At first sight, the two frameworks are incommensurable since ANT assumes that human and non-human can be treated in the same way while Dooyeweerd maintains they are very different. But, on closer examination, they seem highly commensurable. In brief, Dooyeweerd provides philosophically what Latour seems to be reaching for, and suggests how Actor Network Theory could be enriched, and Latour provides Dooyeweerd with a usable methodology for analysing multi-aspectual situations that are real, everyday living.
Stop Press: See Steven Dorrestijn's news that Latour's Inquiry into Modes of Existence is very like Dooyeweerd's. Like Dooyeweerd'a aspects, Latour suggests fifteen modes!
"I will start by saying that there are four things that do not work with actor-network theory: the word actor, the word network, the word theory and the hyphen between them. Four nails in the coffin."
He reflects on how ANT had evolved and been used over a couple of decades, how each of these elements has been misunderstood and misused, and expounds what was really intended to be captured in each.
Network should not be seen as a structure like the World Wide Web, so much as a set of transformations. The meaning of actor then engages his thought at considerable length, much of which does not concern us here, but some does. Actor and network are not to be seen as two things - like individual and society - but rather as two faces of the same phenomenon. He then turns to theory, and lastly, briefly, to the hyphen.
"actantiality is not what an actor does ... but what provides actants with their actions, with their subjectivity, with their intentionality, with their morality." [Latour's emphasis]
This is remarkably close to what Dooyeweerd says his aspects do. Aspectuality can be said to provide entities with
The parallel between Latour's 'actantiality' and Dooyeweerd's 'aspectuality' could hardly be more striking.
But whereas Latour is content, at present, to merely say what actantiality provides, Dooyeweerd went much further. He worked out what this meant in philosphical terms, how Being, Doing, Meaning all relate to each other, how diversity and coherence can be integrated, how determinativity and freedom, non-human and human can be understood from within the same perspective without denaturing either, and much more. He also posed for himself the question of what the diversity of aspectuality is, and, on the basis of lengthy sensitivity to everyday living as well as the utterances of thinkers over the last 2,500 years, he made a proposal that there are fifteen aspects that are irreducible to each other.
If Dooyeweerd's work could be used to contribute to the notion of actantiality, then it might do so in two ways:
Latour says "'Nature', 'Society', 'Subjectivity' do not define what the world is like, but what circulates locally." We might see nature, society and subjectivity - or phusigenics, sociogenics and psychogenics as he calls them in the sentence before that - as an attempt to name three aspects (the physical, social and psycho-sensitive.
These repercussions do not affect only the actant that led to them, but others too. That is, repercussions spread - a network. And the what an actant does is not what the next actant receives; that is, there is what Latour would call a transformation.
Thus, in another way, ANT is similar to Dooyeweerd.
Dooyeweerd recognises this. He contends that theory and everyday knowledge are not just quantitatively but qualitatively different. Theory is isolation of an aspect whereas everyday knowledge is holistic awareness of all aspects.
|Focus on local and contingent, at expense of social structures
|Dooyeweerd accommodates both individual functioning as well as a social aspect, and also has a strong account of societal structures.
|Focus on description against explanation
|Dooyeweerd's notion of aspects as spheres of both meaning and law ensures that neither description nor explanation (nor norms) can be separated from each other. Each aspect defines ways in which things can be meaningful (description), and ways in which they function and relate to each other (explanation), and also ways to be 'Good'.
|Walsham, 1997; McLean and Hassard, 2004
|It underplays the importance of power (seeing power as emerging from processes that occur within a network, rather than being constitutive of the network as such).
|That is a criticism by those who see most things through the lens of power, and themselves might overplay its importance. But it has some validity.
|ANT presupposes we can deem something to be a network, but does not say how to deem; in this way, ANT has a fundamental gap in it. The power people say "We deem according to power relations". Fair enough. But power is not the only way to deem something to be a network. We can discern networks of, for example, faith, generosity, legality, aesthetic harmony, resource-exchange, social relationships, communications, etc. What power people mean by power may be understood according to the later ('social') aspects, such as social, economic, juridical, pistic. See Actantiality and Multi-layer ANT below.
|ANT focuses on 'heroes', the 'victors' in a 'warlike' scenario, and tends to overlook victims.
|Since the aspects, to Dooyeweerd, transcend humanity and enable all functioning, reference to aspects rather than entities can help us consider both victims and victors alike. Also, a 'hero' becomes just one among many actants, all of which act in response to aspectual law. See Transformation .. Repercussions below.
|Walsham, 1997; Amsterdamska, 1990
|Amoral stance. It matters not to ANT whether enrolment takes place by good discourse or by fraud and intimidation.
|These criticisms may be made also of other subjectivist approach such as soft systems.
|The problem arises because ANT presupposes a separation between Is and Ought; ANT ignores the moral element. To Dooyeweerd, by contrast, Is and Ought cannot be separated, since both are constituted in spheres of meaning-and-law, which are the aspects. See below.
|Poor analysis of the actor (actant).
|ANT presupposes actants, and does not offer any basis on which to understand them.
|Dooyeweerd provides a strong and detailed account of what ANT calls actants: entities that function in all aspects, and are active entities by virtue of that very functioning. See Human and Non-Human below.
|Collins & Yearley, 1992
|Notion of symmetry (between human and non-human actants) taken too far. "It would be absurd to use arguments to try to convince a microbe to give a scientist some extra funding for further research" [Amst., 1990:499]
|Notice 'taken too far' rather than 'has no validity'.
