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Tate Gallery-first trial 1

“Atmosphere, atmosphere”
Bruno Latour
An entry for the catalog of an exhibition
at New Tate by Olafur Eliasson
Susan May editor

(suggestions for illustrations to be found:
1-Brueghel’s Tower of Babel (Vienna)–or a detail thereof; (is not Ero
Icelander? He has a funny montage of a Brughedl Babel Tower whose
centre is a nuclear plant exhaust chimney? Could that do?
2-Signorelli: Bad and Good government, details of landscape in Good
and Bad so that its clear that we see one destroyed and the other
flourishing –or else do the same with details of urbanism in both the
Good and the Bad panels;
3-a good image of the foot and mouth disease –there must be plenty
especially of burning pyres;
4-a good image of the Irak control and command room where you
have tents and computers and screens in the middle of the desert, or
one image of the goggles with projected image on the visors
superimposed on normal vision
5- one of Olafur’s air conditioning or experiments in climate control,
alternatively some image of the failed Biosphere I project somewhere in

In a mythical scene of French cinema, the beautiful actress Arletty, in
Casque d’Or, mocks the odd vocabulary of her upper class suitor by
exclaiming in her deep husky working class Parisian voice: “Atmosphère,
atmosphère, est-ce que j’ai une gueule d’atmosphère?” (‘Atmosphere,
atmosphere, do I look like an atmosphere?’). A word that sounded
pedantic in the fifties has now become our common condition. So much
so that in a series of daring books the German philosopher Peter
Sloterdijk is now trying to redefine the whole of philosophy by stressing
the importance of atmospheric conditions, writing a sort of expanded
meteorology.1 Philosophers, he argues, have been obsessed for much

Sloterdijk, P. Spheren I, II and III. See for instance, this quote from the
introduction to Spheren III: “L’étude entreprise dans ce troisième
volume reprend le fil au point où le travail de deuil sur la métaphysique
impossible de l’Un est arrivé à son terme. Son point de départ, c’est la
supposition du fait que la cause de la vie n’a été en de bonnes mains ni

on the contrary. La philosophie. Si la chose est exacte. la biosophie a à peine commencé!. it is the SARS epidemy which traces avec les religions traditionnelles. . all of us engaged in the same collective experiments. artists have per force become white coats among other white coats. ambiances. the rather tired old divides between wild and domesticated. it seems to me. a rather modest set of attempts to measure up what sort of breathing space is conducive to civilized life —or not. nothing is resolved yet: the most important question remains: how are they going to survive. spheres. skins. in what sort of interior milieu should they be insulated? Since the sciences have expanded so much that they have transformed the whole world in a laboratory. other ways of escaping the narrow constrains of modernism: they benefit from the rich humus provided by the sciences but they turn their results upside down: not to tell a great narrative of progress. la Théorie Générale des systèmes immunitaires et des systèmes communs en est à ses débuts” (still unpublished translation from German by Olivier Mannoni with kind permissions of the author and of the translator). est épuisée!. Laboratories inside out That we are all engaged into a set of collective experiments that have spilled over the strict confines of the laboratories does not need more proof than the reading of the newspapers or the watching of the night TV news. and not enough by air conditioning! Envelops. are not overcome: they are simply ignored. Once objects and subjects are defined or assembled. namely. This year. Tate Gallery-first trial 2 too long with objects and subjects. it seems to me. technical and organic. What Sloterdijk does to philosophy. en tant que forme de pensée et de vie de l’ancienne Europe. ni avec les métaphysiciens. It is the nature of those collective experiments in climate control of the world-wide lab that I want to briefly sketch in this chapter. Both Sloterdijk and Eliasson are exploring. but to explore in what sort of atmospheres we are all collectively suppose to survive. these are the real ‘conditions of possibility’ that philosophy has been hopelessly trying to dig out of totally inaccessible ‘infrastructures’. private and public. and replaced by a set of experimentations on the envelops that nurtures our collective lives. but. il faudrait entièrement repenser la relation entre le savoir et la vie. la théorie des atmosphères se consolide tout juste et laborieusement . In both case. Climate control is not the outcome of a mad dream for total mastery. is what Olafur Eliasson does in his artistic practice.

