Main question: We conceive of morality as this universal rationality, this inborn sense of obligation and honor, yet Latour means to show that morality may be seen as the subjective(?) response to technology’s multiplying mediators–am I not understanding his position correctly, or this still falling into the trap of “technology is neutral, it just depends on how you use it that determines its ethics” or is it somehow more radical since technology has created possibilities we don’t even conceive of, and morality must concern itself with those possibilities that we don’t recognize?
Technology is commonly viewed as the means to the ends, which is the distinct domain of morality. Latour aims to show that technology is its own modes of existence, and not merely an addition to human beings but rather as integral to humans as is morality. If the tool has even preceded the evolution of humanity, then we must not treat technology so lightly as either neutral (morality dictates whether it is right or wrong) or simply a means to an end. In fact, technology multiplies the intermediaries and mediators involved, radically shifting the ends and presenting new possibilities, that may or may not be related to the original objective for which the technology was implemented. We have become ‘the figure of the labrynth’, that must endure multiple techniques, methods that are liable to folds (the concertina) and detours. Folds being all of the hidden materialities/geneologies of the technology (it’s physical sources and their concrescence as well as the various evolving purposes of the technology over time), and detours being the necessary steps an individual takes to orient with the technology before their original objectives can be met (in this sense it is a curve rather than a straight line to get to the destination). Latour draws upon Marcel Mauss’s ‘technique of the body’ to show that technology is not superficial, but penetrates the deep moral habits of the body. This might be seen as the ‘under-ego’ of technologies that force certain behaviors on us (like Latour’s drawers that only open in a particular way, fashioned by a maker that has imposed his will on the the desks’ users).
This is where Latour changes the notion of technology and morality from being-as-being to being-as-other, that is, neither technology nor morality are concerned with stagnation, since technology inherently multiplies possibility, and morality must constantly re-evaluate those new mediations technology has brought to it, therefore there are separate modes of existence yet in constant co-evolution. Morality is constantly concerned with these beings-as-others, insofar as they represent various means to ends.
“Each of these modes of existence upsets in its own distinctive way the relations between means and ends: technology by dislocating the relations between entities in such a way that they open towards a series of new linkages that force the constant displacement of goals and multiply intermediary agents whose collective sliding forbids any mastery; morality, by constantly interrogating aggregates to make them express their own aims and prevent a too hasty agreement about the definitive distribution of those that will serve as means and those that will serve as ends. If one adds morality to technology, one is bound to notice, to make a pun, the end of the means. Without means, another history begins, since morality and technology multiply the entities we must consider and must learn to reassemble.”