not three that signal the mortal danger one risks by not loving them. Even political philosophy, less prolix than epistemology, can still flatter itself that it has engendered more books than the philosophy of technologies; we could count the latter on our fingers. The proof of this decline is that in the word epistemology we still hear knowledge about knowledge, whereas in the word technology, despite the efforts of André Leroi-Gourhan and his disciples, we fail to remember that some sort of reflection on technology lies imprisoned.

    We don’t hesitate to say about the most modest washing machine full of chips that it is an instance of “technology”—even “modern technology”—but we don’t expect to learn any lessons from it. We ask a “technician” only to come repair our machine; we don’t ask him for an in-depth reflection on it. What would we do with his philosophy? Everyone knows that technology is nothing but a heap of convenient and complicated methods. There is nothing to think.

  • Links to [REP] – persistence hides the gaps of something which continues to exist
  • Links to [REF] – “because once we reach remote entities, we are in danger of ultimately forgetting the instruments that have allowed us this access.”
  • Trancendence: 
    • Speaks of ‘transcendence’ here almost like ‘interpolation’ — “there is nothing more transcendent… than geodesic reference points with respect to the readings jotted down by a surveyor-geometrician in his notebook” [REF]
      • Reminds of Justin Joque’s story about researchers asking him for a map of France and then handing him/her a hand-drawn map of a triangle. “AT WHAT RESOLUTION?”
    • Other examples of ‘micro transcedence’ — 
      • nothing more trans- cendent than the question of a single line of text proposed to the jury in a trial in relation to the thousands of pages of a heavy dossier rolled on a trolley all the way to the court reporter [LAW]; 
      • nothing more trans- cendent than the relation between the lukewarm character of a perfunc- tory prayer and the gripping effect of grasping its meaning for the first time [REL]; 
      • nothing more transcendent than the relation between the papier-mâché stage setting and the exuberance of the characters that seemtoemergefromit[FIC]; 
      • nothing more transcendent than the distance separating what you were from what you have become after being seized by a psychogenic being [MET].
    • “Transcendences abound, since between two segments of a course of action there is always a discontinuity of which they constitute, as it were, the price, the path, and the salvation.
    • “… that are all slightly transcendent in relation to the previous stage of their particular paths.” p. 211
  • Continuities / Discontinuities & Controversies
    • Tracing an apparently continuous technological practice uncovers the countless discontinuities which compose it — and when a controversy (spaceshuttle Challenger) occurs, these discontinuities become very apparent (Heidegger) 
    • “The more one studies technological arrangements, the more one considers their ins and outs, the less chance one has of unifying them in a coherent whole.”
    • Technology, as different from Science, is in this way, more transparent and accessible to constructivism [TEC]*[NET] — as there are no problems of to relativism
      • BLACK BOX. It may be hard to penetrate these places that have been made secret, but it is never because we would come across chains of indisputable necessities
  • A caution against seeing everything as technology, if we take materialist approaches only: “because if we begin to follow the list of beings necessary to the maintenance of any being at all then everything, on this basis, becomes technology” p. 214.
    • Technology is different because it is new on the “order of alteration”
    • Beings of reproduction (living things, I guess?) do not have this alteration, they do not have the opportunity to start over. [REP] beings cannot start over, they cannot turn back, there are no ‘versions’ 
    • [REP · TEC] —> reading ‘reproduction’ as technology would be misunderstanding (cybernetics?)
  • Beings from different ‘orders’ of [REP] become intertwined in [TEC] – their networks do intertwine… this is ‘ingeniousness’ (bringing things into these encounters — application, tinkering, moving wood and steel together to produce a hammer — “There’s a trick to it”
  • Story of getting your card fixed — “you have felt the breath of technology pass over you, but— here is the whole difficulty—only for a brief moment.” — “Technology, for its part, seeks to be forgotten.” p. 217
  • Technology is the best place to look for the “measure the gulf that the Moderns are capable of digging between practice and the account of their practice”
  • Instrumentality
    • Effectiveness denies instrumentality, and is an “unworthy way to treat technologies… lies in believing that they are means toward ends”
    • “Effectiveness is to technology what objectivity is to reference”
    • “The scorn with which people view technologies comes from the fact that they are treated according to the same model that we saw used to misunderstand the work of reference. Just as there was, in epis- temology, a theory of objectivity as “correspondence” between map and territory, there is in technology a theory of effectiveness as correspondence between form and function. Technology is believed to be an action stemming from a human being—most often male, moreover—that would then bear “on” matter itself conceived through confusion between geometry [measurement] and persistence [existent] [REP·REF]. Technology then becomes an applica- tion of a conception of science that is itself erroneous!”
    • Ends and means <—> Objects and subjects — they are ‘invented simultaneously by the actions of [REF] and [TEC], respectively
  • Ingenuity
    • “For ingenuity, everything in materials is food for thought. How have we lost this contrast to the benefit of a dream of control and domination?” p.221
    • ” in Greek, a daedalion is an ingenious detour away from the direct route.” p. 223
    • invention and ingenuity comes from the ability of [TEC] to extract from the beings of [REP] (living things, subjects, people) through the power of [MET] (and maybe [FIC]?)
      • This is where [TEC] begins to extract from [MET] (psyches) and [REP] something of their obstinacy and insistance – which makes them appear as human actants
    • “”If Ulysses is “crafty,” if Vulcan limps, it is because, in the vicinity of a technological being, nothing goes straight, everything is done on the bias—and sometimes, even, everything goes askew.”
