Although I'm just beginning to explore his work, and don't know the full scope of it yet, I'd like to start a thread for Michel Serres.  I'm exploring it in the context of a paper I'm writing which involves a grammar-related theme (Serres places prepositions at the center of his (post)metaphysics).

Here's a brief biographical introduction, from the European Graduate School website:

Michel Serres, Ph.D., is a philosopher specialized in epistemology, a professor as well as a writer. He was born on September 1st 1930 in Agen, in the Lot-et-Garonne region in France. Son of a farmer, he first studied at a naval school in 1949. He studied at the prestigious École normale supérieure, starting in 1952 where he also passed in aggregation in philosophy 1955 in Paris. However, from 1956 to 1958 her served in the French navy, even participating in the re-opening of the Suez canal as well as in the Algerian war. Serres is not only an elected member of the prestigious French Academy (March 29th 1990) but he has also received France’s highest decoration, the National Order of the Legion of Honour.

In 1968 Serres defended his dissertation and was granted his doctorate as a result. He went on to teach University-level philosophy in Clermont-Ferrand where he became a friend of Michel Foucault and Jules Vuillemin. At that time Foucault and him regularly work together on problems that would result in Foucault’s master piece The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. After that, he also taught at Vincennes, Paris I (from 1969 on) and Stanford University (from 1984 on) as professor of the history of science. His research not only focuses on the history of science but he is particularly interested in the possible links and interdisciplinarity between so-called hard sciences and social sciences. In fact, he has been instrumental in the popularization of scientific knowledge.

In his book The Parasite (1980; Eng. Trans. 2007) Serres wants to remind us how human relations are to society the same as that of the parasite to the host body. The point is that by being a parasite even minority groups can become play a big role in public dialogue. For example, they can bring the kind of diversity and complexity essential to human life and thought.

Genesis (1982; Eng. Trans. 1997) is Michel Serres’s attempt to think outside metaphysical categories such as unity and rational order. He wants to make us hear the "noise," the "sound and the fury," that actually are in the background of life and thought. The argument is that although philosophy has been essential to the conception of laws of logic and reason, which themselves have been key to our understanding of ourselves and our universe, one of the most pressing tasks of thought today is to acknowledge that multiplicity and not unity is the order of the day. Such plurality cannot really be thought, but perhaps it can still be sensed, felt, and heard beneath the illusion of rational order imposed by civilization. Serres gives us here a critique of traditional and contemporary models in social theory as a call for the rebirth of philosophy as the art of thinking the unthinkable.

In Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies (1985; Eng. Trans. 2009) Professor Serres warns us that the fundamental lessons we must learn from the senses have been marginalized by the scientific age. Indeed, the metaphysical and philosophical systems of the latter have taken over our five senses through the domination of language and the information revolution. This book is an exploration of the detrimental consequences of such powerful downplaying of the five senses in the history of philosophy of the West. By doing a history of human perceptions he writes in favor of empiricism and against the Cartesian tradition. He does this by demonstrating the sterility of systems of knowledge separated from the body. Yet data today is more important than sense perception. Serres makes the point even more strongly by asking the rhetorical question: “What are we, and what do we really know, when we have forgotten that our senses can describe a taste more accurately than language ever could?”

His most recent book is Biogea.

Views: 610

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Working on my ITC paper, which has a central "prepositional" theme, I'm going a little further into Serres' work.  Here's an interesting overview of his work by Steven Connor.

Thanks Balder.  I tried to take a quick skim, but was taken on a circumperegrination of every quarter and was inveigled into pervasion.  It did not surrender easily to my economy of synecdoche. 

Seriously, it does look interesting, and I'll have to come back to it. Good luck in digesting this in a way that will be useful for your paper!

Thank you, David.  You might find elements of it interesting and relevant to your own paper (where he is discussing energy and information transformation).

The perverse pervasion of the article reflects Serres' status as a slippery MOA-constrictor, a regular genre b(l)ender...

P.S. I apologize for not getting back to you with feedback on your own paper.  I have been wrestling with a mighty 'block' in getting my own project finished and it is consuming my scant free time.

