Tag Archives: science

Latour and the “Arche-Fossil”

Over the past many weeks I’ve been doing research into Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology (SR/OOO) by reading the works of Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Ian Bogost, Bruno Latour, and Levi Bryant. As I’m finishing up my research and writing my paper summarizing SR/OOO which will serve as a compendium of sorts, I’ve had various new ideas cross my mind (many of which I will write about here) but there is one that I thought of very recently and want to try to solve now. The issue I’m currently thinking about is the relationship between Meillassoux’s claim about “arche-fossils” and Latour’s fabrication of fact.

Before diving into an analysis that I hope will spark some conversation (as I am not entirely sure of my answer), a brief bit of context is required. In answering the problem of correlationism — that is “the idea [that] we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other” and thus renders impossible any attempts to view “subjectivity and objectivity independently of one another”1)Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London: Bloomsbury Books, 2008), 5. — Meillassoux, in After Finitude, invokes the concept of the “arche-fossil” which is an object that indicates “the existence of an ancestral reality or event; one that is anterior to terrestrial life.”2)Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency10 In other words, the arche-fossil is, as I say in my paper, “evidence that exists independently of humans.”

Latour, in We Have Never Been Modernargues that scientific facts are fabricated in the laboratory and, from my understanding (please correct me if I’m wrong), cannot be independent of humans. His argument for this resides in section 2.2 wherein he argues that the uncovering of scientific truths that are supposedly independent of humans and culture actually require humans and culture to produce. Laboratory equipment must be socially constructed, the norms of science must be universalized, a testing method — that is to say, the scientific method — must be utilized, and the truth of the findings must be shared inter-subjectively. All these features of the laboratory space lead Latour to agree with Gaston Bachelard’s claim that “facts are fabricated.”3)Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 18.

The worry that is currently on my mind is how to reconcile the claims by these two anti-correlationists. Specifically, I want to reconcile Meillassoux’s claim that evidence (in this case it’s scientific phenomena) can exist independently of humans with Latour’s claim that scientific facts are fabricated.

Before continuing, I must take an aside (lest I get slapped in case Graham Harman is reading this) to quote Harman in an attempt to clear up any potential misunderstanding about Latour. Harman warns us, in an essay in Towards Speculative Realism, to “never believe anyone who tells you that Latour holds that ‘all reality is socially constructed’.”4)Graham Harman, “Bruno Latour, King of Networks,” in Towards Speculative Realism (Washington: Zero Books, 2010), 71. Latour recognizes the objective nature of objects, he just thinks that you can’t separate nature and culture and that explanations of one are necessarily bound together with explanations of the other; his ‘hybridization.’

It seems to me that the way to synthesize the views of Latour and Meillassoux would be to embrace potentiality. More specifically, Latour and Meillassoux are both realists insofar as they both seem to accept the existence of objects independent of, and unaffected by, the human mind. This means that both recognize the objective existence of, say, a certain amount of radioactive decay from a Uranium-238 atom over 5 billion years. Meillassoux claims this as a fact, but I believe he is incorrect in doing so. X amount of Uranium-238 that decayed over 5 billion years, under a Latourian view, is not in-and-of-itself a fact but has the potential to be one. Once in the laboratory where scientists measure the amount of decay of the atom, the objective amount becomes a fact based solely on the the scientists’ construction of it as such. The amount decay still existed anterior to givenness, but the knowledge of that decay — and subsequently the scientific fact that X amount of Uranium-238 decayed over a given time period (and thus a given amount exists still) — is a product of fabrication within the laboratory space.

In other words, it seems like factuality is necessarily correlated with thought — as facts are products of thought and experimentation — while potential factuality is independent.

References   [ + ]

1. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London: Bloomsbury Books, 2008), 5.
2. Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency10
3. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 18.
4. Graham Harman, “Bruno Latour, King of Networks,” in Towards Speculative Realism (Washington: Zero Books, 2010), 71.

Climate Denial and the Death of Rationality – Part 2

It always makes me sad when I have to write these posts again because it means that more and more public stupidity is on display, and this time it’s people in real power. Post November 4th midterm elections, the United States now has a slew of non-scientists in positions where scientific decisions are made. For example, the Chairman of the Environmental Committee is a fine individual who blatantly ignores all the evidence to the contrary.

In this short post, I just want to provide a brief update to the article I wrote a couple months ago called “Climate Denial and the Death of Rationality” because some new and very interesting data have come out that brings the hammer down even harder. So join me after the jump! Until then, enjoy some Colbert.


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Why Climate Change Really Is Our Most Urgent, Number One Priority Right Now

A little over a week ago Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was on CNN’s “Crossfire” segment where he “debated”, and I hesitate to use this word when describing the following people, pundit S. E. Cupp and the Heritage Foundation‘s Nicolas Loris on the impact that climate change has on our lives. Amidst Bill’s clearly superior understanding of climate science and Loris’ “>muh federalism” cries, Cupp stepped up and did make one interesting point when she said

[Y]ou can look at entitlement reform which will bankrupt this country long before climate change destroys us, heart disease kills 7 million a year worldwide, 870 million suffer from hunger; I want you to look me in the eye and tell me in good conscience that climate change is our most urgent, number one priority right now.

While I loved Bill’s response and her reaction, I feel like he could have run with it more. Specifically, climate change directly affects the root cause of each of those issues and solving climate change is a prerequisite to solving any of the issues Cupp brought up. You see, climate change really is our most urgent, number one priority because it will not only be a huge blow to the economies of the world due to flooding and relocation issues, but it will disrupt global food supplies due to crop failures and ocean acidification, and the increased temperatures will create higher outbreak rates for diseases. All these, which will be fleshed out below, are reasons why climate change is a prior question and answers the impacts of Cupp’s claims.

My aim in writing this is not to provide a comprehensive list of the impacts of climate change, rather to point out that climate change comes before every issues that Cupp claims is more important.

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Thank You for Not Breeding: Anthropocentrism, Homo ecophagus, and Human Extinction

So this is a paper I’ve been working on for a few weeks and, of course, I wanted to share it with you. The paper itself is rather lengthy and formatted just the way I want it so I won’t post the full thing here, rather, I will post the coverphoto linking to the PDF that you can download. Before that however, I do want to explain the paper and write an abstract.

The paper is meant to be a building block, or more precisely the building block for my ethical philosophy and how I view humans in relation to nature. The paper is lengthy because I feel I must defend my worldview with everything I have and thus I will not half ass it.

Abstract: Human growth has been increasing at an unprecedented and exponential rate and the harm the we are doing to the biosphere is becoming irreparable. What’s more, the entirety of the industrialized world is rooted in one mindset, that of anthropocentrism – that is, the belief that humans are the center of everything – and this mindset is allowing for the moral justification for the death of the natural. I question the premise that humans are special and worth more than other creatures or nature and I propose a solution, while potentially a pipedream, that would help restore balance to the biosphere.

So, if you all have any comments or criticisms, please leave them below and I will respond.



Intellectual “Property” and Plagiarism

The following is a paper I wrote for an AP Language course that I feel, at least at this moment, summarizes my views on citations and plagiarism in general. *Note: there will be an afterword explaining my use of citations in other blog posts*    **sorry about the formatting…**

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