It was an intellectual figure popular with the public with his thoughts tinged with optimism on the education and ecology. Qualified humanist and indefatigable optimist, the philosopher Michel Serres, died Saturday, June 1 at the age of 88, announced to the AFP its publishing house, The Apple tree. “He died very peacefully at 19h surrounded by his family,” said his editor Sophie Bancquart. Writer and historian of science, fascinated in particular by the ecology and education, member of the French Academy, is interested in all forms of knowledge, scientific and literary, in anticipation of the radical changes linked to new technologies of communication.

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Author of nearly one hundred books and essays, Michel Serres was a thinker of international renown whose work multidiplicinaire had also been concerned with the epistemology of science, ecology, art and philosophy itself. Member of the French Academy, he was with Claude Levi Strauss, and René Girard (of which he will deliver the speech reception under the Dome in 2007), one of the French philosophers most widely read and most influential. In 2012 the university of Cologne had awarded him the prize Master Eckart, he was the only frenchman to get with Claude Levi Srauss.

Born September 1, 1930 in Agen, the Gascon, proud of its origins “cathar” will be a atypical for a philosopher, since it was first received in the naval School at the age of 19 years old in 1949. Michel Serres, then joined the École normale supérieure of the rue d’ulm in 1952 and has the second to the aggregation of philosophy in 1955. An officer in the French navy between 1956 and 1958 he took part in the expedition of Suez. In 1968 he obtained a doctorate of letters and published his first book The system of Leibniz and his mathematical models (PUF). Ensue several books dedicated to Hermes, god of commerce and communication which earned him a certain degree of success. In the 1970s, Michel Serres has taught at the university of Vincennes and frequent Michel Foucault, with whom he maintains a fruitful dialogue. Its masters are Leibnitz, Auguste Comte, Bergson and Georges Bachelard. Timer of some philosophers highly critical of scientific modernity, as Adorno or Heidegger that will go so far as to write that “Science does not think”, Serres is located in a decidedly contemporary feeling.

A vision of science as both positive and poetic

Far from considering that the technique disenchants the world it develops a vision of science as both positive and poetic while recognizing the dangers which we must guard in the face of the ideological use of science. And it is in some way a poet as well as philosopher, that he décloisonne the disciplines in attempting to recapture the original inspiration of Greek thought where mathematics and philosophy were inseparable. Professor of History of science at the Sorbonne since 1969 Michel Serres is a very prolific and publishes almost a book a year and sometimes two. Among his essays the best known: Aesthetics of Carpaccio (1975, Grasset) The Five senses (1985, Grasset), and Hermaphrodite (1987 Flammarion).

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“Never the consciousness of our means is not accompanied by such a concert of regret on the part of those who do not worked ever on this”

Michel Serres

Each of his books can be read as a journey and a meditation through art, literature, science and the history of philosophy. He will also write about Jules Verne and Hergé. Teacher at the Sorbonne and the university of Stanford in California, where it binds friendship with René Girard, Michel Serres was elected to the Académie française on march 29, 1990. In 1994 he became chairman of the scientific council of the Fifth launched by Jean Marie Cavada. Environmentalist, concerned about the future of the planet, he develops the idea of a “Contract natural with the earth,” and is sometimes polemicist to defend the French language threatened by English. “There are more English words on the walls of Paris than there were German words during the Occupation”, declared he. It will launch a call for “strike of the English”.

The criticism of the “Grand daddy grumpy”

During the 1990s it was subjected to criticism, in particular, two american intellectuals Sokal and Bricmont that in a book fierce, intellectual Impostures (Odile Jacob) would argue against his tendency to use scientific concepts out of context. Invited every Sunday between 2004 and 2018 on France Info in the emission of Michel Polacco, the Meaning of The info, , he develops his conception of the world with a volubility strongly optimistic, that some blame. “The lamentations of the prophets according to which we are going to lose our soul in the laboratories of biochemistry or in front of the computers agree on this high note: we were happy in our little hut! What happiness we could cure infectious diseases and the years of the great wind, the famine killed our children ; we talked about point to strangers on the other side of the creek and learned no science difficult (…) ever the awareness of our means is not accompanied by such a concert of regret on the part of those who do not worked ever on these means. A critique of those he calls “Big daddy grumpy” that it will develop, in particular in It was better before (Apple, 2017).

“what is that culture ? This allows the man of culture not to crush the person under the weight of his culture”

Michel Serres, Moral, playful

On the occasion of a speech to the French Academy in 2011, dedicated to the challenges of the education he had discussed the anthropological mutation in progress. “He or she no longer has the same body, the same life expectancy, no longer lives in the same space, no longer communicates the same way, no longer perceive the same outside world, no longer lives in the same nature born under epidural or birth programmed, it fears not even death,” he explained. This conference will inspire a book Small-thumbelina , which will be a huge success with more than 270,000 copies sold (Apple, 2012). Dans Moral mischievous, , published in 2019, he talked of his career in these terms: “What is this culture? This allows the man of culture not to crush the person under the weight of its culture. And so yes, I confess to having tossed to and fro all my life, by derision towards the hierarchies are heavy or silly and to honor the thought of the lively and free, but I also obeyed all of my life. The least possible to the big beast in social, always the things themselves. I tried never to cheat. Because to obey is to submit to the laws of things as such while cheating is to submit to the laws conventional of men around it. Everything but not this, I say, it’s better to lose than cheat.” As a man of the Renaissance that it was Michel Serres believed in the liberating power of science and the paths difficult of freedom.