Nataliya A. Volkova

RANEPA, Moscow, Russia

The article examines Bruno Latour’s “An Inquiry into Modes of Existence” (AIME) as a project of metaphysical empiricism. Latour considers AIME as a continuation of the book “We Have Never Been Modern” [1993] and asks: if they were not part of Modernity, who were the Moderns? The search for the answer leads Latour away from empiricism into the realm of metaphysics and ideal materialism. However, this doesn’t allow him to achieve the aim of the project: to establish the connection between natural and social, ideal and material. The reason why empiricism was replaced by metaphysics in the AIME project was Latour’s analytical interpretation of the concept of preposition, which he took from the “radical empiricism” of William James. To solve the problem, the article proposes to replace the analytical concept of preposition, which, according to Latour, describes the situation as belonging to the mode of existence, with James Gibson’s concept of affordances. Affordances, as defined by Gibson, structure the interaction between the animal and its ecological niche. In the phenomenological definition of affordances, Glotzbach and Heft describe them as the possibilities offered by the environment, and link them with an empirical level of knowledge. These possibilities would be used only according to one’s bodily experience in terms of Merleau-Ponty. Thus, affordances become an
important element in the system of AIME’s concepts. They make it possible to establish a connection between the empirical and metaphysical levels, removing the separation between the ideal and the material. The unification of the natural and the social will be possible due to a positive interpretation of bifurcation. The bifurcation will be defined as a transition between the ideal and the material, the metaphysical and the empirical.
Keywords: affordances, AIME, modes of existence, body experience, trajectory, non-reflexivity