    • [TEC] also embodied proteiform speed and static persistence —”Technology appears in a first approximation as a mixed mode: proteiform speed on one side, persistence on the other. It’s hardly surprising that Prometheus’s fire has been seen as something that liquefies all things and at the same time gives them new durability, solidity, consistency.” p. 225
      • Technologies transforms the world quickly but then stick around forever….
  • Relationship between Science and [TEC] 
    • Science could not hold together a steam engine
  • “There is nothing more “heteromatic” than a robot, an AUTOMATON.”
    • invisibles / discontinuities keep an automaton automatic from the inside AND
    • “they can never remain alone and without care” – p. 223
  • Technological being is not ‘at’ the object, but outside and inside it
    • We shall never find the mode of technological existence in the object itself, since it is always necessary to look beside it: first, between the object itself and the enigmatic movement of which it is only the wake; then, within the object itself, between each of the components of which it is only the temporary assemblage.
    • Transistors / Transducers / Transformers — Despite what is often said of cold, smooth technology, in it there is never anything but breaks in conti- nuity; things never quite connect. [e.g.: The transistor!] 
  • “We need to see “TECHNIQUE” and “TECHNOLOGY” not in their noun forms but as adjectives (“that’s a technical issue”), adverbs (“that’s tech- nically/technologically feasible”), even sometimes, though less often, in verb form (“to technologize”). In other words, “technology” does not designate an object but rather a difference, an entirely new exploration of being-as-other, a new declension of alterity. Simondon, too, made fun of substantialism, which, here again, here as always, failed to grasp the technological being. To borrow from Tarde one of the fine words that he opposed to the exclusive search for identity: what is the avidity proper to the mode of technological existence?” p. 223
    • The beings of technology’s veracity condition is the quality of conditioning, the relation between form and function and it’s “FOLDING” — 
      • “It is this displacement, this translation, completely original every time, that artisans, architects, engineers practice day after day, and that Double Click no more manages to grasp than he does chains of refer- ence [REF]; and for the same reason he mistakes the final result—yes, it is adjusted, yes, it works, yes, it does what it’s “made to do,” yes, it “holds together”—for the movement that led to that result [TEC · DC]. This side- ways, crablike motion, this perpendicular movement of rummaging around, exploring, undulating, kneading, which so obstinately misses the relation between form and function and the relation between ends and means, is precisely the motion that will perhaps (but not neces- sarily) produce forms or means corresponding to functions or ends. To say that technologies are effective, transparent, or mastered is to take the conclusion for the pathway that led to them. It is to miss their spirit, their genesis, their beauty, their truth.”
      • “There is technical folding every time we can bring to light this second-level transcendence that comes to interrupt, bend, deflect, cut out the other modes of existence, and thus by a clever ploy introduces a differential of materials.”
        • Simondon’s ‘internal logic’ [my phrase] of the technical object, as it’s exhaust (for example) becomes folded back in on itself
        • “Sweet Solutions”
        • Quality – Persig
      • Think for example of what it is to “support an argument over a somewhat heavier and more cumbersome metaphor by using what is rightly called ‘literary technology.’”
      • FOLDING results in gradients and resistance which constitute the veracity of a technology — i.e.: what sticks around (televisions, iPhones, etc.)
    • From semiotics we get the idea of ‘shifting’
      • “Let us recall that for semiotics, shifting—we shall come back to this in the next chapter—makes it possible to grasp a quadruple trans- formation starting from a zero point.” p. 229
    • “If we always have to maintain the ambiguity of constructionism without ever believing in the assured existence of a builder, it is because the author learns from what he is doing that he is perhaps its author. In the case of technological beings, this general property is of capital importance, since technologies have preceded and generated humans: subjects, or rather, as we shall soon name them, QUASI SUBJECTS, have sprung up little by little from what they were doing. This is why we had to be so suspicious of the concept of “action on matter,” which threatened to place the point of departure in the depths of a human subject instead of waiting for this human subject to emerge from his works—though the possessive adjective is quite unwarranted, because the human subject does not master “his” works any more than he possesses them.”
  • “If gunshots entail, as they say, a “recoil effect,” then humanity is above all the recoil of the technological detour.”
  • “all humans are the children of what they have worked on.”
  • The Pasteurization of France – Page 176
    • “There has never been such a thing as deduction. One sentence follows an- other, and then a third affirms that the second was already implicitly or potentially already in the first. Those who talk of synthetic a priori judg- ments deride the faithful who bathe at Lourdes. However, it is no less bizarre to claim that a conclusion lies in its premises than to believe that there is holiness in the water.”
  • Harman, Prince of Networks – Page 30
    • “Thinkers do not deduce, critique, or build reality out of first principles or foundations. Instead, they simply work, negotiating with actants in the same way as butchers, engineers, technicians, carpenters, and clowns.”
  • Notes
    • Why have the moderns not celebrated the beings of technology with appropriate institutions? (Open Source? Choas Computing? etc.?)
      • ““why have they not known how to celebrate them with appropriate institutions?” p. 232
    • I don’t understand this bit: “Science is merely an avatar of Technology, after the latter has already been misunderstood as Gestell: a masterful misunderstanding about mastery; a fine case of forgetting being as technological; a quite cruel lack of ontological generosity!” p. 220
    • I don’t understand this bit: “”Let us recall that for semiotics, shifting—we shall come back to this in the next chapter—makes it possible to grasp a quadruple trans- formation starting from a zero point.” p. 229