careful experiments just the opposite of total control. Nothing new in this. pigs. Two years ago. social. of course. we have no idea how to pursue collective experiments in the confusing atmosphere of a whole culture. Towards a New Modernity. cows. he (more rarely she) was thinking of a closed site. The problem is that while we believe we know how to conduct a scientific experiment in the narrow confines of a laboratory. I am not being indignant!. I am not saying it is a scandal because economic interests had taken precedence over public health and farmers’ welfare. when a scientist or a philosopher of science was thinking of writing down rules of method. before 2 Beck. firemen. later. Risk Society. . I am not claiming that ‘naturally’ we ‘should’ have vaccinated livestock. where a small group of specialised experts where scaling down (or scaling up) phenomena which they could repeat at will through simulations or modelling. In all those crises. Last year. custom officers. Those examples remain as good as any. Sage. with unwanted consequences appearing only later without ever putting the original dream of control into doubt. London. we had entered the experimental age. Nice cases for what Ulrich Beck has called «!manufactured risks!». disinfection and vaccination. Research is just the opposite of science. veterinarians. In the time past. thousand of volunteers and specialists were trying to fight against yet another oil spill from the ‘Prestige’s sunken hull. (1992).3 We have shifted from science and its modernist dream of total control. in the catalog of the exhibition Laboratorium. 3 See for instance the section «!Theatre of the Proof!». farmers. we found ourselves entangled in the unwanted consequences of decisions to experiment. Anwterpen 1999 (curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Barbara Vanderlinden). in Spain. since public health has been invented two centuries ago to prevent the spread of infectious diseases through quarantine and. The question then is the following: has it been a well or a badly designed experiment? Everything happens as if from the science age. legal. Ulrich. to research. policemen. the laboratory. virologists had been engaged together. were fighting all over Europe against the foot and mouth virus that was devastating so much of the British countryside.2 By mentioning this case. non-vaccinated livestock in Great. at a very large scale on how to experiment on food production in China. consumers. medical relations all over the world. My point is different: a collective experiment had been tried out where farmers. Tate Gallery-first trial 3 commercial. thousand of officials. veterinarians. stopped single hull oil tankers and checked wild life food in China. sheep. oil transport in Europe.

which has definitely ended the time when human activity had an outside. First. can now take measurements with the same range of precision outside and inside their laboratories. Think of the monitoring systems for fish quotas. quality control.” : 1-26. so much so that it is now possible. Christian (1996). of this trickling down model of scientific production. 4 Dear.!. Think. be scaled up.4 It would be an understatement to say that nothing. Instruments are everywhere. much later.. We recognise here the ‘trickling down’ theory of scientific influence: from a confined centre of rational enlightenment. La formation de la pratique scientifique. Houses. La Découverte. Discipline and Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution. Paris. of global positioning system (GPS): thanks to this satellite network geologists.. The public could chose to learn the results of the laboratory sciences or remain indifferent to them. figures and software. or tried out. hospitals have become so many subsidiaries of the labs. Experiments were undergone by animals. their results.. Peter (1990). And of course nothing is more ‘global’ than global warming. Dear. for volcanoes. Outside the laboratory borders began the realm of mere experience —not experiment. through 3-D equipment to organize ‘field trips’ inside datascapes projected onto the screen of conference rooms inside a lab. dispute them. has been left of this picture. . has slowly been eroded. factories. Think of the new requirements for tracability. but it could certainly not a d d to them. which could then. for instance. and only then. instruments crisscross the ‘outside world’ as if it was made out of log paper. Le discours de l'expérience en France et en Angleterre (1630-1820). applied. and even less contribute to their elaboration. materials. diffused. for glaciers: everywhere. Tate Gallery-first trial 4 presenting. the laboratory has extended its walls to the whole planet. P. (1995). The difference between natural history —outdoor science— and lab science. Chicago. absolutely nothing. so much so that it was difficult to detect the difference between the inside and the outside of the command and control war rooms. University of Chicago Press. naturalists. “Experiment As Metaphor In The Seventeenth Century. Soldiers of the last Irak war had an eye on the battle field and another on the screen of the ‘digital battle field’. standardisation which are as stringent outside factories as those for inside production sites. knowledge would emerge and then slowly diffuse out to the rest of society. Licoppe. Science was this activity carried out inside the walls where white coats were at work.

