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Michel Serres

“Only philosophy can go deep enough to show that literature goes still deeper than philosophy”

"Which philosophy worthy of the name has truly been able to avoid the link between poem and theorem?"

We are saddened by the loss of #MichelSerres, one of France's most influential intellectuals and an eminent philosopher of science.

A former naval officer and agrégé from the Ecole Normale supérieure, Michel Serres was an influential philosophy teacher and pursued a brilliant career in academia. At the university Blaise-Pascal, he taught alongside the likes of Michel Foucault and Jules Vuillemin. He took part in the famous post "mai 68" Vincennes experiment.

His PhD thesis explored the influence of mathematics on the philosophical system of Leibniz. Throughout his career, he would teach at Paris I Sorbonne, in Baltimore, and in Stanford with his colleague René Girard. He would carry on to be elected to the Académie française in 1990.

The first part of his works focused on the philosophy of science and the moral and ethical problems born out of scientific progress. Refusing any form of scientific predetermination, Serres based part of his reflection on Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as a metaphor for freedom and the possibility of embracing uncertainty and the unexpected. But he also took side with Simon Weil and Henri Bergson to think of a philosophical response to the moral issues raised by the use of violence, and to reflect on the working class condition and on the opposition between a messianic belief in Marxism and science.

Hermes, the Greek god of trade, communication and thief, would become one of his favorite motives, representative of the impact of science in our ways of communicating in the modern world.

A conference organised in Japan in the 80s proved a pivotal moment in his intellectual enterprise. Serres's intricate knowledge of the concept of the social contract led him to craft that of a natural contract, which purported to think about environmentalism from the point of view of the philosophy of right. Noting that the entirety of the non-human realm was excluding from founding texts such as the universal declaration of human rights, he championed the necessity to conceive of a new moral and right, that would include the animal reign as well as the environment broadly speaking: this is what he deemed the "natural contract".

His deep optimism and intelligent outlook on the revolutions brought by the technological revolutions of the 20th and 21st century have made him a notable figure of French philosophy.

Readers may be particularly interested in Hominescence, a process that can be described as a type of adolescence; humanity in a state of growing, a state of constant change, on the threshold of something unpredictable.

The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies explains the necessity to conceive of a philosophy reconciling the bodily and the spiritual.

"The only philosophy is that of language, the only religion is that of the word."

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