Chapter 9 — Situating the Beings of Fiction

  • Materiality (no signification) and Language (2ndary qualities) are bifurcated 
  • It is world itself that is articulated 
  • Laclau – chain of signifiers 
Chapter 10 — Learning to Respect Appearances

  • Occidentalism — what does Latour mean here? 
    • “But in order to fight all exoticisms, including Occidentalism, one cannot be content with the negative conclusion that “we have never been modern” 
    • From Politics of Nature East and West Perspectives 
      • Be reassured, I am not going to indulge into exoticism. I will not oppose ‘Western secular materialism’ with ‘Eastern wisdom’, nor contrast ‘Cartesian dualism’ with ‘Asian spirituality’. No, as an anthropologist I have always been interested in combating all exoticisms, and especially the one that has fell so hard on my European compatriots, namely Occidentalism. The ravages of Orientalism have struck very hard due to the difficulty of describing the so-called West without attributing to it virtues and vices it never had. In fact, the first exoticism was about the West*what they believed they were doing*and has only after struck on the ‘others’. Hence, Orientalism is in a way the exportation of Occidentalism.
             So the first task for anyone engaging in the risky enterprise of comparing East and West perspectives is to not mess up the standard that is chosen as the baseline for the comparison. Unfortunately, the problem is that almost everyone has messed up the definition of the West by taking it as its face value, taking up its own Master Narrative about having been modern; a narrative suggesting that the West was the place where a ‘scientific revolution’ had occurred in such a way as to reveal the universal necessity of nature. It is my contention that this is the source of exoticism that would render impossible any cosmopolitics. I know I am treading on dangerous ground here and that the ugly head of ‘relativism’ might make you flee in panic. But bear with me a while longer.

