The author of the present paper argues that while trying to explain the institutional success of the science and its broad social impact, it is worth throwing aside the arguments concerning the universal traits of human nature, changes in the human mentality, or transformation of the culture and civilization, such as the development of capitalism or bureaucratic power. In the 16th century no new man emerged, and no mutants with overgrown brains work in modern laboratories. So one must also reject (...) the Great Divide between the cultures of the scientific and pre-scientific and replace it with multiple, uncertain and unexpected ‘not-so-great divides’, which can be described in meticulous anthropological studies. Although the achievements of science are certainly spectacular, and the gap between scientific practice and other areas of activity is so obvious, this does not mean that one must look for the \"great\" reasons behind this situation. One should rather focus on quite down-to-earth practices and tools used by scientists. A significant part of their activities can be described by referring to the craft of writing, reading and transforming of various types of inscriptions (records), and broadly understood visualization – their combining, performing, interpreting, confronting, comparing, shifting, shuffling etc. The important role of these tools and methods is especially visible in situations of scientific controversy. It is so because scientific controversies are won by the one able to muster on the spot the largest number of well aligned and faithful allies, and the technology of writing, printing and visualizing play a special role in mobilizing them. These are necessary to ensure that certain factors can be mobile – easy to move from place to place, and yet, immutable – not undergoing deformation as a result of the movement. This way, scientists are able to not only diffuse different types of factors relevant to the dispute and the process of constituting science, but also concentrate them in the centers of calculation, where, through accumulation, one can take actions not available elsewhere. (shrink)
The Prince and the Wolf contains the transcript of a debate which took place on February 5, 2008 at the London School of Economics (LSE) between the prominent French sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher Bruno Latour and the Cairo-based American philosopher Graham Harman.
The field of “science studies” has often been suspected of dubious moral grounds because of its intensive concern with nonhumans; the accusation is made by those who use a roughly Kantian definition of what it is to occupy the moral high ground. By evaluating four contrasting texts (by Comte-Sponville, Kant, Serres, and Lovelock) in tandem, this article explores what an “objective morality” would look like, and it considers how to compare the Kantian axiology with the actor-network theory's possible definition of (...) a thing-oriented morality. Especially important in this context is the moral intensity of a text, which this article defines semiotically in terms of the ability to feel responsible by responding to the “call” of more beings than the human beings so exclusively attended to in the moralist tradition. (shrink)
Reassembling the Social is a fundamental challenge from one of the world's leading social theorists to how we understand society and the 'social'. -/- Bruno Latour's contention is that the word 'social', as used by Social Scientists, has become laden with assumptions to the point where it has become misnomer. When the adjective is applied to a phenomenon, it is used to indicate a stablilized state of affairs, a bundle of ties that in due course may be used to account (...) for another phenomenon. But Latour also finds the word used as if it described a type of material, in a comparable way to an adjective such as 'wooden' or 'steely'. Rather than simply indicating what is already assembled together, it is now used in a way that makes assumptions about the nature of what is assembled. It has become a word that designates two distinct things: a process of assembling; and a type of material, distinct from others. -/- Latour shows why 'the social' cannot be thought of as a kind of material or domain, and disputes attempts to provide a 'social explanations' of other states of affairs. While these attempts have been productive (and probably necessary) in the past, the very success of the social sciences mean that they are largely no longer so. At the present stage it is no longer possible to inspect the precise constituents entering the social domain. -/- Latour returns to the original meaning of 'the social' to redefine the notion, and allow it to trace connections again. It will then be possible to resume the traditional goal of the social sciences, but using more refined tools. Drawing on his extensive work examining the 'assemblages' of nature, Latour finds it necessary to scrutinize thoroughly the exact content of what is assembled under the umbrella of Society. -/- This approach, a 'sociology of associations', has become known as Actor-Network-Theory, and this book is an essential introduction both for those seeking to understand Actor-Network Theory, or the ideas of one of its most influential proponents. (shrink)
Chapter 1 FROM ORDER TO DISORDER 5 mins. John enters and goes into his office. He says something very quickly about having made a bad mistake. He had sent the review of a paper. . . . The rest of the sentence is inaudible. 5 mins.