Tag Archives: How to React to a Change in Cosmology

Bruno Latour, science, and the 2021 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy: Commemorative Lecture

The Kyoto Prize (Wikipedia entry) was first given out in 1985. These days (I checked out a currency converter today, November 15, 2021), the Inamori Foundation, which administers the prize, gives out $100M yen per prize, worth about $1,098,000 CAD or $876,800 USD.

Here’s more about the prize from the November 9, 2021 Inamori Foundation press release on EurekAlert,

The Kyoto Prize is an international award of Japanese origin, presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the progress of science, the advancement of civilization, and the enrichment and elevation of the human spirit. The Prize is granted in the three categories of Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences; Arts and Philosophy, each of which comprises four fields, making a total of 12 fields. Every year, one Prize is awarded in each of the three categories with prize money of 100 million yen per category.

One of the distinctive features of the Kyoto Prize is that it recognizes both “science” and “arts and philosophy” fields. This is because of its founder Kazuo Inamori’s conviction that the future of humanity can be assured only when there is a balance between scientific development and the enrichment of the human spirit.

The recipient for arts and philosophy, Bruno Latour has been mentioned here before (from a July 15, 2020 posting titled, ‘Architecture, the practice of science, and meaning’),

The 1979 book, Laboratory Life: the Social Construction of Scientific Facts by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar immediately came to mind on reading about a new book (The New Architecture of Science: Learning from Graphene) linking architecture to the practice of science (research on graphene). It turns out that one of the authors studied with Latour. (For more about Laboratory Life see: Bruno Latour’s Wikipedia entry; scroll down to Main Works)

Back to Latour and his prize from the November 9, 2021 Inamori Foundation press release,

Bruno Latour, Professor Emeritus at Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), received the 2021 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for his radically re-examining “modernity” by developing a philosophy that focuses on interactions between technoscience and social structure. Latour’s Commemorative Lecture “How to React to a Change in Cosmology” will be released on November 10, 2021, 10:00 AM JST at the 2021 Kyoto Prize Special Website.

“Viruses–we don’t even know if viruses are our enemies or our friends!” says Latour in his lecture. By using the ongoing Covid epidemic as a sort of lead, Latour discusses the shift in cosmology, a structure that distributes agencies around. He then suggests a “new project” we have to work on now, which he assumes is very different from the modernist project.

Bruno Latour has revolutionized the conventional view of science by treating nature, humans, laboratory equipment, and other entities as equal actors, and describing technoscience as the hybrid network of these actors. His philosophy re-examines “modernity” based on the dualism of nature and society. He has a large influence across disciplines, with his multifaceted activities that include proposals regarding global environmental issues.

Latour and the other two 2021 Kyoto Prize laureates are introduced on the 2021 Kyoto Prize Special Website with information about their work, profiles, and three-minute introduction videos. The Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology for this year went to Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, Professor of Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences at Tsinghua University, and Basic Sciences to Robert G. Roeder, Arnold and Mabel Beckman Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The Rockefeller University. 

The folks at the Kyoto Prize have made a three-minute video introduction to Bruno Latour available,

For more information you can check out the Inamori Foundation website. There are two Kyoto Prize websites, the 2021 Kyoto Prize Special Website and the Kyoto Prize website. These are all English language websites and, if you have the language skills and the interest, it is possible to toggle (upper right hand side) and get the Japanese language version.

Finally, there’s a dedicated Bruno Latour webpage on the 2021 Kyoto Prize Special Website and Bruno Latour has his own website where French and English are items are mixed together but it seems the majority of the content is in English.