Time is Folded: The Passing of Michel Serres

 Photo credit Joël Saget, AFP | The philosopher Michel Serres, photographed on February 2, 2018, in Paris. Site link.

June 1, 2019.

The death of Michel Serres is a passing of note. I never had a chance to meet him, only getting as close as a visit to his office at Stanford one summer. He was not there and I startled a working grad student as I knocked on the door. Michel Serres's influence on me, however, has been significant.

Serres was gifted with a richness of mind that some have found difficult, frustrating and even opaque. For others, however, he restored hope in what thinking and scholarship might yet be. If you didn't quite fit into the latest academic trend or fashion but happened to bump into his work, hope would begin to stir again. He reminded many of us that we are not alone.

Hope came from the possibility that you could be a maverick, not out of a contrarian or destructive spirit but through unflagging efforts to synthesize what we know, to see wisdom and understanding. This turn away from the crowd was not vandalism, it was the pursuit of integration that disciplinary boundary guards, hungry for power, found so irritating. I loved Serre's work for that instinct, so clear in his work.

One of my life goals is to reach old age with my French sufficiently developed so that I can read his works in their original voice, fluidly and with appreciation. He never wanted disciples. But I think he was very keen that we resist simplistic patterns and fashionable group thinking. He would have supported life-giving maverick thought in its many forms. Within our respective circles of work, that is an aspiration worth attending to as we mourn the passing of this great bricoleur.

I hope you will share the effect of Serres's work on your thinking, here or with those in your circles.


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


New Translation: The Birth of Physics

It is always good to get notice of a new translation of a Michel Serres book or essay. Christine Wertheim has written a great overview of the new translation. Here is part of the first paragraph:

"IN THE BEGINNING was the Word … But which word? By cultivating a deeper understanding of the sources that shape it, Michel Serres addresses this question in The Birth of Physics, recently published, in David Webb and William James Ross’s translation, by Groundworks, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield producing English translations of foundational but forgotten texts at the origins of contemporary thought."  (More...)
If you are interested in language, beginnings, the deeper primal explorations of being human (and who isn't?), then you'll find this a beneficial read.