Lecture 1 - Once Out of Nature, Is 'Natural Religion' a pleonasm?

Here is an attempt to articulate both our graspings and questions from Latour's first lecture. There are many holes, mis-articulations, and questions but we look forward to developing this as a space to explore and develop together a deeper understanding of what is being revealed.

Based on our listening, we see Latour has having done several things during this first lecture. Please feel free to add, edit, revise, reinterpret, share new insights, etc:
  1. He opens up with the question of how to represent the world. Is it possible to represent the world as a totality?
  2. He sets up a framework for talking about and comparing Nature and God. He does this by:
    • Renaming Nature in order to open up the listening of the audience. The term "Nature" is so enmeshed in our culture that it has the status of truth. Everyone "knows" what Nature is without questioning it, and a lot of energy and emotion is involved in preserving that certainty. Latour renames Nature as Owwaab in order to explore what this entity is, what its attributes are, and what peoples belong to this entity or interpretation of the world
    • Creating a translation table between Owwaab and Religion to see if commensurable or not

The Question of How Best to Represent the World

Latour began with the question, "What is it to represent the world?" and told the story of the Scot Patrick Geddes (?) who attempted to build a mapped sphere of the globe for the World Fair.

"What is the exact shape of the Earth or what is the Earth we are now facing?"

Renaming of Nature

We take for granted concept of Nature and often associate or confuse it with God. Latour chooses to rename Nature so that we can try to work with it, more easily separating it from its existing preconceptions, and shifting attention from its name to its distinguishing features. [Is Latour doing this as a response from the scientific community in the past who react strongly to his attempts to open up Nature? To repay respect to Science?]

Gaia is most secular figure of Earth, thus is figure more able to mobilize science, politics, and nature. [What does mobilize mean here?]

Articulating a people - People of Nature
Demos - The People - 'Those who belong to Owwaab'
Theos - The Entity - Owwaab 'out of which we are all born'
Nomos - Distributed Agency - distribution: a cosmos

Translation Tables

Latour attempts to create a translation table between Owwaab and Religion (Nature and God) to see if they can be compared and made one and the same.

Articulating Nature/Science

Latour's first table seems to be a rearticulation of his modern constitution of Nature from "We Have Never Been Modern"

Anthropological version
Owwaab - Epistemological version
Owwaab - Critical Version - (within the lab)
Owwaab is outside (i.e. not dependent on the whim of fancies of the people)

but also inside (i.e. inside networks of the labs that are used to distinguish)
It is unified

but also multiple (i.e. there are many laws and codes where things aren't unified and is often not local)
It is inanimate (a surprising form for a deity)

but also animated (i.e. constantly multiplying agents; multiplying of possibilities of action)
It is undisputable (i.e. a matter a fact; as Austin said, it gains indisputability when accompanied by large networks to keep it)

but also controversial (increase # of contributions [?] and always asking for more results [?])
Oscillate widely between these two centers, like a wild Copernican revolution where the earth loops around two distant suns.

How should we address those living under Owwaab? Owwaab is not invoked respectfully enough if only invoke epistemological or critical version; more respectful if address it as the anthropological version.

Translation Table Between Owwaab and Religion

Natural Religion
OWWAAB or Nature One
OWWAAB or Nature Two
GEITY of Religion One

Agency distribution
Exteriority (radically outside and radically inside [?]; heaven, earth)
Anyone + Church


  1. What is Latour's goal with these lectures? Is it to distinguish natural religion in a new way for the academic community of natural theologians? Is it to develop Gaia as a means of articulating the world in such a way that we can interact with the overwhelming aspect of climate change.
  2. What is natural religion?