1.2.14

Welcome to the Michel Serres online hub

























In an effort to provide better interaction among Michel Serres readers, I have added this blog component. I wish I could bring together all the people from around the world who have benefited from the valuable ideas that Serres has brought to life through his writings but short of that, I offer another small step in building a more diverse and lively group of conversations around ideas that he would very much want us to extend and multiply.

Dancing Stones (embossed line drawing) M Friesen 2003

10.1.14

Serres Honoured with a 2014 Nonino Prize

While I don't know much about this particular prize, it would seem that the jury was duly impressed with the poetic and rich thought of Serres in The Natural Contract.


Being noted as a "Master of Our Time" is a testament to the how much Serres's work has transcended remote academic spaces and ventured broadly into the world to engage people around a host of vital themes. Acknowledging The Natural Contract as a work of "wise love" is high praise indeed.

You can see a video from the 2013 gala here (it is in Italian - worth listening to even if you can't quite get it all). Vats open, steam escapes, parades  of strong drink, and singing are all part of the celebration.

16.10.13

Latour Educates a Naive Michel Serres

This essay titled The Englightenment Without the Critique: A Word on Michel Serres' Philosophy showed a while back as a Google Alert. I immediately read it. Having worked through Conversations on Science, Culture and Time on many occasions, the variance between Latour and Serres was not surprising. However, the interview format of Conversations allowed for banter, a play, between the two that this sustained piece leaves less room for.

 Latour argues that you can see someone's theory by the manner in which they undertake their exegesis of a text, a kind of behavioural marker for core commitments:
But also,it is my conviction that every science, including the hard ones, is defined by a certain way of practising a peculiar kind of exegesis. Tell me how you comment on a scripture or an inscription, and I will tell you what sort of epistemology you hold on to. Understanding Serres's conception of the commentary is thus also a way of understanding his conception of the sciences. p85-86
There is much more in this Latour chapter, including a very interesting discourse on Serres's metaphysics, understanding of non-linearity, the interdependence of physics and poetry, and so on. Latour often differs sharply with Serres but his engagement does provide a valuable perspective on ways in which we might read Serres.

4.4.13

Ashok Karra has posted a review of Biogea on his blog titled Environmental Philosophy and the Question of Origins. The themes of his engagement and critque will be of interest to Serres readers through not unfamiliar. The many images and metaphors that Serres is famous for are often difficult and confusing when you've grown accustomed to other ways of writing and thinking. Serres is not everyone's cup of tea, as they say. I think you will, however, find it a thoughtful discussion and worth reading.


11.3.13

English Translation of "Streams" from Hermes 4

Recently Randolph Burks sent me a note to say that he has posted "Streams" (Ruisseaux) from Hermes 4 on Issuu. I have embedded the code below so that you can read it directly here or you can follow this link to the page. Thank you for your faithful labour in translating this and opening up new ideas for a great many of us.



22.2.13

Michel Serres Awarded the 2013 Dan David Prize

Ynetnews, the English language Israeli publication of Yedioth Media Group, published a brief summary of the Dan David Prize awardees which this year include Michel Serres. The general criteria for the Tel Aviv University-based award are stated on the website as follows (image is also from the website):


The Dan David Prize covers three time dimensions - Past, Present and Future - that represent realms of human achievement. Each year the International Board chooses one field within each time dimension. Following a review process by independent Review Commitees comprised of renowned scholars and professionals, the International Board then chooses the laureates for each field. 
The Past refers to fields that expand knowledge of former times.
The Present recognizes achievements that shape and enrich society today.
The Future focuses on breakthroughs that hold great promise for improvement of our world.

Michel Serres was awarded the prize in the "Present" category as an acknowledgement of the influence he has had on contemporary society. In particular, the role of public intellectuals whose philosophical reflection and engagement promote greater well-being, is associated with this category. Michel Serres has certainly filled this role admirably as he has challenged us to deeper thought about the meaning of technology, communications, contracts, academic and research silos, as well as the propensity for violence and exclusion that many modern systems exhibit.

