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Through case studies of scientists in the Amazon analyzing soil and in Pasteur's lab studying the fermentation of lactic acid, he shows us the myriad steps by which events in the material world are transformed into items of scientific knowledge. Through many examples in the world of technology, we see how the material and human worlds come together and are reciprocally transformed in this process.
Why, Latour asks, did the idea of an independent reality, free of human interaction, emerge in the first place? His answer to this question, harking back to the debates between Might and Right as narrated by Plato in his Gorgias, points to the real stakes in the so-called science wars: the perplexed submission of ordinary people before the warring forces of claimants to the ultimate truth. He suggests that the way out of our seeming dilemma is to fetch the hope that legend tells us Pandora left lying on the floor of her box.
In this book of impassioned and creative explorations into scientific life, Bruno Latour offers himself as a reasonable man who is ready and willing to lead combatants of the "science wars" off the battle plain and onto higher ground...The text is comprised of essays about the genesis of and context for the science wars, case studies of scientific practice and elaboration of his current theoretical stances. His writing can be stimulating, fresh and at times genuinely moving...It is hard not to be caught up in the author's obvious delight in deploying a classic work from antiquity to bring current concerns into sharper focus, following along as he manages to leave the reader with the impression that the protagonists Socrates and Callicles are not only in dialogue with each other but with Latour as well.
— Katherine Pandora
[Pandora's Hope] brims with insight, and is frequently brilliant. It does what one always hopes for, but so rarely finds, in a philosophy book; it shakes assumptions so deeply held that you hardly knew they were there. It takes the world, reshuffles it, and deals it back; the cards are all the same, but the hand is crucially different...Pandora's Hope, and its author, demand serious attention...Latour asks jarring and important questions and proposes jarring and brilliant answers. Kafka once wrote that a good book ought to have the fearsome impact of an ice ax. Pandora's Hope does this. Having finished it, I am bloodied and befuddled. And I can think of no greater compliment for a book, or heartier endorsement.
— Noah J. Efron
Latour is concerned with making a case for the emerging field of "science studies," a discipline that proposes to study science and the scientific process itself on a philosophical and conceptual level. After an introductory chapter in which he lays the groundwork for science studies and its contributions to our knowledge of the nature of reality, Latour then provides a series of case studies showing scientists from various fields in action. In these case studies, which range from an analysis of a field trip by soil scientists in the Amazon to Louis Pasteur's investigations of lactic acid fermentation in yeast, Latour carefully dissects the seen and unseen components of the scientists' activity and thought. Latour's engaging, clear writing style makes a difficult subject much easier to comprehend.
— R. K. Harris
His work sparkles with wit, sharp scholarship, graceful tropes, homely but apt metaphors, personal anecdotes at his own expense, and other jewels of the art of persuasion. It is always a pleasure to read or listen to Bruno, just for the vitality and fun of his mind.
— John Ziman
Show Latour an intellectual war zone and he'll leap into the middle, to do battle with both sides...You can rely on [Pandora's Hope] to shake your ideas up. And that's almost never a bad thing, in science or elsewhere.
— Mike Holderness
Pandora's Hope is Latour's systematic defense of science studies, starting with impressions of his sojourn with five naturalists in Amazonia...His observations of [them] are overwhelmingly persuasive, and without a hint of supercilious hostility to the cause of science. Latour is proud to have been cited as co-contributor to their research report, and they must be equally pleased to figure in his.
|1||"Do You Believe in Reality?" News from the Trenches of the Science Wars||1|
|2||Circulating Reference: Sampling the Soil in the Amazon Forest||24|
|3||Science's Blood Flow: An Example from Joliot's Scientific Intelligence||80|
|4||From Fabrication to Reality: Pasteur and His Lactic Acid Ferment||113|
|5||The Historicity of Things: Where Were Microbes before Pasteur?||145|
|6||A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans: Following Daedalus's Labyrinth||174|
|7||The Invention of the Science Wars: The Settlement of Socrates and Callicles||216|
|8||A Politics Freed from Science: The Body Cosmopolitic||236|
|9||The Slight Surprise of Action: Facts, Fetishes, Factishes||266|
|Conclusion: What Contrivance Will Free Pandora's Hope?||293|
Posted March 14, 2000
Bruno Latour has without a doubt been the most profound and profoundly accessible writer about science in the last twenty five years. This book could at long last put to rest many of the really quite silly misinterpretations of his work, such as the frequent claim that he supports the 'social construction of scientific knowledge', that 'facts are made up, socially', and so on. Latour has as little time for the social as a concept as he does for the main target of this work - a belief that there is a world 'out there' which it is the job of science to 'discover'. For many years he has been delighting readers with a prose style that is engaging and deliberately uncomplicated, a sin which forces many with their snouts well and truly in the troughs of academe to regard him as lightweight. But Latour's philosophical roots run very deep indeed, and ironically it is his analysis of English philosphers such as Whitehead which informs many of the key insights, such as the replacement of representative statements with propositions, and so on. It is clear from this book that Latour not only takes philosophy more seriously than others in this field (replacing a hackneyed 'philosophy of science' with philosophy proper), but also takes science itself more seriously - there's no judgement, no attempt to 'explain' science away, but a determination to stick with the details of scientific practice, and value them in new ways at the same time. Purity is death could be the subtitle here - science is messy, implicated in politics at all levels, and yet this is what gives it strength and truth, not weakness. A book for grown-ups, for people who want to see what happens when you actually take philosophy, sociology and science seriously, and let them interact without pre-judging the conclusion.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.