True Toleration

J. Budziszewski gave a sharply argued and spryly humorous deconstruction of liberalism’s neutralist view of tolerance, arguing that liberal states are confessional states that pretend not to be and that liberalism leads to a disguised dictatorship (a plenary ETS session). He suggested that a . . . . Continue Reading »


No doubt it goes without saying after the previous few posts, but Latour’s anthropological assessment of modernity provides a lot of ammo for a study of modernity that would treat it as the creation of a purity culture, as dirt-avoidance. . . . . Continue Reading »

Heidegger in his woods

Latour is tired of being accused of having forgotten Being, and offers this clever brush-off of Heidegger: “If, scorning empiricism, you opt out of the exact sciences, then the human sciences,, then traditional philosophy, then the sciences of language, and you hunker down in your forest - . . . . Continue Reading »


Postmoderns, Latour suggests, think they are still modern, but in fact they have greatly oversimplified the modern Constitution. Postmoderns might emphasize the separation of subject and world, and stretch that opposition to a breaking point (Latour vividly describes them as doing the splits to . . . . Continue Reading »

Modern temporality

In his very good section on modern temporality, Latour argues that modernity assumes that everything in the present, modern moment, is purely modern, novel. Anything that appears that is not up-to-date is a “archaism,” and moderns worry constantly that this or that event or trend might . . . . Continue Reading »


One of the key moves made since the 17th century, Latour argues, is a distinction between modes of “representation.” In the laboratory Boyle is representing things before selected witnesses through scientific experiments, giving mute nature a voice through the scientist, while in . . . . Continue Reading »

We Have Never Been Modern

Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern (Harvard 1993) is a rich study. He describes modernity in terms of a dual process of “purification” and “hybridization.” Purification involves the clean construction of a nature (and science) separated off from society and the . . . . Continue Reading »

Tears of things

And/Or: Virgil is aware that the furor of civil war can be curbed only by an opposing, and more intense, furor. That, as Milbank says, is the way of paganism - peace established only by superior violence against violence. But in those tears Virgil expresses the the painful recognition - perhaps . . . . Continue Reading »

Sentimental cruelty

Virgil is not a critic of empire, but he’s not quite an unqualified celebrant either. He knows the costs, and mourns them. But neither he nor his hero wishes the conquests away. Sunt lacrimae rerum , indeed, but neither the tears nor the things are going to cease. This is just the way things . . . . Continue Reading »

Postmodern truth

In a review of Harry Frankfurt’s On Truth (a sequel to Frankfurt’s widely read On Bulls*** ), Oxford’s Simon Blackburn offers a neat summary of postmodern notions of truth. He questions the tendency to use postmodernism as a “whipping boy” against whom “many . . . . Continue Reading »