The sharp distinction between. W.S. No one is explicitly given the responsibility of monitoring them. through the action of each of us. for us have no protocol. precision and reference— and another one which was in charge of representing people in society —and here the word ‘representation’ meant faithfulness. The only way to know if global warming is indeed due to anthropic activity is to try out and stop our noxious emissions to see later. is simply evaporating under our eyes. as it has now become clear to all with the key question of global warming. One simple way to characterise our times is to say that the two meanings of representation have now merged into one around the key notion of spokespersons offering clearly staged demonstrations for proving the existence of some new entity that becomes the object of collective 5 Broecker.6 We used to have two types of representations and two types of forums!: one that was in charge of representing things of nature —and here the word ‘representation’ meant accuracy. the question of scale. obedience. what is now the difference with what used to be called a political situation: namely. complex models are being tried out on huge computers. I am not saying that from now on ‘all is political’. Those experiments made on us. We are now all embarked in the same collective experiments mixing humans and non-humans together —and no one is in charge. on the other. 278. on all of us. Who has the power of saying the last word. confidence. Science. When I am saying that the distinction between the inside and the outside of the laboratory has disappeared. with all the oceans. But then. opinions and passions.” Environnement. . a political outside where non-experts were getting by with human values. That’s precisely the point. This is indeed an experiment but at scale one and this one has no outside: we are all embarked in it. many simulations are being run!. Rip (1991). scientific laboratories experimenting on theories and phenomena inside their walls. election. “Forums hybrides et négociations des normes socio-techniques dans le domaine de l'environnement. Cahiers du GERMES 13: 227-238. Experiments are now happening at scale one and in real time. Science et Politique. and A. Tate Gallery-first trial 5 Second. high atmosphere and even the Gulf Stream —as some oceanographers argue5— participating in it. 1582-1588 6 Callon. of deciding for all of us? This is why a new definition of sovereignty is being called for. what interests everyone concerns everyone but cannot be easily privatised nor speedily mastered!? None. To be sure. and. but the real experiment is happening on us. M. I am simply saying that contemporary scientific controversies are designing what Arie Rip and Michel Callon have called ‘hybrid forums’. what has happened. with us. by us. and collectively. on the one hand.

The global warming controversy is just one of those many new hybrid forums: around the table. What is a thing? Translated by W. had supposed: all Gegenstand have now become Ding.7 One way to summarize this argument is to remind oneself that the old word for ‘thing’ does not mean what is outside the human realm. we could control science. others the many lobbies of oil and gas. the most ancient of Europe. there is hardly a thing. We Have Never Been Modern. Hence the expression I have chosen for this new politic!: how to assemble the Parliament of Things. the highest moral authorities we possess. Y.9 Let us pause a moment on this major transformation: it is for me one of the most tragic intellectual failures of our age that the best minds. some of those spokespersons represents high atmosphere. (1993). (198O). (2000). What counts is that all those spokesperson are in the same room. still others represents. Cambridge. as Peter Sloterdijk has so forcefully argued in his vertiginous text Regeln für den Menschenpark.. chose et patrimoine (note sur le rapport sujet-objet en droit romain). separate it entirely from 7 (French translation.8 Have a look at the scientific as well as in the lay press. Barton. Tate Gallery-first trial 6 concern. 9 Latour. a controversy. in the classical sense. they say. dream only of one thing!: «!If only. through litigation. still others non-governmental organisations. Gendlin. that things have become ‘things’ again!: Ein Ding ist Ein Thing. a cause to be collectively decided in the ‘Thing’. . The course of history is exactly opposite to what Heidegger in. M. Harvard University Press and its elaboration in Politics of Nature (to appear in English at Harvard University Press. is called precisely the Althing and its members Althingmen. Régles pour le parc humain. une affaire as we would say in French. Jr. (1968).” Archives de philosophie du droit 25: 413-426. engaged in the same collective experiment. 8 Thomas. also a case. the ancient word for assembly or forum in Old English as well as in Old German. Mass. a state of affair. P. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Olafur Eliasson is a son of Iceland whose Parliament. with an analysis by Eugene T. Mille et une nuits. B. and Vera Deutsch. their electors. aitia in Greek. but that a new politics certainly has to be devised. It does not mean that everything is political. spring 2004 translation Cathy Porter). talking at once about imbroglios of people and things. The sharp difference that seemed so important between those who represented things and those who represented people has simply vanished. check if English xx if not cite German) Sloterdijk. which has not also become. protestation. Paris. but a case . One can say. B. res in Latin. Chicago. “Res.

