The traumatic birth of the modern knowledge, The Hobbes-Boyle dispute

Boris Buden
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2020S, Lecture and Discussion (VD), 3.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S03120


Between Facts and Values: Bruno Latour’s Compositionism

The course is designed as a follow-up to the discussions held in the WS2019 around the distinction between science and politics, or nature and society, addressed by Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer in their book: Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life. Students will now approach this same issue by reading and discussing Bruno Latour’s essay An Attempt at a “Compositionist Manifesto”. Here is the dichotomy between facts and values, i.e. between the arguments based on scientific evidence and the arguments based on a sense of morality, challenged in the context of the debate on global warming, or more concretely, around the questions of ecology, nature and sustainable development. Special emphasis will be put on Bruno Latour’s concept of compositionism – an ability to compose, to build or to reassemble out of an irreducible heterogeneity. It implies also a new perspective on our world that goes beyond the modernist division between nature and society/culture. It also promises to bring about change based on a new idea of universality and on the prospect of a new common world.


Bruno Latour: An Attempt at a “Compositionist Manifesto”

Bruno Latour Reassembling the Social, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, (Intro: 1-17)

Examination Modalities

The examination will take into account an active in-class participation, discursive contribution and the submission of written assignments (word minimum of 700 total/dead line: June 30, 2020.) Special attention will be paid on rhetorical and performative skills of the participants.

Under the new circumstances - the Covid-19 crisis - the course will be restructured by introducing:

1. Individual online sessions:

Starting with April 6th students will have the opportunity to schedule an individual online meeting with me (via zoom or skype; duration approximately 30 min.) During the meeting we will discuss the readings (the two texts by Bruno Latour that are available in the Cloud).

To prepare and schedule the meeting students must first read these texts and write a short statement (no more than 100 words) specifying a problem, question or topic – Latour deals with in the texts – they are mostly interested in and would most like to discuss with others. It is possible to choose more than one of these problems, questions or topics.

In the individual online meetings we will then discuss each student's individual choice and generally the texts.

2. group meetings

According to the results of these individual discussions, i.e., common interest in particular topics,  several discussion groups will be formed, which will later (between 27-30 April) participate in several group (zoom) meetings.

The tasks for now:

  1. Read the texts
  2. Write a short statement (100 words)
  3. Send this statement and schedule an online meeting with the me for the time between 6-19 April (either 4-5 or 8-10 PM). Please bear in mind that I won’t be able to have individual meetings with all of the students two days before the dead line. So, please try to schedule the meetings as soon as possible – starting with the April 6th.


Students from other faculties or universities will be given a place on the course subject to room capacities

Key Words

facts, values, compositionism, global warming, modernity, nature/society


09 March 2020, 10:15–15:15 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies – Lecture Room 2
10 March 2020, 13:45–18:00 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies – Lecture Room 2
12 March 2020, 12:45–18:00 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies – Lecture Room 2
27 April 2020, 09:15–13:30 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies – Lecture Room 2
28 April 2020, 13:45–18:00 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies – Lecture Room 2
30 April 2020, 15:30–18:00 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies – Lecture Room 2

Course Enrolment

From 17 February 2020, 23:00 to 09 March 2020, 00:00
Via online registration

co-registration: possible

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Bachelor): Foundation

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Bachelor): Deepening / Application

Individual courses: possible