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Pandora’s Hope

Pandora’s Hope

Essays on the Reality of Science Studies

Bruno Latour

ISBN 9780674653368

Publication date: 06/30/1999

A scientist friend asked Bruno Latour point-blank: “Do you believe in reality?” Taken aback by this strange query, Latour offers his meticulous response in Pandora’s Hope. It is a remarkable argument for understanding the reality of science in practical terms.

In this book, Latour, identified by Richard Rorty as the new “bête noire of the science worshipers,” gives us his most philosophically informed book since Science in Action. Through case studies of scientists in the Amazon analyzing soil and in Pasteur’s lab studying the fermentation of lactic acid, he shows us the myriad steps by which events in the material world are transformed into items of scientific knowledge. Through many examples in the world of technology, we see how the material and human worlds come together and are reciprocally transformed in this process.

Why, Latour asks, did the idea of an independent reality, free of human interaction, emerge in the first place? His answer to this question, harking back to the debates between Might and Right narrated by Plato, points to the real stakes in the so-called science wars: the perplexed submission of ordinary people before the warring forces of claimants to the ultimate truth.


  • [Pandora’s Hope] brims with insight, and is frequently brilliant. It does what one always hopes for, but so rarely finds, in a philosophy book; it shakes assumptions so deeply held that you hardly knew they were there. It takes the world, reshuffles it, and deals it back; the cards are all the same, but the hand is crucially different… Pandora’s Hope, and its author, demand serious attention… Latour asks jarring and important questions and proposes jarring and brilliant answers. Kafka once wrote that a good book ought to have the fearsome impact of an ice ax. Pandora’s Hope does this. Having finished it, I am bloodied and befuddled. And I can think of no greater compliment for a book, or heartier endorsement.

    —Noah J. Efron, Boston Book Review


  • Bruno Latour was Professor Emeritus at Sciences Po Paris. He was the 2021 Kyoto Prize Laureate in Arts and Philosophy and was awarded the 2013 Holberg International Memorial Prize.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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