Isabelle Stengers is Emerita Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles and is the author of numerous books, including
On the Same Plane?
Thinking practices ecologically involves hearing and understanding the cry often raised against nonscientific practices and the fear it articulates concerning relativism, irrationality, and the supposed threat to public order. Plato fighting Callicles, scientific authorities in prerevolutionary France dismissing Mesmer, and the more general alarm raised concerning “charlatans” are explored here for what they can show us about the exclusion of “the public” evident in discussions about its worrying “credulity.” The chapter develops Gilles Deleuze's idea of the “truth of the relative,” exemplifying it with Donna Haraway's OncoMouse, and extending it into a more general consideration practices—such as that of pilgrimages to the Virgin Mary—that aren't concerned with productions of knowledge of a scientific kind. The stupidity of judges, who address the world in terms of reductive “order-words.” here becomes crucial for understanding the destructive power implied in science.