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Old 05-06-2016, 01:00 PM   #2
dark_crystal
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"Why Critique has Run Out of Steam," by Bruno Latour

What has become of critique, I wonder, when an editorial in the New York Times contains the following quote?

Most scientists believe that [global] warming is caused largely by manmade pollutants that require strict regulation. Mr. Luntz [a Republican strategist] seems to acknowledge as much when he says that “the scientific debate is closing against us.” His advice, however, is to emphasize that the evidence is not complete. “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled,” he writes, “their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific
certainty a primary issue.”

While we spent years trying to detect the real prejudices hidden behind the appearance of objective statements, do we now have to reveal the real objective and incontrovertible facts hidden behind the illusion of prejudices? And yet entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always prisoners of language, that we always speak from a particular standpoint, and so on while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.

Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science studies? Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we said? Why does it burn my tongue to say that global warming is a fact whether you like it or not? Why can’t I simply say that the argument is closed for good? Should I reassure myself by simply saying that bad guys can use any weapon at hand, naturalized facts when it suits them and social construction when it suits them? Should we apologize for having been wrong all along?

Or should we rather bring the sword of criticism to criticism itself and do a bit of soul-searching here: what were we really after when we were so intent on showing the social construction of scientific facts?


For my final paper I set Butler against Donna Haraway and then rebutted them both with the Latour, if I recall. It was fun lol.

I just have no patience for the philosophical argument that says we should not think of things as having essential, non-constructed thing-in-itselfnesses because of the limits of our perception. My argument was that dogs cannot perceive the color red, but they would be wrong to assume that therefore there can be no such thing.

It's true that we are not able to perceive most of our reality, but it's not useful in any practical way. It is also true that "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" is "just a bunch of dots" when you stand too close, but the "too close" perspective is not the perspective that "counts"

I feel like constructivists are always standing nose-to-nose with a Seurat, saying "what monkey??"

Fine, every manifestation of a platonic form is so unique as to make it impossible to isolate any one quality that is always there or never there.

Fine, the inability to isolate a single quality that can be said to definitively belong to the form negates the form's ability to exist.

However, pattern recognition is still a thing, so why can't we just talk about platonic patterns instead of platonic forms? I feel like a pattern can exist somewhere between essentialism and constuctivism
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