His work has not only been a critique of where we are failing, it has also caused us to consider hopeful directions such as the potential that a more synthetic frame of mind contains for our future well-being.  Congratulations from the many of us who have been inspired by your long decades of toil and the risks you have been willing to take to bring meaning back into our contemplations.

3.8.12

Translations of Biogea and Variations

Thanks to Randolph Burks for pointing out these two new English translations of Biogea and Variations. Below are the publishers blurbs for both from Amazon so you have a sense of what ground they cover. There are some earlier posts as well on these projects. If anyone would like to offer brief reviews, reflections or interactions with either of these books, I'd be happy to publish them here or you can add them as comments.


Biogea is a mixture of poetry, philosophy, science, and biography exemplary of the style that has made Michel Serres one of the most extraordinary thinkers of his age. His philosophical and poetic inquiry sings in praise of earth and life, what he names singularly as Biogea. In these times when species are disappearing, when catastrophic events such as earthquakes and tsunamis impale the earth, Serres wonders if anyone “worries about the death pangs of the rivers.” And for Serres, one can ask the same question of philosophy as the humanities increasingly find themselves in need of defenders. Today, all living organisms discover themselves part of this Biogea. “Today we have other neighbors, constituents of the Biogea: the sea, my lover; our mother, the Earth, becomes our daughter; this beautiful breeze which inspires the spirit, a spiritual mistress; our light friends, the fresh and flowing waters.”


Variations - World-renowned philosopher, Michel Serres writes a text in praise of the body and movement, in praise of teachers of physical education, coaches, mountain guides, athletes, dancers, mimes, clowns, artisans, and artists. This work describes the variations, the admirable metamorphoses that the body can accomplish. While animals lack such a variety of gestures, postures, and movements, the fluidity of the human body mimics the leisure of living beings and things; what’s more, it creates signs. Already here, within its movements and metamorphoses, the mind is born. The five senses are not the only source of knowledge: it emerges, in large part, from the imitations the plasticity of the body allows. In it, with it, by it knowledge begins.

I've been reading Erich Jantsch Technological Planning and Social Futures (1972) and have found it most interesting on adaptive institutions and the way in which specialists can unwittingly clog the system. He also offers important reflections on how education needs to change in light of this. How much has really changed since he published this?

6.3.12


In the previous post I mentioned the work of a new institute. Pablo has graciously responded to my query and another colleague of his sent this conference link from last year and also this video address by Michel Serres. I try and post primarily English sources on the site but as many of you do speak French, it seemed purdent to post the video and conference link. There is a book from the conference proceedings in addition to the video archives.

1.3.12

News: Michel Serres Institute


Pablo Jensen and company have announced a new Michel Serres Institute for Resources and Public Good that will likely be of interest to readers of Serres. You can read more about it here but I've included a brief excerpt for you:

Humans use their power and know­ledge to manage life sys­tems as well as the bios­phere. Therefore, research must serve to increase human unders­tan­ding of those resour­ces and how best to use them for the public good. The Institute will work towards the desi­red, sus­tai­na­ble condi­tion of our socie­ties through the inte­gra­ted ana­ly­sis, moni­to­ring and mana­ge­ment of resour­ces (pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion, access and cir­cu­la­tion)

No doubt the themes in The Natural Contract and many other works will have a bearing on how the activities and writing of the institute unfold over time. This is about all I know of it at this point but if others can contribute background, that would be helpful. I have been in touch with Pablo and hope to add more information here soon.

22.8.11

Language, Invention and Distinction

I've been working on a manuscript that examines how language interacts with the world and I find it endlessly interesting. The highly complex nature of our communication structures, practices and cultures means that very little human experience is free of language. More specifically, the actual language or languages we speak, think in and process deeply influence us. We might, if we push hard enough, allow that language inhabits us as much as we inhabit language. 