It's OK; it turns out I'm not using any of the material I sent you initially to review. Hopefully that material will become a "part 2" to be completed at a later date. I needed to set the foundation, and then didn't have the space left for that section.

I found the section discussing energy and information. Very interesting, indeed. It looks like Serres could profit from H.T. Odum's concepts of energy hierarchy, emergy (energy memory/embodied energy), and empower, where information is considered the highest transformation of energy. 

Do you know if Serres, in his investigation of Leibniz, put attention on Leibniz's language project, the Characteristica Universalis

I came across a fascinating paper: "Realising the Enlightenment: H.T. Odum's Energy Systems Language qua G.W.v. Leibniz's Characteristica Universalis" See attachment. 

FYI, it's no longer proper, according to currently standard thermodynamics theory, to characterize entropy as disorder. Which may throw some new challenges in terms of correlation with Shannon's information entropy/noise, I'm not sure. And so I'm liking the substitution of "chaos" for disorder.  José Saramago in his book The Double, wrote, “Chaos is order yet undeciphered.”  

Attachments:
Hi B - as a small aside, Leibnitz who seems to be a main figure in this discussion was put in a prominent position in the Baroque Cycle trilogy by Neal Stephenson the author who you asked about some months ago. For that reason, I think he might be a good choice for the one novelist you read. In your spare time :)



Balder said:

Thank you, David.  You might find elements of it interesting and relevant to your own paper (where he is discussing energy and information transformation).

The perverse pervasion of the article reflects Serres' status as a slippery MOA-constrictor, a regular genre b(l)ender...

P.S. I apologize for not getting back to you with feedback on your own paper.  I have been wrestling with a mighty 'block' in getting my own project finished and it is consuming my scant free time.

It seems there may be some affinities with Gregory Bateson, in regards to the hard/soft metaphor, and the ideas around information and communication.  I think it was Bateson who had a similar discussion, re: hard shelled vs. soft-skin organisms, but I didn't find it after a brief browse.

Prepositional Poetry:  On Embryogenesis, Folds, Adjacency, Knotted Multi-pli-city...

"The organism forms a gigantic knot with as many dimensions as one could
wish. It begins, in an embryonic state, with one or more sheets, folded,
pleated, rolled, invaginated. Embryology has the appearance of applied
topology, looks like an infinitely wrinkled skin. The organism fills with
local interchangers that finally form a global interchange system, a giant
knot made from small differential knots.

The body folds, curves, adapts, enjoying at least three hundred degrees
of freedom. From the feet to the head or to the tips of the fingers it traces
a variable and complex path between the things of the world, changing
like a piece of seaweed in the depths of the water, a thousand and one
exchanges or signals. Knowing things requires one first of all to place
oneself between them. Not only in front in order to see them, but in the
midst of their mixture, on the paths that unite them...

The skin is a variety of contingency: in it, through it, with it, the world
and my body touch each other, the feeling and the felt, it defines their
common edge. Contingency means common tangency: in it the world
and the body intersect and caress each other. I do not wish to call the
place in which I live a medium, I prefer to say that things mingle with
each other and that I am no exception to that, I mix with the world which
mixes with me. Skin intervenes between several things in the world and
makes them mingle.

Mixture is a more accurate term than medium. Medium, too geometrical,
is minimally useful: a centre in a volume, when it is reduced to an
intersection, or the volume itself, when its tendency is to surround.
A point or totality, singular or almost universal. A contradictory and
inflexible concept.

Everything has its place in the middle when the medium is concentrated,
everything meets and joins together in this complex place, in this
knot, through which everything passes, like an interchanger. It makes
me think of the solar plexus of a thwarted left-hander, of an unwilling
ambidextrous person. Everything still has its place in the medium when
it expands to fill the volume. Everything meets there. How? By chance.
Where? In proximity to one another. All right, here is mixture. Confluence,
unfurling, occupation of places.

