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Dolls, Demons and DNA

Barbara Herrnstein Smith: Bruno Latour

8 March 2012
On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods 
by Bruno Latour.
Duke, 157 pp., £12.99, March 2011, 978 0 8223 4825 2
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... a generation ago to most scientists, philosophers and other generally sensible people. That a different answer is possible, even preferable, owes much to the work of French sociologist-philosopher BrunoLatour. Latour came into view in the 1980s as an uncommonly engaging as well as radical practitioner of the new discipline of science studies. The accounts of scientific facts and technological ...

Le pauvre Sokal

John Sturrock: The Social Text Hoax

16 July 1998
Intellectual Impostures 
by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont.
Profile, 274 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 1 86197 074 9
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... place they occupy in the body of scientific knowledge from which they have been so recklessly abducted. The thinkers pressed shoulder to shoulder in the dock here – Lacan, Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, BrunoLatour, Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, Deleuze/Guattari and one or two lesser figures – turn out not to know their mathematical arse from their physical elbow when they choose to steal food from Sokal ...

Into the Mental Basement

Thomas Nagel: Science and Religion

19 August 2010
Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion 
by Barbara Herrnstein Smith.
Yale, 201 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 300 14034 7
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... review undertake a serious evaluation of the constructivist position itself. It is the subject of a large literature; in addition to Smith, its defenders include Paul Feyerabend, Richard Rorty and BrunoLatour; trenchant critics include John Searle and Paul Boghossian. A basic philosophical question is whether it can be intelligibly applied ‘all the way down’. When the constructivist account ...

Martial Art

Bruce Robbins: Pierre Bourdieu

20 April 2006
Science of Science and Reflexivity 
by Pierre Bourdieu, translated by Richard Nice.
Polity, 168 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 9780745630601
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... world as ‘a universe of competition for the “monopoly of the legitimate handling” of scientific goods’, it’s hard to see how his own view differs. How can he be so scornful, for example, of BrunoLatour? In Les Microbes: Guerre et paix (1984, translated into English as The Pasteurisation of France), Latour uses the confusion of a Russian defeat of Napoleon’s army, as described by Tolstoy ...

Leave, and Leave Again

William Davies: The Brexit Mentality

7 February 2019
... on what is being negated. Leave was a coalition of rejecters, a great refusal that didn’t require a positive or viable programme in order to flourish. In his recent, wise book Down to Earth, BrunoLatour spots a pattern in this instinct to leave that is far from unique to Britain.* Underlying it, he thinks, is a fantasy of escape, ultimately from a shared planet that is becoming less habitable. ‘We ...


Arthur Goldhammer

5 October 1995
The Private Science of Louis Pasteur 
by Gerald Geison.
Princeton, 378 pp., £24.95, June 1995, 0 691 03442 7
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Louis Pasteur 
by Patrice Debré.
Flammarion, 559 pp., frs 145, January 1995, 2 08 066646 0
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by Pierre Darmon.
Fayard, 430 pp., frs 150, February 1995, 9782213594040
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... finds a further reason for attending to the private side of science: Pasteur’s ‘carefully orchestrated public performances invite a close examination of the private dress rehearsals’. Indeed, BrunoLatour, in his much-controverted Pasteurisation of France, went so far as to say that ‘Pasteur’s genius was in what might be called the theatre of proof.’ Geison, though less inclined to ...
13 April 2000
The Politics of Large Numbers: A History of Statistical Reasoning 
by Alain Desrosières, translated by Camille Naish.
Harvard, 368 pp., £27.95, October 1998, 0 674 68932 1
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... is a philosophical and sociological reflection on the history of statistics, the most matter-of-fact of all disciplines. He draws liberally on the dernier cri sociology of science (in the mode of BrunoLatour and Michel Callon), on medieval philosophy (he is especially enamoured of the 14th-century debates between realists and nominalists), and on standard political histories of Britain, France ...
2 October 1997
This is Biology 
by Ernst Mayr.
Harvard, 340 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 9780674884687
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... bourgeois, that Newton’s Principia should be understood as a rape manual, and so forth. The principal villains seen as promulgating these doctrines are scholars like Harry Collins, Sandra Harding, BrunoLatour, Simon Schaffer and Steven Shapin. Now whether these alleged enemies have anything in common, and whether there is a genuine package of claims about science that count as constructivism or ...