Given these deep intricacies, the nature of how the various languages we are part of is very important to think about. How do computer languages, marketplace terms, mixing of languages, power and conquest all relate? They are most certainly not trivial. 


Michel Serres has published a piece reflecting on how the marketplace - marketers and money people - are changing the nature of French and what might be done about it. I read the piece and thought that all uniqueness, distinction, peculiarity and local flavour is important. In this case, the matter of discussion is the use of French but I thought of many other ways that the particularity of the local can get washed out in the mass influences that move in and around us. 


Years ago I had a long conversation with a Ukrainian Orthodox priest that I met with from time to time  to discuss ideas with. He talked about how the retention of a Ukrainian mass meant that younger people failed to see the experience as meaningful - they were thoroughly English and the Ukrainian was the language of their grandparents. If he insisted on a Ukrainian mass, he risked the loss of a generation and thus of a much greater enterprise. If he gave up Ukrainian in favour of English, the cultural ballast of the Ukrainian culture would be deeply undermined. What a difficult, and specific, predicament.


Here's the article link. I would be most interested in what people make of the ideas raised. The image comes form this website

4.7.11

Betrayal: The Thanatocracy (trans. by Randolph Burks)

I think you will enjoy reading Randy Burks translation of Betrayal: The Thanatocracy. The article was first published in Hermes III in 1973. You can read this translation on Issuu by clicking the image below and flipping through it electronically.



6.5.11

Cynthia Haven - Stanford News on Serres

Here is another entry from Cynthia Haven that explores briefly the puzzle of Serres in North America. Despite having some very interesting and valuable ideas about ecology, synthetic thinking, pattern-recognition and communication and culture theory, Serres just doesn't have the uptake here that he does in France.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that there are real differences between NA and Europe and thus that appetites for certain forms and ideas are different. That variance may be encouraging in a world that some fear is becoming increasingly homogenized. The loss that we face in not reading Serres in NA is that we fail to encounter the distinctive flavour of his thought and the diversity that it can generate. That seems to be at the heart of what Cynthia is getting at in her post.



6.4.11

Serrres in Adbusters - Mental Environmentalism




Micah White has written a blog post for Adbusters that explores Serres's philosophical development of the idea of mental pollution as an extension of primitive biological pollution as the marking of territory. The post is based on Malfeasance: Appropriation Through Pollution? which gives expression to Serres's ideas about human interactions with other natural systems and what those interactions might mean. Here is a sample from the post:

The importance of Michel Serres' contribution to mental environmentalism is that he is the first to philosophically ground mental environmentalism upon a unified theory of pollution that explains how advertisements are an extension of toxic sludge. Until now, the mental environmentalist argument has been that just as polluted rivers are a necessary byproduct of creating paper so too are polluted mindscapes a byproduct of creating consumers. While this argument is still true, and Serres makes a similar point in his book, Serres has managed to do something even more profound: he has shown why one cannot be an environmentalist without also being a mental environmentalist. In closing the gap between physical and mental toxins, Serres has closed the gap between physical and mental ecology.

The photo of Serres in this post is from the blog Karavan Papou and contains an excerpt by Serres on educating the 21st century.


4.3.11

Trying to Understand Serres: Some "Not Fans" of The Parasite

This is a pretty interesting exchange between some people trying to figure out what Serres means by "The Parasite" within a scientific context. If you have a chance, read it and see what you make of the criticisms and struggles that are at play.


















Read the "Not Serres Fans" exchange.



28.2.11

Serres and the scupltures of Bianca Maria Barmen



























An exhibition of sculptures by artist Bianca Maria Barmen is running at the Kunsthallen Brandts. One commentatory compared Barmen's style to Serres's thoughts on recognition amid a fast and fluid world.



