The Christmas holidays are a time for rest but also an opportunity to recharge one’s intellectual batteries, by discovering new thinkers and exploring original theories. One philosopher is slowly gaining in stature in the philosophical world through his ambitious analyses of our complex technological world and his challenging reinterpretation of fundamental concepts such as modern and premodern, nature and society or human and non-human. Born in 1947, Bruno Latour is a philosopher of science using anthropological and sociological tools to redefine our ambivalent relation with science.
For Latour, science is as much a cultural construct as a set of laboratory practices. Like religion, it demands a suspension of disbelief while imposing a quasi political rallying to its most fundamental tenets. Science should, instead, be analysed and judged from different and differing points of view, ultimately grounded on specific cultural practices or ‘regimes of truth’. Far from criticising the undeniable progress due to science and innovative technologies, Latour considers that, like Professor Frankenstein, mankind has given birth to ‘monsters’ by refusing to envisage the possible negative side effects of its creations and leaving it to fate to decide upon their harmless impact or their genuine risks to the well-being and future of the human race. Among the ‘negationists’ exposed by Latour are the scientists who deny the impact of human activity on the observable and unquestionable rises in temperatures affecting the climate of the whole planet.
I strongly recommend Bruno Latour’s website, giving access to a selection of articles and lectures.