What do clocks have to do with it?

John Banville: Einstein and Bergson

13 July 2016
The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time 
by Jimena Canales.
Princeton, 429 pp., £24.95, May 2015, 978 0 691 16534 9
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... of things was no more than a kind of happy dreaming: it lacked scientific rigour and refused to acknowledge the significance of measurable facts. Canales quotes the contemporary French philosopher BrunoLatour: ‘We recognise here the classical way for scientists to deal with philosophy, politics, and art: “What you say might be nice and interesting but it has no cosmological relevance because it ...

Modernity’s Bodyguard

Phil Withington: Hobbes

3 January 2013
by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Noel Malcolm.
Oxford, 1832 pp., £195, May 2012, 978 0 19 960262 9
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... of the birth of modern scientific experimentation (a method that chafed against Hobbes’s absolutist conception of epistemological order). Indeed Hobbes is so central to these stories that BrunoLatour has called him the prime source of our discombobulated modern condition. But as with his appreciation of power, what is most surprising about Hobbes’s modernity is that it haunts our understanding ...
21 March 2019
... it would be enough for him to say he’d heard the people out, before returning to business as usual. Yet it was the gilets jaunes, not Macron, who forced this consultation. As the sociologist BrunoLatour wrote in AOC, an online daily, they had created the ‘perfect opportunity’ for a political reappraisal in France, based – as he saw it – on the need to face up to climate change and hold the ...

Pure Mediterranean

Malcolm Bull: Picasso and Nietzsche

20 February 2014
Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica 
by T.J. Clark.
Princeton, 352 pp., £29.95, May 2013, 978 0 691 15741 2
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... the traitor shrivelling in his Pisan cage? Nothing, it would seem. But to those who survived them, the terrors of modernism and fascism were sometimes difficult to keep apart. In an interview with BrunoLatour, Michel Serres talks about his boyhood in France in the 1930s: ‘The return to savagery – to the Minotaur, for Max Ernst, to Picasso’s paganism – I still see these today as the ...

To the Sunlit Uplands

Richard Rorty: A reply to Bernard Williams

31 October 2002
Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 328 pp., £19.95, October 2002, 0 691 10276 7
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... as he puts it, ‘there is no standpoint from which our representations as a whole’ can be measured against the way the world is ‘in itself’. He does, however, specify that the deniers include BrunoLatour, Sandra Harding and the present reviewer. He strongly suggests that Foucault, too, is one of them. He hesitates about including my colleague Hayden White, who is on most lists of Postmodernist ...

Life with Ms Cayenne Pepper

Jenny Turner: The Chthulucene

31 May 2017
Manifestly Haraway: ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, ‘The Companion Species Manifesto’, Companions in Conversation (with Cary Wolfe) 
by Donna Haraway.
Minnesota, 300 pp., £15.95, April 2016, 978 0 8166 5048 4
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Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene 
by Donna Haraway.
Duke, 312 pp., £22.99, August 2016, 978 0 8223 6224 1
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... a minimalist writer – ‘I’ve always … felt we need more than one word at a time,’ she confesses, adding that she has been accused of ‘kitchen-sink syndrome’ by no less an authority than BrunoLatour. As well as Chthulucene and compost, new coinages in this latest book include ‘humosities’, ‘oddkin’ and ‘string figures’. I understand why Haraway feels the need for all this ...


Daniel Soar: Harry Mathews

21 July 2005
My Life in CIA: A Chronicle of 1973 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 203 pp., £8.99, July 2005, 1 56478 392 8
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... and writers (the great names trip off the tongue: Jean-Noël Vuarnet, Sylviane Agacinski, Jim West, Mary McCarthy, Gregory Mazurovsky, Richard Foreman, Kate Manheim, Louis and Zuka Mittelberg, Bruno Marcenac, Michel Loriod, Maurice Roche), he now can see that all the high-flown references he had barely understood – to Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Lacan – were no more than intellectualising ...

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