Marie Bukdahl relates Bianca Maria Barmen's sculptures to the view expressed by Michel Serres in his book Statues, that sculpture represents a special path to recognition: 
"In several of her sculptures there is secret realm from which society's rapid, texturally-lacking stream of images meets resistance in a particularly intense way. Her sculptural works appear as strong points from which to take bearings, or mysterious monuments that counteract the transient nature of our surroundings."
Bianca Maria Barmen's sculptures are difficult to define. They are like a perfect haiku poem in which both rhythm and content would collapse if one dared remove even a single letter.



You can read more about the exhibit here on the e-flux website.

18.2.11

Serres and Railways

Stefan is interested in learning more about where Serres might talk about trains and railways. Within our collective reading and explorations, I thought we might be able to come up with a reasonably comprehensive answer.

Trains + Serres...anyone?

29.1.11

Sport and Serres

Stefan at Traditio has posted a great article that connects football and Serres. The motion of the ball, the movement of individual players, and a great video segment of Zidane all make this worth reading and viewing.

Serres appears to be a very keen sporting enthusiast and this make an intriguing connection between complexity, synthesis, messengers and the ideas he has so richly developed around those themes over the years.

18.1.11

Crossroads and Narrative in Serres

It may be very important for us culturally to understand what crossroads are all about. Are they places where lines cross? Roads join? Or where narrative powers are at work bringing many things together while leaving just as many possibilities still open?

Julie Heyward of the blog Unreal Nature has curated a post that is a valuable reflection on these ideas. She explains how Serres envisions crossroads much differently than people who are committed to more linear views of the world. Here's a sample:

Serres substitutes the thought of the juncture as abundance or complexification. Equally, if, self-evidently, the crossroads is not a figure establishing or confirming an identity. Nor is it one that signals the dissolution of identity or death of the subject. Identity is rather projected as a point of intersection between multiple networks.
… Literature, says Serres, in Zola, occupies language more largely than any of the logics.(This is not a value judgment, but simply the case.) For the same reason, literature is a “system of simulation” that is relatively faithful in what is at stake in the game for any of the knowledges — any of the découpages — at a particular point in space-time. Narrative will therefore stand relative to any given knowledge as a simulation of Bachelard’s ”complexité essentialle.” As such, it resists entêtement, obstinacy, stubborn persistence, the fixed idea lodged in the head, the singular, homogeneous space of the dogmatist.

Narrative is like a force that doesn't increases space as it grows, rather like a river running underground carving out caverns and passageways that in turn have all kinds of potential for animals, people and other things to move through it - possibilities are more characteristic than reductions.

15.1.11

Some Posts on Serres in French

For those of you who are interested in reading some posts about Serres in French, you can find some here. If you are less proficient in French, Google can facilitate your cheating (I'm sure some of you are cringing) and give you at least some sense of what is there. 


I keep working on my French (my youngest two are happily in immersion) and constantly envy those who can move with angelic grace between French and English. My lot is to be regularly humbled by my children.


And his new book Biogee as well is here.


Thanks to Stephanie Posthumous for pointing these out.

11.1.11

Serres and Software Company - Trivium

Did anyone else know this? I sure didn't. The connections between Stanford and software development are strong in many of the disciplines but this is a pleasant surprise. According to the company website, Serres is a co-founder of Trivium - you can learn more here.


Has anyone used any of the Trivium tools or approaches? Is Serres involved in any of the functions of the company? It's an intriguing edge.

8.1.11

Serres Influence at Stanford

This interview with a Stanford faculty member who was influenced by Serres is worth reading. Showly Lang talks with Dan Edelstein about who influenced him the most in his studies and work and he picks Serres as an important part of his academic growth and inspiration.

6.1.11

Serres Noted in French Academic Landscape

Mention here in CampusFrench of the contribution of scholars like Serres who have run across, through, among, and within a wide variety of disciplines.







23.12.10

Anyone want to improve this?

This is a good blog post but the Google translator doesn't do it justice. Anyone with better chops than I want to take a run at improving it?