A medium is abstract, dense, homogeneous, almost stable, concentrated;
a mixture fluctuates. The medium belongs to solid geometry, as one used
to say; a mixture favours fusion and tends towards the fluid. The medium
separates, the mixture mitigates; the medium creates classes and the mixture,
hybrids.

Everything meets in contingency, as if everything had a skin. Contingency
is the tangency of two or several varieties and reveals their proximity to
each other. Water and air border on a thick or thin layer of evaporation,
air and water touch in a bed of mist. Earth and water espouse each other
in clay and mud, are joined in a bed of silt. The cold front and the hot
front slide over each other on a mattress of turbulence. Veils of proximity,
layers, films, membranes, plates. We live on slow, inexorable moving
footpaths, thousands of metres beneath our feet." 

(Michel Serres, The Five Senses)

Wow - that's a fine and evocative and mighty riff. Complexity, natural forces, conditions and circumstances, order-ish, and apparent chaos, which works, in a strange fashion, as everyday life.

Great visual.

Balder said:

Prepositional Poetry:  On Embryogenesis, Folds, Adjacency, Knotted Multi-pli-city...

"The organism forms a gigantic knot with as many dimensions as one could
wish. It begins, in an embryonic state, with one or more sheets, folded,
pleated, rolled, invaginated. Embryology has the appearance of applied
topology, looks like an infinitely wrinkled skin. The organism fills with
local interchangers that finally form a global interchange system, a giant
knot made from small differential knots.

The body folds, curves, adapts, enj oying at least three hundred degrees
of freedom. From the feet to the head or to the tips of the fingers it traces
a variable and complex path between the things of the world, changing
like a piece of seaweed in the depths of the water, a thousand and one
exchanges or signals. Knowing things requires one first of all to place
oneself between them. Not only in front in order to see them, but in the
midst of their mixture, on the paths that unite them...

The skin is a variety of contingency: in it, through it, with it, the world
and my body touch each other, the feeling and the felt, it defines their
common edge. Contingency means common tangency: in it the world
and the body intersect and caress each other. I do not wish to call the
place in which I live a medium, I prefer to say that things mingle with
each other and that I am no exception to that, I mix with the world which
mixes with me. Skin intervenes between several things in the world and
makes them mingle.

Mixture is a more accurate term than medium. Medium, too geometrical,
is minimally useful: a centre in a volume, when it is reduced to an
intersection, or the volume itself, when its tendency is to surround.
A point or totality, singular or almost universal. A contradictory and
inflexible concept.

Everything has its place in the middle when the medium is concentrated'
everything meets and joins together in this complex place, in this
knot, through which everything passes, like an interchanger. It makes
me think of the solar plexus of a thwarted left-hander, of an unwilling
ambidextrous person. Everything still has its place in the medium when
it expands to fill the volume. Everything meets there. How? By chance.
Where? In proximity to one another. All right, here is mixture. Confluence,
unfurling, occupation of places.

A medium is abstract, dense, homogeneous, almost stable, concentrated;
a mixture fluctuates. The medium belongs to solid geometry, as one used
to say; a mixture favours fusion and tends towards the fluid. The medium
separates, the mixture mitigates; the medium creates classes and the mixture,
hybrids.

Everything meets in contingency, as if everything had a skin. Contingency
is the tangency of two or several varieties and reveals their proximity to
each other. Water and air border on a thick or thin layer of evaporation,
air and water touch in a bed of mist. Earth and water espouse each other
in clay and mud, are joined in a bed of silt. The cold front and the hot
front slide over each other on a mattress of turbulence. Veils of proximity,
layers, films, membranes, plates. We live on slow, inexorable moving
footpaths, thousands of metres beneath our feet." 

(Michel Serres, The Five Senses)

Yeah, kind of reminds me of this trouble-maker: 

https://laymanpascal.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/universalagape.pdf

Knotty and nice Mr. Serres. He mingles well in the fold thread.

Yeah, I think this passage speaks beautifully and evocatively to the 'mood' and form of certain key views we've explored here in the last few years.  With Serres' book (The Five Senses), I could almost take any three paragraphs and they would have similar force.  The book is a work of art.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2019   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service