Lectures

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Gaia Intrudes, School of Journalism, Monday 22nd of September. The text can be read here.

If I am so interested in Lovelock it is precisely, and somewhat paradoxically at first sight, because I recognize in his view (and that of Lynn Margulis) a powerful way to ensure that a prematurely unified Whole does not take over the definition of what organisms are up to. Connectivity without holism. That is, exactly the opposite of what Tyrrell argues against him. To be sure, Tyrrell knows infinitely more science than I, but I have tracked the conundrum of those two levels in more places than he and that’s, for now, the crux of the matter. Biology is so infused with spurious sociology that I might give a hand at this point since the difficulty of sticking to one level is the same for the Body Politic as well as for the Body proper, or, in the present case, for Gaia.

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Yale Tanner Lecture 27th of March 2014

The tools I offered yesterday come from semiotics broadly conceived, that is, from an attention to the textuality of the accounts provided by the many disciplines of natural philosophy or of scholarship. Even though it is slightly irritating for many scientists to be reminded of such an elementary fact, they all do write accounts of what has happened in the various set-ups they have built with great care and at great expense. This is true no matter if they deal with the mathematical formalism of ant colonies, expeditions on the canopies of the Amazon forest, visualization of neuron firing in the hippocampus, survey research on gender discrimination, etymology of the word “pragmaton” in Aristotle’s philosophy or the immensely long history of air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice cores. They all have, in the end, to write a report. It is this common concentration on the production, assemblage, collation, gloss and summary of textual documents that allows all of us, as members of what I still want to call a “university”, inside our various scriptoria (or better “screentoria”!) to say that we are the sons and daughters of exegesis — so many scribes interpreting the traces left on disjointed documents through the careful application of our shared interpretative skills.

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Yale Tanner Lecture 26th March 2014

It is under the notion of “agency” that I have regrouped some of the insights I gained from my work in science studies: hence the title: “How better to register the agency of things”. Tonight, Agency-One will deal more with semiotics, that is, with the trajectories of meaning. Tomorrow night, Agency-Two will deal with a more difficult aspect, namely with ontology, or rather “ontonomy” (not autonomy), that is, with the crossing of what is and what should be, with the drawing of the rules of what is. In both lectures, I will try to speak as if it was possible to devise a common language for those who thought themselves to be in two different and mostly opposite camps until they have been submitted to the same attacks by a third party bent on closing down all centers of learning. It is thus an exercise in diplomacy: can we ally together so as to resist a new enemy?

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Lecture given at the end of an AIME workshop in Copenhagen on the invitation of the Danish Royal Academy of Science. The text can be read here.

I will take capitalism to mean not a thing in the world, but a certain way of being affected when trying to think through this strange mixture of miseries and luxuries we encounter when trying to come to terms with the dizzying interplays of “goods” and “bads”. Capitalism is a concept invented to help absorb this odd mixture of enthusiasm for the cornucopia of riches that has lifted billions of people out of abject poverty and the indignation, rage and fury in response to the miseries visited on billions of other people. Especially troubling to me is the feeling of helplessness that is associated with any discussion of economics and that I have so much trouble reconciling with what I consider science’s and politics’ main effects, these being the opening of new possibilities and the provision of margins to maneuver.

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A lecture given the 23rd of September in Vancouver under the auspices of the Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. The text can be read here.

Let me start with the notion of “conflicts”. I think it is fair to say that about all the questions that I am going to deal with you tonight, we are divided. Not only divided among different parties, different factions, religions, ideologies, but also, and maybe more deeply, divided inside yourself. I certainly feel such a division and it is from this situation of internal conflict that I take the courage to address you tonight.
What I am going to do is to attempt at tracing with you some of the many lines of dissent that today constitute the warring parties whose disputes require new forms of political attitudes. Or rather of geo-political attitudes, provided you take the prefix “geo” in its etymological meaning of “Earth”. As we will see, geopolitics is not about human politics overlaid on the static frame of the Earth, but politics about contradictory portions, visions, aspects of the Earth and its contending humans. Such is the new situation for which we don’t seem to be well equipped intellectually.

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A video of the acceptation speech for the International Holberg Prize. The full text of the speech can be read here.

If I have to thank you for having granted me such an award, it is not of course because I believe myself worthy of such an honor, but because the problems that have come to me over the years might have relevance to you as well — to you and, more urgently, to my grandson, Ulysses, whom I wish to salute at this occasion together with my close and extended family and this large nurturing milieu of friends and colleagues without whom it is impossible to think a single thought, to utter a single word, to feel a single emotion. At the time when I have nothing else to add but words of thanks, allow me to gather all of them and all of you in the same gesture of gratitude.

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Those lectures filmed and set up by the University of Edinburgh are available on their sites.

Those six lectures in ‘natural religion’ explore what it could mean to live at the epoch of the Anthropocene when what was until now a mere décor for human history is becoming the principal actor. They confront head on the controversial figure of Gaia, that is, the Earth understood not as system but as what has a history, what mobilizes everything in the same geostory. Gaia is not Nature, nor is it a deity. In order to face a secular Gaia, we need to extract ourselves from the amalgam of Religion and Nature. It is a new form of political power that has to be explored through a renewed attempt at political theology composed of those three concepts: demos, theos and nomos. It is only once the multiplicity of people in conflicts for the new geopolitics of the Anthropocene is recognized, that the ‘planetary boundaries’ might be recognized as political delineations and the question of peace addressed. Neither Nature nor Gods bring unity and peace. ‘The people of Gaia’, the Earthbound might be the ‘artisans of peace’.

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Lecture in the framework of the Understanding Society Series organized at CRASSH by Professor Simon Golding, November 6th 2013

Since the project on Modes of Existence has been long in coming and has connection with all the successive field works done by the author, the paper tries to retrace the main steps that have led to the project. It shows that this project precedes the work done in actor-network theory and explains the link between philosophy and anthropology through the peculiar notion of mode of existence.

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A long collaboration with Armin Linke comes to fruition with a collaboration between Armin's and the AIME's project. The video shows work in progress with a presentation in English by Bruno Latour and in German by Dorothea Heinz to Armin's students in Karlsruhe. Warning, this is a work in progress. Don't expect definitive answers.

The AIME digital environment will benefit enormously from Armin's archives and from Armin's students field work through several sites which are immensely difficult to describe through textual means. The platform aims at giving through photographic essays embedded into the documentation of the AIME book, a second chance to direct attention to the experience of modes of existence difficult to trace. The joint project will end with several independent outputs (books by Armin and by his students).

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A fifteen minute presentation of the ERC project called AIME which will be published in French in September 2012 and in English in March 2013.

For a philosophy that is empirical and not simply empiricist, investigation offers the only way to ferret out its concepts and then put them to the test before proposing a version that can be submitted to critique by its peers. And yet, even though investigation as a genre benefits from a distinguished and intimidating prestige in philosophy, it is fairly unusual for an author to propose to carry out an investigation with the participation of his readers. This is nevertheless what I propose to do in publishing a book titled An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns, alongside a digital site that allows its visitors, who will have become co-investigators, to inspect its arguments and go on to suggest other fields to study, other proofs, other accounts. By means of this arrangement I invite my co-investigators to help me find the guiding thread of the experience by becoming attentive to several regimes of truth, which I call modes of existence, after the strange book by Étienne Souriau, recently republished, that features this phrase in its title.