  • Inquiry’s purpose — identifying for each one the inflections that come up throughout what it would be appropriate to call their ontological history
  • “MALIGN INVERSIONS” – Ivan Illich
    • the malignant expansion of institutional health care which is at the root of the rising costs and demands and the decline in wellbeing.
    • “Exclusion of the malignant tool and control of the expedient tool are the two major priorities for politics today.” — Ilich (his example was the health care system
  • pharmakon
    • at high doses, the remedy becomes a poison
    • “drowning in a tea cup”
    • “too much of a good thing can kill you…” 
    • The concept of pharmakon proposes an understanding of technology as being simultaneously poison and remedy, rather than positing it as a form of enframing that reduces humans to raw material. As Stiegler demonstrates in the first volume of Prendre Soin, the exteriorization of knowledge in the machinery (of warfare, of apparatus) serves to render the individual as an exploitable life source, in Marx’s words as work-force and in Stiegler’s brilliant play on words as mineur (both a miner and minor) (228). In this sense, technology is bio-power as Virilio’s account clearly demonstrates, yet at the same time, by the logic of pharmakon, it is the location of a possible source of resistance that will remedy social ills. – Issue No. 17 2009 — Bernard Stiegler and the Question of Technics
    • “There would then be a whole system of dosages and dietary advice, a whole pharmacopeia of modes of existence with which we would have to familiarize ourselves in order to avoid speaking too harshly about category mistakes—while running the risk of being mistaken about the moments when these errors become truly toxic.” Latour, p. 261
  • [HAB] is… 
    • The mode of existence of essence
    • “The most widespread, the most indispensable of the modes of existence, the264one that takes up 99 percent of our lives, the one without which we could not exist, obsessed as we would be with avoiding category mistakes.” p. 264
    • “Existents are not constantly preoccupied with their descendent”
      • reminds of ‘paranoia’ in the sense that Johannes and Jamie developed / link to the class perhaps?
    • Useful passage: 
      Look around. Existents are not constantly preoccupied with their descendance; most of the time, they go about their business enjoying existence [REP·HAB]. The beings that produce psyches do not always make us vibrate in the anguish of surfing on metamorphoses; we simply feel“comfortableinourownskin”[MET·HAB].AslongasIamunskilled at putting up cinder-block walls, I feel the rapid passage of the techno- logical upsurge, but once the subtle arrangements of muscle and nerve reflexes in relation to each tool and material have been established, I line up the sequence of works and days without even being aware of it, as if I were totally adjusted to my task [HAB · TEC]. A priest who is converted at every Mass at the moment of transubstantiation would remain like Saint Gregory, so stunned by what he is celebrating that he could never get beyond the first words of the Canon [HAB·REL]. A researcher who is exclusively concerned with understanding by what miracle of corre- spondence she manages to maintain a constant across the dizzying trans- formations of distinct inscriptions would never succeed in reaching remote beings [HAB · REF]. p. 265
    • Is a VEILING … a veiling that is necessary p. 270:
      • “Without omission and veiling, it would be impossible to engender the existents, these cross- ings between habits and prepositions [HAB · PRE].”
      • Veiling’s function can be overlooked in two ways:
        • by thinking we can actually ever unveil something (too much [NET], undermining)
        • by thinking that because we can’t unveil, we should just ‘stay on the surface’ (too much aesthetics, overtiming)
    • … allows us to smooth over the discontinuities in a relation 
  • Immanence v transendence
    • So we now have to recognize two different senses in the notion of category mistake: being mistaken about the mode on the one hand and on the other limiting ourselves to the search for the right mode without advancing toward what it indicates. But would this not mean abandoning our own definitions, since each mode has been identified up to now thanks to a particular form of hiatus, of discontinuity, of TRANSCENDENCE?
