Tag Archive: metaphysics


Latourian inquiries

Bruno Latour fans will know that the French anthropologist’s long-awaited follow-up to 1991′s game-changing theoretical provocation We Have Never Been Modern was released in its English translation just a few weeks ago. The book is called An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence (and is becoming better known by its acronym “AIME”), and it provides a state-of-the-art summation of Latour’s project of producing an “anthropology of the moderns” — that is, of us.

Most interestingly, it does this as a multi-phase exercise in “interactive metaphysics,” which includes a participatory online web site intended to fill in the details and elicit commentary, debate, and refinement.

Hard-core fans will also likely have heard about Adam Robbert’s online AIME research group, which will be conducting a group reading beginning next week. The group currently involving several dozen participants (including myself — so you will be hearing about it here), but it is open to the public.

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Process-relational theory primer

One of the tasks of this blog, since its inception in late 2008, has been to articulate a theoretical-philosophical perspective that I have come to call “process-relational.” This is a theoretical paradigm and an ontology that takes the basic nature of the world to be that of relational process: that is, it understands the basic constituents of the world to be events of encounter, acts or moments of experience that are woven together to constitute the processes by which all things occur, unfold, and evolve. Understanding ourselves and our relations with the world around us in this way, it is argued, can help us unwind ourselves from out of a set of dualisms that have ensnared modern thought over the last few centuries. In contrast to materialist, idealist, dualist, and other perspectives that have dominated modern western philosophy, a process-relational perspective more explicitly recognizes the dynamic, complex, systemic, and evolving nature of reality.

What follows is a brief summary of the process-relational perspective. It is followed by some bibliographic starting points and by a list of links to some of the more substantive posts on this blog that have dealt with process-relational theory.

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I recently mentioned my belief, or hope, that the humanities and sciences are working their ways toward a post-constructivist synthesis, a paradigm in the making with the potential to become a powerful player in twenty-first century public discourse. “Post-constructivism” says little, and “post-representationalism”, “post-anthropocentric humanism,” and “post-Kantianism” — the other terms I used there — don’t help much. So I feel obliged to articulate in more detail what I mean by this assertion. If it is a trend, it is not one that can be demonstrated with quantitative evidence: no matter how many names or schools of thought one can list, there will have been no exhaustive survey done of how these names and schools stack up against all the others that continue to generate knowledge in our academies and in the other intellectual spaces of the world (including emergent ones like those found on-line).

This claim, or belief of mine, is just a reading — and not a disinterested one — of those fields that I cover in my own everyday reading, browsing, research and teaching practice. Its components include the following:

1) There has been a clear shift away from a strict “social constructionism,” or “constructivism,” in the humanities and social sciences to something more cognizant of the complex relations between the social and the non-social, a category that includes the material, the bodily, the affective and emotional, and the biological.

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I’ve been reading Graham Harman’s Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects and Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics. More accurately, I’ve been dipping into and sipping from the first and systematically digesting the second. Given the amount of blogging that goes on under the rising star(s) of ‘object-oriented philosophy,’ ‘speculative realism,’ and Graham Harman himself, I figure it’s okay and may even turn out productive for me to air some of my reactions in public.

To start with, I will say that Graham is one of the most engaging, entertaining, enjoyable, rhetorically satisfying, and utterly lucid of the contemporary philosophers I have read in recent memory. And his project, as far as I can discern it so far, is of fairly direct relevance to the thinking through of socio-ecological issues, or at least to the philosophical working-out of some of the dilemmas, the conceptual blockages and theoretical miasmas, that have made it difficult for us to think our way through the complex socio-ecological issues that confront us.

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