'A metaphysical turn? Bruno Latour’s An Inquiry into Modes of Existence' by Patrice Maniglier just published in Radical Philosophy no 187 (Sept/Oct 2014) :
A book bearing the title An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, but with the subtitle An Anthropology of the Moderns,* will immediately prompt the question: is this a work of metaphysics, as suggested by the title (which was lifted from the philosopher Étienne Souriau’s 1943 work ), or a work of anthropology, as the subtitle indicates? One thing is certain: it is not a matter of studying how certain human groups, the ‘Moderns’ in this case, agree to attribute ‘genuine existence’ to this or that thing rather than another – to bacteria, for example, rather than unicorns. Latour tells his reader at the very beginning: what we will be examining is not ‘manners of speaking, as in speech act theory, but rather modes of being’, going back to ‘the old question of “what is X?” (what is science? What is the essence of technology?), but in the process we shall be discovering new beings whose properties are different in each case’ (21). Some readers will be taken aback. Should the great battle that the social sciences fought to win their autonomy from metaphysics, for which refined procedures of objectification – statistics, surveys, ethnographic ‘fieldwork’ and so on – were deployed in the process, end with the restoration of Plato and Aristotle? Isn’t there a choice to make here? Are we speaking of ‘modes of existence’ in general, or of the modes of existence for the Moderns? Metaphysics or anthropology? [...]
Please read the full text on Radical Philosophy website.