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.

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I'll try order it through the library. See if I can get into this beautiful book.

There was a book that I got into deeply, I think in the mid to late 70's by Ashley Montagu, called Touching: The human significance of the skin. At the time it was an extraordinary eye-opener for me to the inter-relatedness of all 'parts' of ourselves, deep and surface, and the worldly surround. Then, I was moved by so many things physiological, anatomical, 'holistic', especially as related to our subjective senses of life and psychological health. Though I was in sort of inner crisis, kinds of semi-florid lostnesses, for a decade or three, I showed up in some ways by digging into themes that touched me and that seemed central. For a few years, I was the only massage therapist in the California central valley city where I was and where I also worked in a hospital physical therapy department for a few years. Body-mind and the holistic and new-age romances with potential of that era carried me forward quite a ways despite my psychic turmoils and melancholies that would mess with my work and relationship stability and such.

This michael serres book gives off a resonant feel to me of those times and that book by Montagu, though it appears we have come a long way in 30-40 years. (Hardcover - 1971)
Good stuff. Thanks, d

Balder said:

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.

Very cool Balder, thanks for sharing.

Ambo, yes, I think you'll enjoy it - and it may make a nice complement and extension to Touching (here, touching via all the senses...).  If you'd like, you can download the book for free from

Good, thanks, 5 senses is downloaded.
Good weekend.

I'm thinking that this thread may be a suitable place in which to display a more visible feature than is usually noticed in ocean wavyness. As you can see, there is a grain-like pattern of curve and sworl similar to the lines seen in a crosscut tree. These lines apparently have to do with 'laws', 'rules', 'typical patterns' of nature as materials within fields organize themselves. A few of these are something like attraction-cohesion, proximity-resistance and spacing, within a dynamically responsive and viscous medium of water (& air), and a field of gravity.

In the distance you can maybe see wave lines' response of curvature away from jetties as you might see curving wood grain around a hard knot, as our eyes, minds, and sensibilities slice through this reality burl at the level where atmosphere meets land and sea.

This was an iphone 4 snapshot from yesterday upon a hill, from a distance of a few miles, following a daunting-for-me up-close-and-personal view and immersion of largish waves that I paddled and rode over, around, and through. The experiences of feeling, seeing, sensing, and bodily/mentally triangulating was one of minor awe for a surf-buddy and myself.

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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?

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