           Habit, in fact, seems to have the characteristic of no longer needing transcendence at all, of leaping over obstacles so well that there is no more threshold, no leap, no discontinuity of any kind. True; but this proves that even immanence needs to be engendered by a mode of existence that is proper to it. If it is true that mini-transcendence is the default position, that it is thus without a contrary, immanence is not going to be introduced in this study as what is opposed to transcendence but only as one of its effects, as one of its ways—a particularly elegant one, to be sure—of adjusting the junction points without splices and without any visible break in continuity. Habit has the peculiar feature of smoothing over, through what must be called an effect of immanence, all the little tran- scendences that BEING-AS-OTHER explores.
    • Animated film / Flip Books / Zoeotropes — History of Animation
    • “continuity is always the effect of a leap across discontinuities; immanence is always obtained by a paving of minuscule transcendences.” p. 267
  • Driving on the left / driving on the right – your habit allows you to switch… 
  • [HAB]*[TEC] describes the AUTOMATONS
    • never fully automatic  
  • As if it managed to extract Parmenides’s world on the basis of Heraclitus’s.
    • Parmenides: existence is timeless, uniform, necessary, and unchanging
    • Heraclitus: insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”
  • [HAB] is kind of a way of returning to ‘doxa’ or common wisdom – the wisdom of experience – and differentiating ‘what habit’ it is coming from (if it’s good or bad, as a habit)
    •  “Let’s say that bad habits are to good ones what spam is to electronic messages.”
    • Whatever you may say or do, specify at least the preposition, or, to extend the metaphor, the IP address from which you are sending the message.  
  • Respecting appearances:
    • Appearances are not ‘surfaces’ behind which something resides
    • ““Behind” appearance there is not “reality,” but only the key that allows us to understand how reality is to be grasped—and this key does not lie underneath, but alongside and ahead.” p. 271
    • Example of the ‘provisional report’ or ‘novel’ (used as examples of [PRE]) which kind of ‘situated’ the rest of a reading… PAGE DE GARDE 
  • [REF] is implicated here because…”We owe this ambiguity between being as SUBSTANCE and being as SUBSISTENCE to what habit leaves behind in its wake, since habit—this is its virtue but also its danger—obtains effects of substance on the basis of subsistence.” p. 272
  • There is something ‘behind’ the thing, but it’s not something solid, substantial, substinative… “As if sameness had to be guaranteed by sameness.”
  • “It is here that, to “save appearances,” philosophers began to invent the scenography of phenomena and reality, the world and the world beyond, immanence and transcendence. From a legitimate hesitation between “upstream” and “downstream” with respect to the same flow of beings, they created an incomprehensible and sterile scenography of a world that would collapse if it were not held together by an other world. Yes, this is one saying we can’t argue with: “Appearances are deceitful.”” p. 273
  • [HAB] at one extreme, is Double Click:
    • Double Click, too, can be justified: this is what happens when habit has so well aligned the discontinuities that everything takes place as if we were seeing transports without deforma- tion, simple DISPLACEMENTS.
    • MOUSE example: Without a restart, it’s a catastrophe; there’s only an automatic pilot in the plane now. Will we succeed in saving Double Click from himself? Can we make him aware of the dizzying quantity of mediations required for a mouse click to produce any effect at all? Can we reconcile him with his real ethology, that of the thousands of lines of code that had to be written at great expense so that a double click could actually produce an effect?
  • [HAB] at the other extreme, is too much [NET]? or too much [REP][REF] (science)
  • Example of the electronic music – p. 276
    • Someone signing & computer filtering that signing… each has its own  


Chapter 11 — Welcoming the Beings Sensitive to the World

  • D
Chapter 12 — Invoking the Phantoms of the Political
  • D
Chapter 13 — The Passage of Law and Quasi Subjects
  • D
Chapter 14 — Speaking of Organisation in Its Own Language
  • D
Chapter 15 — Mobilising the Beings of Passionate Interest
  • D
Chapter 16 — Intensifying the Experience of Scruples
  • D
Conclusion — Can We Praise the Civilisation to Come?
  • D


  • Beings from different ‘orders’ of [REP] become intertwined in [TEC] – their networks do intertwine…
  • Story of getting your card fixed — “you have felt the breath of technology pass over you, but— here is the whole difficulty—only for a brief moment.” — “Technology, for its part, seeks to be forgotten.” p. 217

 they can never remain alone and without care

We owe this ambiguity between being as SUBSTANCE and being as SUBSISTENCE to what habit leaves behind in its wake, since habit—this is its virtue but also its danger—obtains effects of substance on the basis of subsistence. 

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