Serres Lecture - Stanford Humanities Center

A Michel Serres lecture from the Stanford Humanities Center in California. The lecture is in French and includes a rather lengthy (and light-hearted in parts) introduction section.


Serres Game Show - "Identify That Quote"

A request came in to identify the source of a Michel Serres quote. If the notion that all of us are smarter than any one of us is true (I certainly think that is the case with Serres readers), perhaps we can get this figured out and avoid plummeting into a pool of mud. Here's the quote:
"In my eyes it is never a crime to steal knowledge - it is a good theft. The pirate of knowledge is a good pirate."


Michel Serres on Global Economics

Thanks to Guillaume Lebleu for this post. He translates parts of an interivew that Serres had with Les Echos, a French financial newspaper. I've posted a comment on Guillaume's site and would encourage you to take a look and offer your thoughts on the topic. Here is an excerpt from the blog:

"Philosophers are guilty. They have missed the magnitude of changes in the world...I see all institutions [as] true dinosaurs."

Does Serres have something valuable to contribute to the discussions on global economic health or is this kind of input a case of setting sail on a voyage for which he is ill-equipped?


Current Bibliography of Serres's Writing

I'd like to update the increasingly incomplete Serres bibliography from a few years ago that I have and would welcome any input on current Serres publications in any language. The Wikipedia entry has these titles listed and I would be happy to update that entry with English, German, French, and other titles/translations.

1968 Le Système de Leibniz et ses modèles mathématiques, 2 vol. (PUF)
1969 Hermès I. La communication (Minuit)
1972 Hermès II. L’interférence (Minuit)
1974 Hermès III. La traduction (Minuit)
1974 Jouvences. Sur Jules Verne (Minuit)
1975 Auguste Comte. Leçons de philosophie positive, vol. I (Hermann)
1975 Feux et signaux de brume. Zola (Grasset)
1975 Esthétiques. Sur Carpaccio (Hermann)
1977 Hermès IV. La distribution (Minuit)
1977 La Naissance de la physique dans le texte de Lucrèce. Fleuves et turbulences (Minuit) (tr. Jack Hawkes The Birth of Physics, 2000)
1980 Hermès V. Le passage du Nord-Ouest (Minuit)
1980 Le Parasite (Grasset)
1982 Genèse (Grasset)
1983 Détachement (Flammarion)
1983 Rome. Le livre des fondations (Grasset)
1985 Les Cinq Sens, Médicis de l’Essai Prize (Grasset)
1987 L’Hermaphrodite. Sarrasine sculpteur (Flammarion)
1987 Statues (François Bourin)
1989 Éléments d’histoire des sciences (in collaboration) (Bordas)
1990 Le Contrat naturel, Blaise Pascal Prize (François Bourin )
1991 Le Tiers-Instruit (François Bourin) (published in English as The Troubadour of Knowledge, 1997)
1992 Éclaircissements (François Bourin)
1993 Les Origines de la géométrie (Flammarion)
1993 La Légende des Anges (Flammarion)
1994 Atlas (Julliard)
1995 Éloge de la philosophie en langue française (Fayard)
1997 Nouvelles du monde (Flammarion)
1997 Le Trésor. Dictionnaire des sciences (coll.) (Flammarion)
1997 À visage différent (coll.) (Hermann)
1998 Paysages des sciences (Le Pommier)
1999 Variations sur le corps (Le Pommier)
2000 Hergé mon ami (Éd. Moulinsart)
2001 Le Livre de la médecine (coll.) (Le Pommier)
2001 Hominescence (Le Pommier)
2002 En amour, sommes-nous des bêtes ? (Le Pommier)
2002 Jules Verne : la science (Le Pommier)
2002 L'Homme contemporain (Le Pommier)
2003 L'Incandescent (Le Pommier)
2003 Qu'est-ce que l'humain ? (coll.) (Le Pommier)
2004 Rameaux (Le Pommier)
2006 Récits d'Humanisme (Le Pommier)


Transatlantic Media Conference - May 2009

Here is another place where Serres's work showed up in an academic conference. In this case it was called Media Theory on the Move: Transatlantic Perspectives on Media and Mediation. Flow, movement, the interaction of many elements, prepositions as the "pimps of language" can all be found in proximity to these themes. Here is the a post-conference summary paragraph of the particular session:

To conclude this rather intensive day of transatlantic flows, Peter Bexte (Cologne) tackled the issue of the movement of things by drawing on Michel Serres’ philosophie des prépositions. Following Serres, Bexte studied things in their connectedness and interrelationality. He supported this argument by drawing on Samuel Beckett’s ‘Quad I + II‘. Quad I and Quad II are two experimental teleplays made in the 1980s for the Süddeutsche Rundfunk. These television performances involve a play with the closed-circuit movement patterns of four actors, in which each actor moves according to precise and exact mathematical ‘rules’. Beckett’s mathematic choreography generates a degree of continuity, circularity and infinity. Or what Bexte has described as a ‘nothingness of something’. For Bexte, we need to reflect on and trace our linkages with media by which we are intertwined with mediated environments. Though his position on the symbiotic mutuality of relations does provide the means to understand the in-betweenness of media and mediatization, it however does not acknowledge violence and noise. It neglects that connectivity and disparity are two sides of the same coin.