those beautiful controversies in search for a forum. deprived of our very conditions of humanness!: the things. 11 This difference is also a way of reminding us that the question is not to be anti-empiricist but to respect in the empirical setting a much . meaning and ultimate goals! Is this not a tragedy if. Matters of concerns are what matters of fact become once you add to ‘factuality’ all what these authors deem necessary for the existence and sustainance of facts. Humanists of many hues and shades are scoring against their own team. cold. as fast as possible. those interesting cases. if realised. I want to give it a technical meaning and use it. boring. even more inhuman than we now are. They want to keep science and technology as distinct as possible from the search for values. the controversial states of affairs to which we are attached and without whom we would die on the spot. to contrast the modernist ‘matter of fact’ —invented for political reasons somewhere in the 17th century— and the non-modern ‘matters of concern’ in which we are now entangled.11 10 See Fleck. on the contrary. from now on. as I have argued. without discussion. keep humanity safely protected from the encroachment of instrumental rationality. theories. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press for a very early example and Rheinberger. many mad scientists who are still imagining the possibility of ‘naturalising’ the whole social life. the whole collective existence.. our best minds are dreaming. instruments. Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. the darkest of all nightmares. for a very recent case. then. Hans-Jorg (1997). and collective experiments in which they. hesitations. the tragedy is compounded. Tate Gallery-first trial 7 the realm of human values. the present trend leads precisely in the opposite direction and that the most urgent concern for us today is to make sure that we fuse together humans and non- humans in the same hybrid forums so as to open. of an even sharper cut that would render us. if they could succeed. shooting themselves in the foot. are no longer what I would like to call matters of concerns. expecting as a wish what would be. but the old.10 Although the expression has not much precision in English. by taking it not as a controversial collective experiment but as a concatenation of incontrovertible causalities known by them. when we see. Synthetizing Proteins in the Test Tube. and only then we would live a better life!». Stanford University Press. Stanford. this Parliament of things!? When all our energy should be directed to this task. Ludwig (1935). Alas. Toward a History of Epistemic Thing. play a role among many others. matters of fact stripped of every one of the ingredients that are necessary to make them scientific: researchers. and by them only. the scientists. on the other hand. history. In their hands.

