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DEVISING A NEW SEPARATION OF POWERS

Scientists conventionally, in their modesty and innocence, have defined "the facts", leaving it to the politicians and moralists to define values. It is from that long dogmatic sleep, Latour maintains, that we need to awake. What then is wrong with the way the word "fact" is currently used? Apart from the recognized matters of fact, we know how to recognize a whole gamut of stages where facts are uncertain, warm, cold, light, heavy, hard, supple matters of concern. These are defined precisely because they conceal the researchers who are in the process of fabricating them (Latour's doctoral thesis was based on ethnographic research into such "scientific procedures" in the laboratory), the laboratories necessary for their production, the instruments that ensure their validation, the sometimes heated polemics to which they give rise.

The notion of fact has another, better-known defect: it does not allow us to emphasize the work of theory that is necessary for the establishment of the coherence of the data. The opposition between facts and values, in fact, unfortunately intersects with another difference whose epistemological history is very long, the opposition between theory and "raw" data. An isolated fact, for Latour, remains meaningless as long as one does not know of what theory it is an example, manifestation or prototype. By accepting the value-fact distinction, moreover, moralists – whether religious or secular – agree to seek their own legitimacy very far from the scene of the facts, in another land, that of the universal or formal foundation of ethics. In so doing they risk abandoning all "objective morality", whereas we, on the contrary, must connect the question of the common world to that of the common good. At this point Latour approaches, in his own way, our "integral worlds", most specifically our release of GENE-ius, through his "new separation of powers" (Table 17.1).

Table 17.1 A New Separation of powers

Power to Take into Account: How Many Are We?

First requirement (formerly contained in fact): You shall not simplify the number of propositions to be taken into account in the discussion: Perplexity – Grounding.

Second requirement (formerly contained in the notion of value): You shall make sure that the number of voices that participate in the articulation of propositions is not arbitrarily short- circuited: Consultation – Emergence.

Power to Arrange in Rank Order: Can We Live together?

Third requirement (formerly contained in value): You discuss the compatibility of new propositions with those already instituted: Hierarchization – Navigation.

Fourth requirement (formerly contained in fact): once propositions have been instituted, you no longer question their presence: Institution – Effect.

We now turn from the separation of powers to the separate powers to take into account, and to arrange in order (Table 17.2).

Table 17.2 In place of Facts and Values

Power to Take Into Account: How Many Are We?

Perplexity: Requirement of external reality (Grounding).

Consultation: requirement of relevance (Emergence).

Power to Arrange in Rank Order: Can We Live together?

Hierarchy: requirement of publicity (Navigation).

Institution: requirement of closure (effect).

If we look at Table 17.3, we see that Latour has substituted a new form of bicameralism for the two houses of the old Constitution. There are still two houses, as in the old Constitution, but they do not have the same characteristics.

The new Constitution corresponds to the two complementary requirements of collective life: how many of you are there to take into account – for us grounding and emergence – and are you able to form a good common life – for us navigation and effect? Instead of an impossible frontier between two badly composed universes, it is rather a matter of imagining a shuttle between the two natural and social houses of a single expanding collective.

Table 17.3 The New Constitution

House of Nature

House of Society

First House:

Perplexity

consultation

Taking into Account

Second House:

Institution

Hierarchy

Arranging in Rank Order

Every new proposition goes through the four compartments – our integral worlds – of

Table 17.3, responding in turn to each of the essential requirements:

• groundingit induces perplexity in those who are gathered to discuss it and who set up the trials that allow them to ensure the seriousness of its candidacy for existence;

• emergenceit demands to be taken into account by all those whose habits it is going to modify and who must therefore sit on its jury;

• navigating – if it is successful in the first two stages, it will be able to insert itself in the states of the world only provided it finds a place in the hierarchy that preceded it;

• effecting – finally, if it earns its legitimate right to existence, it will become an institution, part of the indisputable nature of the good common world.

What variegated scientific and political, economic and moral skills are then required to operate in this way?

 
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