Serres Interview - FNAC

Thanks to Stephanie Posthumus at McMaster University for pointing out this interview. It is in French - good practice for French learners like me and a more direct access to Serres for those of you who are fortunate in your fluency.


Vampires, Angels and other Parasite/Messengers

Here is a very worthwhile posting on a Vienna Vampire conference. It was an academic gathering with far greater depth than the pop-culture material that is so prevalent. One of the presenters featured Serres's Angels: A Modern Myth and it would have been great to have heard it. The themes of parasitism and of existence in some kind of in-between state are intriguing to think about within the space of vampires and their social/cultural place in our landscape. Reading the entry reminded me of watching a black and white film called Nosferatu while on a flight to California.


A resurgence of philosophy?

Finn has posted a short piece on the role the Michel Serres may have in re-invigorating the vocation of philosophy. Rather than the coldly clinical dissections of certain branches of twentieth-century Anglo-American analytic philosophy or the deeply obscure and possibly senseless language of some Continental experiments, Serres has laboured to bring philosophy to our attention as a habit of life and mind that infuses our experiences and contemplations with real life, hope and possibility.

Serres loves images like this one of earth, where the flow, patterns and connections can be seen and imagined. And where are the borders? Where are the red lines or dotted black lines that define countries and nations? Why, having seen such images hundreds of times, do we persist in our reduction alone habits? Clearly, reduction is only a very partial truth.


Cultural Differences: Video reflection from Michel Serres

This video is posted on the Stanford News Service website referenced in the previous post.


Michel Serres - Stanford News article

This is a really interesting article that provides a good overivew of the context of Michel Serres's work and thinking. The links on the side-bar are also useful places to explore further (one points back to this site). I'll add the video element in another post.


Design and Serres

This post showed up in a recent alert and is well worth reading. It explores Serres's use of 'parasite' and what that means for relationships, noise, signal, meaning, and chaos.

We are going to undertake a somewhat difficult project this week, we are going to read an essay from Michel Serres’s book, The Parasite. The chapter is called, “Theory of the Quasi Object”. This essay will offer us another way of thinking about objects, subjects and relations. Serres sets up a distinction of either/or between being and relation. This distinction between being and relation quickly turns out to be unstable, which results in these strange, swerving objects/subjects that Serres names quasi-objects and quasi-subjects. The conjunction of ‘quasi’ with object and subject suggests the perpetual mobility and transfer of these deceptively stable individuals along passages of relation toward the possibility of the formation of collectives of all kinds.

Noise as the necessary soil from which meaning can emerge is an interesting idea and fits well with complexity theory notions of non-reducibility. I remain very interested in the idea that if emergence means that lower-order interactions lead to higher level properties that are not reducible, it may well be that such emergence continues up beyond our human scales. We see it in galaxies but what if we scale up beyond that? What are the larger emergent characteristics of the universe?


Transhuman, Cylon, Progress

This post on the term transhuman sparked further thoughts about what constitutes human progress. Whether technophobe or technophile, our collective habits reveal our vote for technology as a means of progress. Remembering when our cell phones were the size of suitcases, we marvel at the elegant digital dance of our iPhones and BlackBerries. We have learned to vote for the party in power - science in this case - and welcome the seduction of Moore's Law and all it implies.

Our ability to measure the progress of our social fabric is less clear and thus it is more difficult to establish real progress. Some question the larger framing that definitive progress requires. Others point out that we have made great gains and it's hard to disagree when cases of enlightened governance are compared with previous oppressions. But a larger measure social fabric strength is not easy to establish.

Computers didn't exist a couple-hundred years ago so the fact that we have them is proof of technological gains. The human ills that beset us today have a much more persistent history. In the case of Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons demonstrate one vision of transhuman development that isn't exactly benign. Our own abilities to enact injustices of all kinds reveal that our own lesser augmentations have, in a similar way, failed to change the some of deeply engrained habits.

Serres has a lot to say about technology and human social inequalities. Are we making progress?


Post-Traumatic Urbanism

Here's a lengthy blog post from Post-Traumatic Urbanism that will likely be of interest to Serres readers. The post explores architecture, breakdown, and reflections on what might be done in our current context. The urban design themes lend themselves well to further discussion.


Five Senses - English Translation

This new Continuum translation hasn't been released at Amazon.ca (Canada) yet but Peter Jones from the UK pointed it out as something that will likely be of interest to Serres readers. It is available in the UK. If anyone does read it and wants to post some comments on the translation or the ideas covered, I would be happy to post something here. The UK site provides this overview:
This book represents a defining break in Michel Serres' work, leaving behind traditional philosophy to explore the history and culture of science. Marginalized by the scientific age with its metaphysical and philosophical systems, the lessons of the senses have been overtaken by the dominance of language and the information revolution.

An Interesting Use of The Parasite

The ideas of noise and parasitic activity in The Parasite were among the inspirations used to launch this "Neofuturist Manifesto." You might find the 50 second video, if not profound, then at least brief. I kind of got what they were going for but then it ends and you are left going, "Huh...interesting..." What did you think of it? I didn't embed it so you can travel there of your own free will.


Maria Assad - Book on sale

I happened on this Target sale of Reading With Michel Serres: Encounters With Time. It's a great book and may be of interest to those of you who haven't read it. My only sadness is that Maria is retired. It seems a bit strange to see a Serres book offered through Target.