I had quite interesting afternoon. First I listened to Bruno Latour, one of the most significant anthropologist, philosopher and science sociologist of our times (the title of speech was: ‚How to use Occam Razor to multiply ontological templates’). Then I was taking part, for the first time in my life, in Buddhist lecture provided by James Low. Latour was presenting his ideas about “so called Modern”, Nature vs. Culture myth and his new project of digital humanity (it’s a issue for another post). James was talking about it how Tibetan Buddhism can help us to deal with anxiety. There is significant connection between those two lectures because both of them are based on the strong critic of Western beliefs about themselves and their civilization.
/I must make a confession now. In order to celebrate diversity – Frenchman speaking English (oh, it’s so hot) in old Tsarist building for young Polish students & Scotsman teaching Tibetan Buddhism under the Oceania totem (it was in Museum of Asia and Pacific) – I made a Malibu drink, so if you will find rest of this post not so clear don’t blame me./
I didn’t find Latour lecture very revealing but it is just because I studied his works for a whole semester, so I’m familiar with them. Shortly speaking Latour redirect our scientific inquiry from Others to Ourselves and found very interesting assumptions that were invisible before:
– he postulate the symmetry in anthropology. While we decide to research ourselves in context of nature and culture, it is obvious that we should focus on our distinguish (and distinctive) Science. We believed (in very non-logic) fantasy that although there are different cultures but (with all the respect) there is only one (guess which one) tradition that have strong connection with objective reality. Other words, we can accept the relativity of our culture but we are sure that only we know the Nature, they have just their imaginable ethno-natures.
– he researched the moment in out history when subject-object distinction was settled (17 c.). He also show consequences of this division (hierarchy!) for our thinking about the world and our, human, place it it („crown of creation” is one of them). This is much deeper questioning of our culture than Derrida’s because Latour reject totally the idea of subject and object while deconstructionists stuck in it .
– this leads him to ‚the collective’ and actor-network theory (ANT), which I find with huge gratitude because finally I got some theory to use in analyzing my research of Polish Jewish communists :) Shortly speaking ANT is based on the philosophical vision of …/pause for Malibu#2/… the relations between so called objects (like humans) and subjects (animals, microbes, phenomenons, material entities) – how they are connected and how they influence mutually. Latour reject the idea that being object or a subject is a constant attribute. He pointed that it only results from the perspective that we took. Each entity has a potential to be as much a subject as an object. /OMG what they give those cows to drink, this milk is so strong/
If you know something about Buddhism you probably already guess that it is the moment when I found connection between Latour’s and James Low’s lecture. They share this perspective of our unstable identity, just adjust it to the different levels of our reflection over the human condition and being in the world. So, as James explained, we can only recognize our vulnerability for the influence of other entities but we cannot close our doors for it. As he said, there is no way that we can look through the whole and decide: oh, this is nice experience, I let it in, oh, this one is upsetting, let them soaked outside. Everything is shaping our fantasy about ourselves, even buildings and smells (this is exactly what Latour called collective), so there is no use to struggle for stable identity. There is no use to maintain our attention on preventing changes. We’d better learn how to stay open for a different experiences that will inevitably come. So this is all about multiplicity, again.