Alexey V. Voronkov

MSSES, Moscow, Russia

This work is focused on the radical empiricism of William James as a theoretical resource for Bruno Latour’s symmetric anthropology of the Moderns. This work aims to answer the following question: what are the conceptual innovations of Latour’s latest work (An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, 2013), and which theoretical goals can they achieve compared to the classical version of actor-network theory? In order to answer this question, the general methodological provisions of the latest version of Latour’s anthropology — empirical metaphysics — are contrasted to classical actor-network theory. Drawing on the philosophy of pragmatism, Latour introduces the mode of preposition which makes it possible to make actor-networks only one of several ways to construct relations. The article substantiates the assumption that such changes in the methodology of anthropological research of the Moderns are caused by the need to reconceptualize entities that were assigned in the region of Culture. First, the article reconstructs the influence of radical empiricism on Latour’s “mode of fiction”, the paradigmatic case being works of art, as well as on his “mode of attachment”. The latter makes it possible to avoid the revival of the subject-object dichotomy in symmetric anthropology. Second, by referring to the negative version of the symmetric anthropology presented in “We Have Never Been Modern”, it is shown that—in the absence of radical empiricism, which ontologizes subjective ways of making relations—said anthropology is reduced to the materialization of semiotics and is therefore unable to overcome the postmodernist critique of human subjectivity.
Keywords: symmetrical anthropology, actor-network theory, radical empiricism, anthropology of the moderns, subjectivity