in the meantime. for instance. Chicago. Tate Gallery-first trial 8 Take the ‘discourse of gene action’. It just means that there exist also a controversy on the interpretation of the present time —and we know from history how difficult it is for thinkers to interpret what the present signifies. E. However.. have expanded to cover the whole of culture and politics.12 The distance between Richard Dawkins’s gene and those of Richard Lewontin13. Le Seuil-Collection Science ouverte. . as Evelyn Fox-Keller calls it!: how ridiculous would it be to try to keep a genetic interpretation of human behaviour as remote as possible from a moral. The new political. two biologists who have published in French a fabulous book with the fiery title ‘’Neither God nor gene!! (2000). Ni Dieu ni gène. There is no worse intellectual crime than to be mistaken on where and when one is forced to inhabit. Gene. artistic fault lines are now inside the sciences and technology. is one of those hybrid forums torn apart by many fascinating controversies. Yes. nothing is left of the two-culture argument either. that we cannot count on the help of moralists. moral. Harvard University Press or those of Jean-Jacques Kupiec and Pierre Sonigo. The Century of the Gene. Paris. Mass. (2000). Organism and Environment. History of the Modern Fact. 12 Fox-Keller. Chicago University Press. Cambridge. let’s say. this distance is much greater than between the whole of genetics and. more complex situation that the one staged by the 17th century philosophers. The Triple Helix. which is even stranger. 13 Lewontin. If nothing is left of the trickling down model of science production. even though our best minds still dream of keeping apart scientific facts and human values —or. Mary (1999). This is why we have to be careful here and devise a test to take our bearings for sure.. ethical. Jurgen Habermas’ or Paul Ricoeur’s view of humanity. Poovey. does not mean that we have to shun away from our task or that we have to become immoral or cynical. but to say ‘inside’ means nothing any more since it is also everywhere in the collective experiments in which we are all embarked. For them it’s the whole idea of a gene as information carrier which is a mere theological fiction. Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society. Harvard University Press. symbolic or phenomenological one. Richard (2000). it is a tragedy —or rather a farce. Cambridge. This is what has changed so much!: there are still people who oppose the ‘two cultures’ of science and humanity. expect to ‘build a bridge’ in between the two domains as if they were not both totally entangled. but the strives have now moved inside the sciences themselves which. genetics itself. since. as a science.

You have come full circle at the end of European experience and finally rediscovered that when you were mocking other people because they ‘naively believed’ that. like my Celtic ancestors. others did this confusion in the ancient past. then you have stopped being modern. things and people. ‘the sky could fall on their head’. but we are even more so and on a much wider scale and with many more entities and agencies to take into account. in the depth of your heart. ends and means. Yes. for instance. End of the modernist parenthesis. 15 Beck. for instance. you are for sure a ‘postmodernist’. Stanford. Germany 2002. since you too are convinced that the sky might fall on your head. even a tiny bit. For them. You have entered a different world or. .. you are convinced that. make the experiment. A. there exist an arrow of time. Mass. of the controversial global warming. Beyond the Image Wars in Science. ancient people might have been entangled. that clearly distinguish the past from the future: «!Yesterday. we won’t do that in the future!». Iconoclash. You have shifted out of the old state of anthropology as well as out of the former state of modernist history. you are now realising that they meant something else. Tate Gallery-first trial 9 Those who dream of separating facts and values even better are what I called ‘modernists’. U. they say. it means it was not a belief for ‘them’ either. Bruno et Peter Weibel. Reflexive Modernization. (2002). you have stopped believing that you were in a different world from the rest of humanity. whereas yesterday things were a bit confused and entangled. freed from all attachments.14 Thus. Religion and Art. Politics. Giddens. Pass the test. Eds. (1994). but tomorrow for sure we will separate facts and values even more sharply!. science and ideology. Cambridge. Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order. blissfully unaware of the consequences of your actions. Beginning (or return) to what? What would be the word if ‘we have never been modern’? Second modernity? reflexive modernisation as Ulrich Beck has proposed!?15 non modern? 14 The ‘belief in belief’ has been the object of a systematic inventory in an exhibition at ZKM Karlsruhe. we were still mixing things up. ask yourself. you are a modernist. If so. Stanford University Press. If there is one thing you don’t believe in any more it is in the possibility of being emancipated. Nothing wrong with that! You are in good company. humans and non-humans. will be even more entangled than yesterday. et al. we won’t confuse any more the way the world is really and the way it should be!. a thrust forward. And if it is not a ‘belief’ for you. see the catalog Latour. MIT Press. If you hesitate. there is no ‘them’ left. —under the form. more exactly. if you feel that the arrow of time flows in this way for you. But if. tomorrow facts and values.

