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Latour, Bruno (1947–)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD106-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2016
Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Bruno Latour is a French philosopher whose work and influence have been mainly in the social sciences, and he is one of the world’s most cited authors in this field. Along with Michel Callon and John Law he is considered one of the founders of actor-network theory (ANT), a method of avoiding abstract terms such as ‘society’, ‘capitalism’ and ‘the economy’ by focusing on the role of individual actors in building up any collective. ANT is thus a ‘flat ontology’ that places humans, nonhumans, concepts and fictional characters on the same footing. All entities are equally real, though not equally strong: neutrons simply have more or better allies attesting to their existence than Popeye, square circles or white ravens. Entities are termed ‘actors’ or ‘actants’, since they can be known and understood only by the effects they have on other things: there is no substance or thingly surplus hidden behind their concrete actions.

From the late 1990s Latour partly renounced ANT due to its inability to distinguish between the truth conditions of differing modes of reality, a problem he tried to address in his new ‘modes of existence’ project. Among the chief influences on his work are the semiotics of A.J. Greimas, the metaphysics of A.N. Whitehead, the pragmatism of William James, and the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes.

Citing this article:
Harman, Graham. Latour, Bruno (1947–), 2016, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD106-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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