Stephen Muecke on Souriau

This is a lovely and very well-written piece in the LA Review of Books from Stephen Muecke on Étienne Souriau and the concept of instauration. Well worth a read. Here’s a little extract which will resonate with those studying Latour’s ontology:

Contemplating a literally amorphous world, the existentialist hero turns his gaze inward and gloomily concludes that he has the freedom to choose. In the same situation, Souriau sees a world — or rather worlds — brimming with possible becomings, and will not permit such existentialist detachment. Humans, already implicated, have the responsibility to help other beings on their existential journeys of fulfilment. This responsibility is more practical and procedural than it is the application of any moral principle, because it is experienced differently for different modes of existence.

One minor comment: the work was written during the war and published in 1943, not in 1925 as the article suggests.

Stephen has previously translated this short treatment of Souriau by Latour, which would be the next place to go for anyone interested.

That article is expanded and improved in a long article entitled ‘Le Sphinx de l’oeuvre’, which is translated (along with Souriau’s own work) in the recent publication of The Different Modes of Existence – essential reading for anyone grappling with Latour’s Inquiry into Modes of Existence.


And for French-readers, the best secondary literature at the moment is found here (see my previous post on it here).


Souriau is quite something. At the moment, I’m reading the strange and wonderful book L’ombre de Dieu (1953), which is quite literally unheard of in the English speaking world. It really needs a translation.



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