Here is the link to the original.

Here is the Google translation:

About Michel Serres

 One of the themes announced in this blog is the thought of Michel Serres and behold, I almost forgot to report his latest book and the very rich book of Herne devoted to him.
 This book is called Biogée, Life and Earth to tell their fundamental continuity that we have insanely separated at the point of risking death. The work of the philosopher-Hill ("Greenhouse", in Gascon, meaning "hill", p.24) is haunted for years by the ravages of the hard sciences and political subservience to have made, and it is constantly forced to resume this theme because it is obvious he is not yet understood.
 But that, each time from a different input. One that retains Serres, here, is that experiments he made, personal and critical, this close relationship between what was known formerly kingdoms (mineral, plant, animal, human), not in his thinking ( thought, alone, always runs the risk of cutting oneself off from reality) but in his body flood of the Garonne or the earth trembles, California, birth or death which always fulfilled in the opening gaping of the earth-mother.
Biogée is thus the most personal book that Serres has given us the most "literary" as "writing" the most beautiful perhaps (what will not fail to reproach him in the little world of philosophy).There are pages on hallucinated ghost ships, lyrical evocations of the union of oak and linden, memories always present from childhood. Book meetings at the crossroads of his life and grace given to the joys they have created. "I sing these strong turbulence and weak, inert, alive and human, in roundels, chorus, repeatedly tunes, waltzes, ballads and barcaroles" (p. 179)
In this year of his eighty spring, Serres is the youngest and most Prohet of our thinkers. And I hope he remains a long time and we do not notice too late the importance of his work.
That this work is devoted to a Cahier de l'Herne, provided very items from around the world and enriched with a number of unpublished texts of Serres. I can not enter their analysis, it will take hours. I just want to remember that many say the friendship has developed between the author and Michel Serres from experiences in common whether it is a publishing project (the monumental Corpus of philosophers in French) a hiking or climbing (Anne-Marie Delaunay, "Variations on a rope"), whether a course or conference and trade that do not fail to ensue . 
This friendship is awakening of thought, awakening thought, it not be blinded by the problems that the philosophy of Serres no shortage of lift without necessarily provide an answer, she said the generosity of a teaching that has always preferred forward to new discoveries to stagnate in vain polemics. Those that media notoriety annoys discover that the reflection of Serres was built in solitude on the sidelines of the French philosophical institution too often encased in his mediocre power struggles and that novelty repels. Those who are repeating, without having read his books, this is not philosophy - because it does not find the trace of a certain academic rhetoric, may have the opportunity to become aware of their complexity and authenticity of their questioning.
For all those interested in the work of Serres this book is an indispensable tool. He is also in that it leaves open many avenues of research. We are far from having taken the full measure of the contribution of Serres.

21.12.10

Five Senses - a reflection from Stefan

You'll enjoy reading Stefan's post on what he thinks of Five Senses. Here is the introductory tidbit:

How to approach this book on the five senses (that aren't really five after all)? I loved it, but it's so hard to explain why. It's more the ideas it gives birth to than what's in it. But let me try:

Take your index finger and place it on your bottom lip. Do it! You have to do it, or you wont understand this post. Please do it.

Now, without moving, fix your attention on feeling your lip through your finger (do it, take your time, close your eyes if it helps). OK? Now, shift perspective, and feel your finger through your lip. Isn't that amazing?! One moment you are in your finger, feeling your lip - another moment you are in your lip, feeling your finger! Your consciousness, your self-awareness is somehow shifting place, moving from inside your lip and outside your finger to inside your finger and outside your lip. Yet only one event, one touch, is actually happening. So where are you? In this encounter, this relation, this instance of first-hand knowledge, you are both the knowing subject and the known object. You are outside and inside.


Read more of Stefan's post here.