To Dooyeweerd, both humans and non-humans alike function in the aspects, and it is the aspects that enable both types of functioning. But Dooyeweerd also provides way of distinguishing human from non-human in his radically different notion of subject and object, and also of types. See Human & non-human below.
For example the microbe would function as subject/agent only up to the biotic or psychic aspect, while humans can function as subject in all aspects, and it is the economic and lingual aspects that are active in arguments for funding.
|ANT presupposes stability of network to be a 'Good', and that all actants in a network so function as to maintain its stability.
|Mohammed does not make this a criticism, but I criticise ANT for presupposing stability.
|To Dooyeweerd, ultimately, the only 'stable' thing in created reality is the law-side, which includes the aspects that transcend us. And they alone define what is 'Good' for us. This means that networks can change and dissolve as well as grow, and Dooyeweerd can account for this; note that on the first page of NC, Vol III Dooyeweerd puts before, as a philosophical problem, that things change and ultimately cease to exist.
However, Dooyeweerd *also* distinguishes humans from animals from plants from non-living things by which aspects they can function as subject in: humans in every aspect, animals up to the sensitive aspect, plants up to the biotic, and non-living things up to the physical.
This means that the the Network is no longer flat: it is to be seen as multi-layered.
An actant functions in many aspects, so repercussions of an actant are in many aspects - social, lingual, sensory, physical, juridical, aesthetic, etc. For example, someone makes a real sacrifice for me (ethical aspect). I respond in a number of ways:
For instance, consider the tiny network:
Both seem needed. Amit Mitra recently sent me the following concerning the motivations of Latour in developing ANT:
"Latour (1999) observed that whilst carrying out research a common problem is in the simplification of interpretive socio-scientific research that is seen to inexorably alternate between actor and system, agency and structure. Latour (1999) claimed that the use of ANT was to deal with a couple of fundamental dissatisfactions.
"The first dissatisfaction concerns the micro level where scientists are usually engaged in face-to-face interactions, field data collection, estimating the output of algorithms, etc. However, soon there comes a time when the researcher realises that a connection needs to be made with the macro world. As the latter, has undoubtedly contributed to the creation of the obtaining conditions within the local or micro domain. This may be categorised as an inadequacy that results from the understanding that a greater attention needs to be allocated to wider dimensions of the macro environment that might not be directly connected but nevertheless important.
"The second dissatisfaction is a compulsion of the opposite kind whereby after having explored the intricacies of the macro domain using pattern recognition within ubiquitous concepts like society, values, norms, structure, etc. an overwhelming need is normal to be felt to retrace and get back to micro analysis. Such an inadequacy may urge scientists to go back and examine the specific. This goes on ad infinitum. The emergent body of literature (Mitra 2001) that is gradually becoming more familiar to researchers as the actor network approach connects through a trajectory these countervailing realities."
But perhaps the most important statement he made was his closing sentence that follows on from that:
"Latour (1999) says that the objective of ANT was not to overcome these dissatisfactions or solve the problem as it were but `to follow them elsewhere and try to explore the very conditions that makes these two disappointments possible' (pp. 17)."
"To explore the very conditions that makes these two disappointments possible" sounds very like a Dooyeweerdian motivation. So let us consider how Dooyeweerd might account for the macro-micro cycling and how we might accept yet account for the 'dissatisfactions'.
Social scientists study human life in a way that acknowledges the social aspect. To Dooyeweerd human living involves all the aspects, so almost everything we do has both micro and macro aspects. So, according to Dooyeweerd, it is no wonder that, in studying, they encounter both micro and macro.
But the problem (the 'dissatisfactions') arises from the nature of science, according to Dooyeweerd. He proposed that each aspect provides a distinct scientific area of study, and that in doing science related to an aspect we are focusing on that aspect, ignoring all the others. Moreover, all aspects are irreducible. So, if we isolate, for our study of human living, one of the micro aspects, then after a time we begin to recognise that there are other aspects of what we are studying that cannot be reduced to this aspect. It is probably one of the macro aspects that we are encountering, so we start to focus on it. After a time, we find we cannot fully explain things from the point of view of this aspect, and swing to another, often a micro aspect. That - in an oversimplified manner that needs further work - accounts for the swinging, the twin dissatisfactions.
But surely, if Dooyeweerd accounts for this, then we could attempt to ameliorate the dissatisfactions? Not so. To Dooyeweerd, all the aspects are irreducible to each other. Yet, the aspects 'resist' being pulled apart because they form a coherence of meaning. This 'resistance' is felt in various ways, but often in some kind of dissatisfaction. This is particularly so of theory-making, which involves setting the analytical aspect against ('Gegenstand') the studied aspect. So some kind of 'dissatisfaction' is simply to be expected in any theoretical thinking, and cannot be escaped. Just as Latour says.
All these possibilities need further work.
This page is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.
Written on the Amiga and Protext.
Copyright (c) at all dates below Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.
Created: 4 April 2002 Last updated: 17 April 2002 added new section on macro-micro and dissatisfactions, after material received from Amit Mitra. 25 November 2002 added conclusion that summarizes main points. 14 June 2008 Criticisms of Dooyeweerd + contents; end,nav. 7 December 2010 removed Amit Mitra's salford link. 10 June 2016 Dorrestijn news, new .nav,.end.