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French Philosophy TodayNew Figures of the Human in Badiou, Meillassoux, Malabou, Serres and Latour$
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Christopher Watkin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474414739

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414739.001.0001

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Bruno Latour: Translating the Human

Bruno Latour: Translating the Human

(p.171) Chapter 6 Bruno Latour: Translating the Human
French Philosophy Today

Christopher Watkin

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter 6 considers the figure of the human that emerges in Bruno Latour’s An Inquiry into Modes of Existence and his ‘Facing Gaia’ lectures. Latour neither repeats nor discards previous notions of humanity but translates them in a gesture that can be traced all the way back to his doctoral work on the theologian of demythologisation Rudolf Bultmann. In his attempts to elaborate a figure of the human that follows neither the emancipation narrative nor the structure of modernity, Latour (like Serres) develops a multi-modal approach. The human is an amalgam of multiple modes of existence and cannot be isolated within any single mode. Latour also avoids the problems inherent in a host capacity approach by distributing both capacities and substance across human and nonhuman actors in unatomisable collectivities. Whereas the host capacity and host substance approaches seek to understand the human by looking within, Latour insists that the human only becomes comprehensible when we look outside and around. His 2013 Gifford Lectures both develop and challenge themes from the Modes of Existence project, reasserting the centrality of the human now in terms of a non-modern anthropos defined by its limits and its multiple attachments to the world.

Keywords:   Bruno Latour, Human, Humanism, Modes of Existence, Emancipation, Modernity, Gaia, Ecology

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