a fact of nature. University of Cambridge. agencies to humans and non- 16 Tresch. the opposite of which being a kakosmos. a horrible shamble as Plato calls it. the protocol book kept? Why would it be easier now to define the new Sovereign? Let me try out by using a simple but telling example. Chirac. ‘mortal’. But in what way having stopped being modern could possibly help us for carrying out our politics of controversial matters of concern. . By stopping being modern. yes. it is. it seems a truism. in effect. Monsieur Chirac is drawing what I will call. ‘terrian’. believe me. Mechanical Romanticism: Engineers of the Artificial Paradise PhD Thesis. J. on which moral ground could we refuse to the cows the chance of becoming carnivores. at first sight. the President is not invoking Mother Nature’s wisdom forbidding man to break Her limits. but in drawing. Let us be careful here!: when uttering this sentence. no longer resides in defining what humans values should be. yes decides . Politics. we have become ordinary humans again. is a fully modernist mind (one of the few left). like some of us!?) No. a famous beef-eater. if I am right in my interpretation of the present. a strongly political statement. my President. What is a cosmos!? As we know from the Greek and from the word ‘cosmetic’ it means a beautiful arrangement. proposing a cosmogram. once we have taken for granted that there exist only one cosmos. that of Monsieur Chirac. since it means that Monsieur Chirac takes a stand in the controversial matter of the mad-cow disease and decides. Tate Gallery-first trial 10 Why not ‘ordinary’. from now on: «!Herbivores are herbivores are herbivores!». after John Tresch. a certain distribution of roles. This statement is not as stupidly tautological as it sounds: although. ‘ordinary’ that’s the word I prefer. for this politics of things the rules of which have to be written. stating that. Department of History and Philosophy of Science. about what would have been considered before as a mere matter of fact!: «!Herbivores are herbivores and should remain so!». decided. to put an end to the violent controversy over mad cow disease and the use of powder made out of crushed bones to feed livestock. anyway. four years ago. known by a unified science and simplified as one nature. 2001. a cosmos is redesigned in which herbivores become. ‘anthropological’. and I am sure he does not give a hoot for the sacred limits of Nature (and. functions. yes become. herbivores again and for good —or. at least as long as another cosmogram has not been redesigned. deciding. a cosmogram!:16 he is deciding in which world he wishes French to live!: after the catastrophic collective experiment of the mad-cow disease.

there exist what divides us. but always also about infrastructure. When uttering his sentence that looks like a factual statement —and a tautological one at that— Monsieur Chirac is in effect defining at once a type of landscape for the Corrèze region in which he lives. Q. La Découverte (to appear Harvard University Press. forget about our cultural. so the modernist dreams. affluent and destitute economies. landscape. Comment faire entrer les sciences en démocratie. probably also a European Union subsidy policy. a role model for cattle-raisers. an agro industrial model. Ambrogio Lorenzetti : the artist as political philosopher / Quentin Skinner. Paris. we used to say. tastes… Nature unifies in advance and without any discussion nor negotiations!. War of the Worlds: What about Peace? Chicago. Tate Gallery-first trial 11 humans. translation Catherine Porter). 2004. what makes us enemy of one another. industry. subjectivities. if only we could all be children of nature. «!the Great Pan is dead!». Cambridge. ways of life. the obvious existence we share. is not an object out there but above all a political animal!: it is the way we used to define the world we have in common. boundaries. cultures. harmonious and destroyed landscapes. There is however a huge difference in the way political claims can now be articulated around cosmograms and the way they were authorised before!: nature has disappeared. Politiques de la nature. «!If only. they always have. Things are everywhere mixed with people. One telling proof of that is the beautiful fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti:17 the famous Allegory of the Good and Bad government in Sienna City Hall does not only contrast good and wicked people but. Nature. Prickly Press Pamphlet. (1999). (2002). . contrary to superficial impression. cultures divides. (1986). above all.18 In addition to Nature. handsome and ugly housings. By ‘Nature’ I mean this unified cosmos which could shortcut political due process by defining once and for all which world we all have to live in. what scatters us around in a maelstrom of controversies!: namely passions. 18 For a more complete argument see Latour. B. religions. city planning. and so have the ‘experts’ mediating between the production of science and the desire or wishes of society. a pattern of consumer taste. B. the sphere to which we all equally pertain. Cambridge University Press. economy and so on. Chicago University Press and especially Latour. But is this not the way political claims always have been formulated!? There is nothing new in those cosmograms since politics has never been simply about human values. a type of industry. 17 See the nice chapter by Skinner.

