"It is precisely the complex interrelationship between human beings and their environment that makes it necessary to reduce the scale; only in this way can we avoid the temptation to simplify the relations among people, phenomena and events. Thus we can continue in our research to assume a structure to society, but must take pains to treat it like any other social phenomenon, constantly changing and indeterminable, while also, above all, insulating it from any links to predetermined conclusions imposed by the metanarratives."
— Sigurdur Gylfi Magnússon,”The Singularization of History” p722
"There exists no society to begin with, no reservoir of ties, no big reassuring pot of glue to keep all those groups together. If you don’t have the festival now or print the newspaper today, you simply lose the grouping, which is not a building in need of restoration but a movement in need of continuation. If a dancer stops dancing, the dance is finished."
— Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social, p37
"Macrostructure consists of nothing more than large numbers of microencounters, repeated (or sometimes changing) over time and across space. This gives us exactly the dimensions of macrostructures: the sheer numbers of persons and encounters involved; the amount of time taken up by encounters of various kinds and their repetitions; and the configuration they make in physical space. Time, space, and number: These are the only macrovariables, and every other macro-terminology is metaphorical, and ultimately should be translated into these. Everything else in a theory is microprocesses. Moreover, it is at the micro level that the dynamics of any theory must be located. The structures never do anything; it is only persons in real situations who act."
— Randall Collins, “Interaction Ritual Chains, Power and Property” p195
"In MS 124, where, as we have seen, [Robinson] Crusoe is discussed at some length, Wittgenstein introduces the idea of a language that is not a means of communication, but rather a ‘toolbox’ for a person’s private use. This, he writes, is perfectly conceivable – as is patent in the case of a Crusoe. For the meanings of the words in this private language are manifest in Crusoe’s behaviour (MS 124, 221f.). But, Wittgenstein continues, can one not conceive of a language in which someone speaks or writes of his own private sensations, his inner experiences, for his own use? Such a language would, of course, be intelligible only to him, for no one else could know what the words of his language refer to (MS 124, 222). This sets the stage for the private language arguments proper, which are designed to show that although it may seem as if we were here dealing with a language – that is an illusion. It is an illusion to which most philosophers of the modern era succumbed, for they thought that our public languages are the confluence of all speakers’ private languages, the words of which signify (name) private ideas or mental representations."
GP Baker and PMS Hacker, Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar and Necessity p166
- A great, concise clarification of what Wittgenstein meant by a private language - so often misunderstood - only recently I read a paper in which somebody thought he was demolishing Wittgenstein by pointing out that a Robinson Crusoe type could develop his own language.
"Wittgenstein shows not just that all language is vague, but that we should not deplore this fact. Vagueness is not necessarily a defect of language… No improvement is made by adding something to a signpost that removes a possible misunderstanding that nobody has. The adequacy of explanation is to be judged by everyday practical standards, not by some arcane theoretical ones. It is absence of agreement in a practice that is a defect of language, not the mere possibility that there might be irresolvable disagreements which never in fact arise. Wittgenstein seems to push the bidding even higher: that vagueness is impossible to eliminate even in principle and is indispensible to the efficient use of language for communication."
— GP Baker and PMS Hacker, Wittgenstein: Meaning and Understanding pp215-16
"It is because of this “dialectic” between fact and artifact that, although no philosopher would seriously defend a correspondence theory of truth, it is nevertheless absolutely impossible to be convinced by a purely constructivist account for more than three minutes. Well, let’s say an hour, to be fair. Most philosophy of science since Hume and Kant consists in taking on, evading, hedging, coming back to, recanting, solving, refuting, packing, unpacking this impossible antinomy: that on the one hand facts are experimentally made up and never escape from their manmade settings, and on the other hand it is essential that facts are not made up and that something emerges that is not manmade. Bears in cages pace back and forth within their narrow prisons with less obstinacy and less distress than philosophers and sociologists of science going incessantly from fact to artifact and back."
— Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope p125
"Moreover any object immediately becomes the foundation of a network of habits, the focus of a set of behavioural routines. Conversely, there is probably no habit that does not centre on an object. In everyday existence the two are inextricably bound up with each other."
— Baudrillard, The System of Objects
"And we must always be particularly wary of the philosophical habit of dismissing some of (if not all) the ordinary uses of a word as ‘unimportant’, a habit which makes distortion practically unavoidable. For instance if we are going to talk about ‘real’, we must not dismiss as beneath contempt such humble but familiar expressions as ‘not real cream’; this may save us from saying, for example, or seeming to say that what is not real cream must be a fleeting product of our cerebral processes."
— J.L. Austin, Sense and Sensibilia p63-4
"Is it possible, with the help of my schema, to understand, visualize, and detect why the original model of philosophers of language is so widespread, when this slightest inquiry reveals its impossibility? … Let us block the extremities of the chain as if one were the referent, the forest of Boa Vista, and the other were the phrase, “the forest of Boa Vista.” Let us erase all the mediations that I have delighted in describing. In place of the forgotten mediations, let us create a radical gap, one capable of covering the huge abyss that separates the statement I utter in Paris and its referent six thousand kilometers away. Et voilà, we have returned to the former model, searching for something to fill the void we have created, looking for some adequatio, some resemblence between two ontological varieties that we have made as dissimilar as possible. It is hardly surprising that philosophers have been unable to reach an understanding on the question of realism and relativism: they have taken the two provisional extremities for the entire chain, as if they had tried to understand how a lamp and a switch could “correspond” to each other after cutting the wire and making the lamp “gaze out” at the “external” switch."
— Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope pp72-3
Last week our beloved chancellor Gideon “George” Osborne referred to the “mansion tax” proposed by his coalition partners as “the politics of resentment.”
You hear this kind of thing a lot from neoliberals and libertarians. This is what I think. Firstly, it’s an inane thing to say: how is the debate supposed to go? “You’re just feeling resentful.” “Am not.” “Are too.” Great stuff.
But there’s another way to approach this “egalitarianism is based on resentment of the rich” argument. In ordinary use we distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate resentment. If somebody defrauds me, for example and uses his connections in the police force to get away with it, and I feel resentful about that, most people would consider this legitimate resentment. If I put some effort into getting the fraudster arrested, whether or not I felt resentment would be beside the point.
So whether somebody’s resentment is legitimate or not will depend on your concept of justice and fairness. If you consider the perpetuation of hereditary privilege unjust, and a resentment of the beneficiaries of this unjust system fuelled your fight for justice, then that resentment would be legitimate in the frame of reference of your idea of social justice.
Of course, this doesn’t put a stop to the argument, but it at least shifts it from the realm of unverifiable feelings to the debatable realm of justice.
"We always forget that the word “reference” comes from the Latin refere, “to bring back.” Is the referent what I point to with my finger outside discourse, or is it what I bring back inside discourse?"
— Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope p32