All is Vanity, for Real…Kant, Latour and the Pass, part 2.

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Ok; here is the post I meant to put:

So we come to Bruno Latour, and his notion of the pass. What is it that allows for the repetition whereby self-fulfillment is denied? This is the question of ‘what happened’. We will never get to answer the question of what ‘is happening’ until we answer the question of ‘what happened’. This is because if we do not find out what happened, then it will happen again. We are then keen to Kierkegaard’s “Repetition”, for the question that most everyone wants to answer is the subsequent question, the question of Being, “What is happening”, why is there what is and not what is not? This question, though, denies its own bases and so asks upon itself without ever even looking for, let alone being able to see, what it lacks. What ontology always finds then is itself, or an other (an other and self are constituents of the real state). All is indeed vanity.

Further; philosophy as an ontological practice cannot escape the political, ideological and in general social dynamics. It is a simple thing to see the reason why I call such conventional philosophical method real. What is real is what is happening. But because thinkers, as opposed to Beings, but consistent with being real, take the products of themsleves as indication of the potential involved with other beings, and take this as evidence of not a whole, but actually The only whole, they thus always (1) take everything real as a product of some sort, be-caused of some thing or other, and (2) take as an automatic demand upon all things within their field their proof toward what is happening, and this, even to the extent that they demand that the question of ‘what happened’ must conform to the state of Being that is happening.

*

Bruno Latour begins his book “An Inquiry into Modes of Existence” with a description of what a pass is with an analogy. I don’t have the book right with me, but he writes about a mountain trail or path that goes from the base to its peak. Note that I will not here follow his description exactly; I am not putting forth a strict analysis of his book and what it means in this post. It is enough that he came up with a pretty good analogy, a good term that can indicate the issue and the way it is dealt with. What is significant with Latour, at least in his AMIE project , is that he sees the need for an opening. It is clear from visiting his webpage that he understands the problem of a multi-vocalized reality similar to the type that Lyotard suggested in the conditions of the post-modern moment . Namely, the problem of communication between worlds. The salient question of every significant philosopher worth considering is “Is communication taking place?” For it is from this pivotal question that the world manifests in its ways.

So, if we can understand what this question means, which is to say, if communication has taken place through this one phrase, then we have found a common pass (a given ontological base). It doesn’t really matter too much if we identify it with Latour’s scheme (supposedly he describes 15 types of passes, 15 ‘modes of existence’; hence the book’s title “Inquiry into Modes of Existence”). What is significant is that he saw the need not so much for another reconciliation, not another philosophical reduction to some essential truth for which the author is trying to gain traction for through their communion with the intuition god, but rather some way to relieve the reduction from being the responsibility of one authors’ intuitive argumentative assertion. What is significant is that he sees that the method is at issue, the philosophical reductive method and its associated (and invisible) givens are at issue, and that the only way to get past this method is to somehow poke a hole in it! Instead of giving into the nihilism that arises in conventional minds, we need to create an opening whereby people can begin to communicate.

In my upcoming book, we might get into the complicity of needs that relates François Laruelle and Bruno Latour’s works; I am getting off the track of this post. The upcoming book probably will answer all the stray ponderings and vectored analyses.

For now, it is enough to understand the simplicity of the idea. First off, ontological foundations must be admitted given. If a traveler does not admit to an already given ontological truth that has already been explored, then the significance of the pass will make no sense; the trail will be missed and avoided. In order to pass, we must set aside the want to apply redundant deconstructivist techniques to every clause. This is because only once we understand the ontological foundations of existence, only once we admit to that truth, can we begin to see the passes. While I see really only one effective pass, Latour sees this pass as expressed in different ways.