to invoke it!? Such is.!» More nature. from then on. has been destroyed under the weight of its own ambition and lie everywhere in ruins!? To multiculturalism born in the aftermath of the first Babel. here is another test to decide for yourselves if you are modernist. but no one has told yet the terrifying story of the fall of the second Tower of Babel. one should now add the many tribes of multinaturalism born in the wreck of the second Babel. we would all zoom on the one same solution. The weakness of ecological movements everywhere has no other cause. since it is the oldest mean devised to block politics and to make it impossible to compose the cosmos since the job is already done. in my view. sharp. hence more divisions. by the way. only when they are ready to swallow not only multiculturalism but also multinaturalism. More cultures. as a united endeavour which should have reached to the Heaven and made all of the people of the world agree again. when Nature. without taking the pain . It is their mono. or with even more divisions in great need of an unification to be completed in the future!? It is my sentiment that we now live in the ruins of Nature —in all the meanings of this expression— and also more and more in the ruins of those sciences. people have been scattered around the world. but. having been fully naturalised. hence more unity. They might expand to renew politics.naturalism that render them unable to be those who monitors the collective experiments about the many natures which have to be progressively assembled. We all know from our reading of the Bible that the Tower of Babel has been destroyed by God and that. Tate Gallery-first trial 12 subjective. religion divisions. very discriminating test!: do you associate Nature with an unification already completed. for which the last century has been so prolific. Yes. post-modern or ordinary mortals!! Do you believe that the second Tower of Babel can reach Heaven and that the whole planet. believe me. we will all be unified again. But what can you do with multiple natures!? How to defend it. than this use of nature that poisons their good will and thwart their activism. The whole political energy of nature was depending on its being one and unified. prisoners of their differing dialects and of their incommensurable cultural biases. and indisputably so!: «!herbivores are herbivores!». will then agree rationally on all the important issues —the little divisions that will remain being only due to subjective opinions and leftover passions!? A simple. In case the first trial has remained inconclusive. which dreamed of prematurely unifying the cosmos. the trap in which political ecology has fallen into!: Nature cannot be used to renew politics. ideological. yes Nature Herself.

20 This is what has been called the ‘science wars’ supposed to pit together real scientists and postmodern thinkers indifferent to truth… On this rather obscure affair. Here again. since one of the many reasons that made politics so weak in the past —in the European tradition at least— has been this absolute 19 Stengers. matters of fact have become matters of concern. this time. that remains very far in the future. but to the many worries of multinaturalism as well.Tome 1: la guerre des sciences. La Découverte and Hacking. La découverte & Les Empêcheurs de penser en rond. because it was obvious we all shared one nature.. see Jurdant. as if we were strong enough to do like Samson and destroy the pillars of established nature under our own heads!!20 No. see The Social Construction of What? Cambridge. I. under its own ambition!: by expanding everywhere to cover the whole of human experience it has lost its immunity. if it has crumbled it is under its own weight. Paris. never was it that strong either!. and we have no taste for heroic suicide!. science students and other anthropologists of various hues and colours. as a risky and highly disputable goal. Irritated by the realisation that nature could no longer unify nor reconcile. have of late been terrified when they heard the first crumbling of the second Tower of Babel. especially some scientists and philosophers of science. The whole civilisation that has been devised under the heading of cosmopolitism. its privilege. we are not that strong. and especially one human nature. has to be reinvented. that new sciences where not putting down the fires of passion but fuelling them. Tate Gallery-first trial 13 of doing what Isabelle Stengers has called cosmopolitics. Paris. with the added terrible difficulties that there are many competing natures and that they have to be unified through due process —an agonizingly slow endeavour. but before us. Ed. The common world is not behind us as a solid and indisputable ground for agreement. there is nothing to be sad. Even people like me have been accused of being responsible for the breaking of the Second Tower. (1996). entered fully the realm of politics as usual. (1998). Mass. she does not mean that we should be attuned to the many qualities of multiculturalism and internationalism. It has become the common cause. For an effort to analyze the philosophical stakes of the debate. and thus. Impostures intellectuelles. Les malentendus de l'affaire Sokal. we don’t have this power. or nostalgic. B. ‘postmodern’ thinkers. When pacing among those ruins. (1999). Harvard University Press. they turned against other philosophers. its unity. Some people. as to the Tower.19 By reusing this venerable word from the Stoics. . I. Cosmopolitiques .

