Quicky: Subsistence and Substance.

Posted: September 9, 2013 in History/Philosophy, Quicky
Tags: , , , , ,

“[…] we would have to posit a substance lying behind or beneath them [the existents] to explain their subsistence.” (Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence. An antropology of the moderns, p. 102).

This book finally tries to solve a problem Latour has been struggling with for decades*. For now, I just want to show you a lovely switch in words. For many pages he talked about existents*  “maintaining” or “keeping themselves into existence.” But once he launches a quick attack upon substantialism, he switches to “subsistence.” Not only is the short argument in itself quite compelling, simply looking at the sentence makes you feel silly for ever considering the idea of an underlying substance. For, thinking to have solved the problem of existence through time and space by positing an underlying substance is one thing. Another is solving the problem of subsistence by pointing at a substance. Even a philosophically blind man sees that the problem has remained.

* To be fair, his previous books have plenty of attempts to solve the problem. An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence isn’t filled with completely new and revolutionary ideas. Although he does seem to shed some analytic light on the (from time to time) muddle in his previous works.
* what was wrong with “actants”? They served him well for so many years…


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