The first kind of pass (probably not in the same order or number that Latour notes) is just this: Where a particular methodological application accounts for all that is allowed, a pass has occurred in the scheme of meaning that accounts for real estimations. We might even call this kind of pass a ‘given’, because it functions to allow reasoning to grant reality despite the problem it poses upon that reason to attach to real things. For example: If there is a question of the truth of Being, for which a particular formula answers this question, whether is be God, or whether it be a series of philosophical arguments, such as Deleuze’s Rhizomes, or various ‘arrived-at’ states or situations that we can associate with metaphorical ‘plateaus’ – where such an explanation of what is happening routes all occurrence back into its logic or reasoning such that every event is account for or deflected within that scheme, a pass has occurred to ‘miss’ the meaning of an alternate suggestion. The person effectivly ‘passes over’ the situation where someone is expressing a different reality because everything is making sense to the logic of the first person’s ‘total’ explanation of the situation. This is the post-modern condition.

But lets back up. Latour uses the analogy of a mountain pass. The meaning of the forgoing paragraph is that first we have to admit that there is a mountain in front of us. I show you a mountain and say that we are going to hike that mountain, and I start to walk. But you don’t move; you stand there pondering whether or not there is indeed a mountain. I tell you to come on, lets go, there are great views at the top of this mountain. But you stand there and reflect upon the possible aesthetics involved in being at the top of an epistemoloigcal situation that we cant agree upon.

This is the very problem we face when a philosopher will not admit ontological foundations as true. But I am not going to go into all the ramifications of this discussion here.

Again, enough to say that Latour’s analogy is of a mountain and a way to hike to the top. There are all sorts of dangers on this trail though. We will have to cross some fast streams and climb some crazy rocks, some steep terrain, but it is navigable, we just have to follow the route.

Now; the problems that Latour comes across and discusses in his book are due to the issues of this same type; he is still justifying the situation ontologically and thus has to address, and or finds, 15 types of passes that represent 15 types of manners or ‘modes’ that account for reality for the various types of people (various people use various modes so reality stays ‘whole’ –for those of the particular modes). This is why his gets sticky; because as soon as he attempts to justify something that is passing ontological constructions, he then has to use a pass that somehow avoids any of the passes he lists, or incorporates. Ironically, the need he notices gets set aside as another ‘religious’ dogma, another philosophical reductive scheme, accepted by some and rejected by others.

The point that he himself misses (and we will discuss somewhere the duplicity involved with conventional significance) is that in order to be able to see a pass one has to admit that ontological justifications rely themselves upon a pass. Simply speaking, Latour is attempting to answer a teleological question through ontological justifications.

Another kind of pass, a good one, and I think one of the first passes that Latour notes, is: Say we have a map of the mountain and the route leading up to the top. We mark our progress along the trail by markers in the map that indicate, like ‘when you get to a big dead oak jetting out of a rock, then you go east for two miles until…’ or symbols or pictures that say just as much. How are we able to transpose or translate the actual mountain to the map of it or vice-versa? The map itself looks nothing like the mountain, and in fact is nothing like the mountain. Yet there is some sort of resemblance between the two, and indeed, provided that something has not happened to have changed or altered the actual physical landmarks that the map notes, we are able to stick to the directions on the map and get to the top. In this kind of transferal there is a pass enacted in our understanding of reality. While I am not here addressing all the peculiarities of the situation, it is a simple thing to see that there is an obstruction in the actual Being of things to get around or past, and this can be analogous to two Beings attempting to communicate. In order for us to be able to follow the map of the course up the mountain, there has to be a sort of pass that allows us to ignore the problem that occurs in between the actual physical mountain and the small paper drawing of symbols that describe how to get up the mountain. This pass thus marks a particular manner of coming upon reality, a particular ‘mode of existing’.

The significant point, though, of noticing this situation is that in order to get beyond the dead end that is the modern-post-modern obstruction where no communication takes place (again: what do I mean by this? Read my past posts and my books to find out!, (and maybe check out some killer tunes to boot!)) is that an opening is needed through which people can be free to describe, what frankly amounts to, the ‘insane realties’ that actually occur in the meaningful life, but without fear of judgment of reprisal. Yet, this is not so much some sort of auto-biographical non-fiction or something, nor some authorial-fantasy of artistic license. It is more a manner by which we might be able to find out some facts about what reality really is.

At least, this is the idea behind Latour’s vision.

While I do enjoy the idea and see the need for a pass, I am not so optimistic as Latour.

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