the pathetic efforts of naked humans to put an end to their passions and divisive opinions. Any article in Nature or Science on DNA. I could say that when Galileo modified the classical trope of ‘the Book of Nature’. Harvard University Press. nor economics.23 Now at least. If we don’t discover the ways through which the world can be made common. there will be no common world to share. irrational and impure. Transactions Publishers. Essays on the reality of science studies. the sovereignty of nature (known by science) and. nor sociology. . (1999). who claimed that elsewhere. there is no other alternative. for the transcendence of rationality to come and save us. As long as this phantom forum existed. Mass. around ‘indisputable matters of fact’. it remained difficult to begin again and to define politics as what I now call the progressive composition of the common world. New Brunswick. on the other hand.21 As long as one of them remained standing. Phantom is an allusion to Lippmann. As long as the two Towers had not been smashed to the ground together. it is as simple as that —and nature will no longer be sufficient to unify us.22 Although. The Phantom Public. termites or heart disease would generate ten times more ‘art’ than the all of such a ridicule expense of money. nor even procedural rationality. 23 Only the absurd theories of science harboured by so many artists and art critiques could explain how the kitschy biotech cyborgian lavish flood of clichés exposed by Matthew Barney in the New York Guggenheim Museum may pass for great and profound art ‘about’ biology. You always had to defend hybrid forums against people. existed a pure and perfect ‘assembly’ in the midst of which agreement could be obtained by ‘simply’ behaving rationally and by gathering people. We are embarked. on the one hand. Pandora's Hope. coming from the ranks of the social or natural sciences.cit Politiques de la nature 22 See the two chapters on Plato’s Gorgias in Latour. in another place. in a reasonable manner. in their discipline. all the others were deemed inefficient. Tate Gallery-first trial 14 distinction between. it sounds like a negative progress only. We cannot hope for the transcendence of nature. it was impossible to secularise politics at last. B. W. at first. This miraculous recipe was enough to disqualify by contrast all the other attempts to reach an agreement over states of affairs. in spite of ourselves. nor biology. adding that it ‘was written in mathematical 21 See op. outside. (1927 [1993]). it is for the monitoring of collective experiment a huge advantage not to be threatened again by the promise of any salvation by any science —neither physics. To sum up. Cambridge. embryos.

in meteorological philosophy. but rather a delicate sphere of climate control. a huge and complex ledger. there is no outside any longer. but how different it reads… What Sloterdijk. Idealists were wrong about the mind’s power of course. Tate Gallery-first trial 15 characters’. Tate modern. in meteorological art. moral. but they were right on one thing: interesting things happen inside not outside. Because of the simultaneous extension of science and of the ever increased entanglement of human activities with things. in my view. What they help us all to discover is that even politics needs air conditioning… There is a great charm and more than a slight dose of irony to try such a demonstration in the empty space left by the ruined Hall of Machines. or Tate non modern? . is to explore what could be called a completely new form of idealism. Idealism used to entertain the rather silly idea that the whole outside world exists only inside the mind thus elevated to the level of an omnipotent demiurge. that should be written in a mixture of legal. try to do. The remaining inside is to be explored in great detail and with great caution because it is neither a mind nor an ‘outside world’ as the tired old modernist quarrel would have it. and Eliasson. political and mathematical hieroglyphs… It is still a Book. little could he anticipate that now we should have to say that the ‘Book of Nature’ is in fact a protocol book . Finally.