17.12.10

The Facebook Neural Network - with disparity included


A fine addition to the brilliant blue map that I posted yesterday. This one includes mapping data showing high population densities along with the Facebook digital neural networks. The disparity evident in this map is also very much in keeping with the growing divide that technology can fuel and that Serres laments in Angels.

16.12.10

The Facebook Neural Network

This image of global Facebook usage reveals the extent to which our societies, cultures, businesses and friendships do indeed form an electrical nervous system of exchange and communication. There are myriad angels in this image, winging their way around the world at luminal velocities. This image feels very Serresian, indeed.

15.12.10

Alfred Korzybski: Another Geographer of Thought

Alfred Korzybski came up with the phrase "the map is not the territory" and other things. Has anyone read Korzybski? I have not and came across him via this theory of communications post that features Korzybski, The Natural Contract and other communications theory ideas.






After a quick skim of his original Preface for Science and Sanity, I saw that Korzybski notes the implications of new advances in a unified field theory: 

While correcting the proofs of this Preface, I read a telegraphic press report from London by Science Services, that Professor Max Born, by the application of the non-elementalistic methods of Einstein, has succeeded in making a major contribution to the formulation of a unified field theory which now includes the quantum mechanics. Should this announcement be verified in its scientific aspects, our understanding of the structure of ‘matter’, ‘electron’, etc., would be greatly advanced and would involve of course most important practical applications.



Here is the link to a full online version of his Science and Sanity. If anyone else is familiar with Korzybski, I'd be interested to learn more about his life and work.

13.12.10

Serres and the US Debate Circuit


I have happily discovered that Serres's work is being utilized by US debate teams. Jamie Saker, a debate coach says:

We've had an interesting experience with Serres on the debate circuit. Iowa despises "critical" debate (anything beyond advocating policies), where Nebraska is highly critical. We reside on the faultline, closer geographically and philosophically to Nebraska. The current Angels case (with support from Genesis, The Natural Contract, and Latour's Conversations) is interesting but it's a bit complicated. I'm working on an edit for this weekend that narrows the alternative/advocacy portion down since we have too many things in motion. The critique others have of Serres doing "too much at one time" and jumping from Lucretius to Plato to Los Angeles of the sky to Goya in little space/time is even more challenging when you're constrained by an 8 minute affirmative constructive speech.


Indeed. Has anyone else seen Serres's work show up on this kind of debate format? Jamie has also been interested, as noted elsewhere in this blog, in getting English translations of more of Serres's work.

3.11.10

Serres Student Post

I came across this wonderful post from a former student of Serres's, Marylene Delbourg-Delphis, who pursued an entrepreneurial career path after her studies. There are some great photographs and a gracious tribute to the personal dimension of Serres's influence. The occasion was a Stanford celebration recognizing that he has spent thirty years at the university.


If that isn't enough incentive to visit, the subtitle of her website notes an interest in atypical people. It is indeed a heartening tip-of-the-hat to all who have decided to tack into the wind at an angle all their own. The nature and content of the posts are well worth reading and exploring further if you have any interest in thoughtful and seasoned approaches to business and organizational development.

28.10.10

Serres and ROM Crystal

Michael Boughn references Serres in the context of providing commentary on the Royal Ontario Museum architectural development project - the crystal. The article is worth reading if, for nothing else, it's a change of pace from what seems to be a drone about how much people dislike it. 


I took a few snaps in and around the ROM on a recent visit using the red glass sign as my colour filter in one shot and an edge shot through the glass for another.


27.8.10

Variations on the Body - Audio Version

Here is the audio of the English text of Variations on the Body that was given to me by Randolph Burks. I cleaned the text of footnotes and other apparatus, noted headings and sections, then fed it into NaturalSoft text-to-speech in four blocks.

It isn't as good as having a human being reading it but it does allow quick turn-around and will hopefully be a useful experiment.

Is this type of audio - or audio of written texts in general - of any value?

Part 1 - Metamorphosis

Part 2 - Potential

Part 3 - Knowledge

Part 4 - Vertigo