Reblog: So you want to read Michel Serres? Start here — Christopher Watkin

Very useful and interesting set of resources on Christopher Watkin’s blog. His book MICHEL SERRES: A CRITICAL INTRODUCTION, published by Edinburgh University Press, is due to come out 31/03/2020.

I recently received an email from someone wanting to get into Michel Serres’s writing in English translation, and asking where to start. Here are some thoughts, to which I hope to add over time. The suggestions of primary and secondary material below are not meant tobe exhaustive, but to provide a jumping off point for…

via So you want to read Michel Serres? Start here — Christopher Watkin

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MY WRITINGS ON MICHEL SERRES (1): Interview, Review, Meta-Ontology


1) Interview with Michel Serres This is an interview on pluralism I conducted with Michel Serres in his home in Paris in 1980. It was published in ON THE BEACH, Nos. 6 Spring 1984 and 7/8 Summer-Autumn 1985, translated into English by Ross Gibson.

Also here:

2) Articles and Reviews:

2) Review of ROME: THE FIRST BOOK OF FOUNDATIONS Michel Serres’ book ROME: THE FIRST BOOK OF FOUNDATIONS is an excellent example of a pluralist thought that enacts the pluralism that it describes. It moves from the monist mimetic violence described in the first chapter, « 1 BLACK BOX: The Trampled Multiplicity », to the pluralist peace of the last chapter, « 8 IN THE FIELD: The Multiplicity in Peace ». Its guiding thought is that the true foundation is not the violence of tragedy, but the peace of multiplicities.

Also here:

3) Meta-ontology: PLURALIST FLEXI-ONTOLOGY (Deleuze, Lyotard, Serres, Feyerabend)

IN 1980 after spending 6 months in Paris attending Deleuze and Foucault’s seminars, and interviewing Serres and Lyotard, I returned to Sydney and gave a paper synthesising my impressions. It was published in THE FOREIGN BODIES PAPERS, 1981.

The title of the published version was not mine, but was inserted in place of my original title, which was PLURALIST FLEXI-ONTOLOGY. This title conveys my impression that these thinkers were, each in their own way, were working in the domain of ontology to elaborate not a new ontology, but a pluralist meta-ontology.

There was some discussion after, but it was mostly disappointing. I reproduce here my appended response, but I have blanked out the names of those I respond to, as they have no doubt evolved a little since then (as have I).

Also here:


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Four Accesses to the Infinite (Badiou)

Timothy Lavenz has made a very useful translation of an important passage in Alain Badiou’s THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS (Being and Event 3).

Note: I develop the significance of Badiou’s distinctions articulated here in my review of THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, see


Translation of: Alain Badiou, The Immanence of Truths, Section III, Chapter c11, parts 1-4 (out of 12)

Four accesses to the infinite

1. Objections concerning the set-theoretical concept of the infinite

I demonstrated previously that the ontology of every oppressive figure organizes itself based on an imperative of finitude. Now I launch into the counterpart of this negative observation: the aim is to establish that wherever human action liberates itself from the order that constraints it, it is a matter of an encounter with the infinite, in the figure of a work.

It is only natural to begin with what we about the infinite, a knowledge constitutive of mathematical thinking. This initial course will still be very approximative for two reasons. First, the dialectic finite/infinite is at the heart of the system [dispositif] of this entire book, and we will only see this clearly little by little…

Voir l’article original 3 806 mots de plus

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BRUTALISME by Achille Mbembe – Translation of the Publishers’ Description

Achille Mbembe, Brutalisme, Éditions de la Découverte, February 2020

Description from the publishers’ site (my translation)

« All the spheres of existence are henceforth penetrated by capital, and the ordering of human societies is effected from now on according to a single directive, that of digital computation. But as everything pushes towards an unprecedented unification of the planet, the old world of bodies and distances, of matter and extensions, of spaces and frontiers persists by metamorphosing itself.  This transformation of the horizon of calculation is paradoxically conjugated with a spectacular return of animism, which expresses itself not on the model of the cult of the ancestors, but of the cult of the self and of the objects that are our multiple doubles.

With the becoming-artificial of humanity and its counterpart, the becoming-human of machines, we are thus engaged in a sort of existential ordeal. Being is from now on only experienced as an assemblage that is indissociably human and non human. The transformation of force into the last word of the truth of being signs the entry into the last age of man, that of the fabricable being in a fabricated world. Achille Mbembe here gives this age the name of brutalism, the great iron burden of our epoch, the weight of brute materials.

The transformation of humanity into matter and energy is the ultimate project of brutalism. In articulating the monumentality and the gigantism of such a project, this essay pleads for a refoundation of the communauty of humans in solidarity with the whole of life, which nevertheless will come about only on the condition of reparing what has been shattered ».

Thanks to Progressive Geographies for calling this essay to my attention.

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SIC OMNIBUS LUCET: The Death of Logos and The Rebirth of Verbum

Here is the incipit of Pervigilium Finneganis, Adam Roberts’⁩ Latin translation of Finnegans Wake (available on amazon for the modicum of EUR 1,76 :

flumenflue, transitum Eva et Adae, declinationem ab litore ad flectere lauri, commodius ab nobis facit Houuthi vicus de castro et recirculus ad circumstant

I think it will be agreed that this Latin translation rings better than the original. It is laden with more gravitas, and more pietas. It thus has a more liturgical quality, and could be used as the basis for a revised Latin Mass.

The death of God, announced by Nietzsche, culminates logically in the death of the Logos. The transposition of this bi-faced demise into the terms of French Theory was presented as the death of the author and the death of the text.

However, as long as the actual words of the « dead » text remained the Logos itself was not dead, only dissimulated and dispersed.

Adam Roberts responded to this unfinished deconstruction by taking the most dispersed canonical text (it had to be canon, for the logos has its bastions) and replacing its actual words with their virtual Latin counterparts.

This is no mere translation but what one could call a re-verbation.

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DELEUZE AGAINST DEBATE: a dogmatic self-invalidating meme

Deleuze and Guattari are often quoted as condemning « debate » or « discussion » as incompatible with the creation of concepts.

This assertion by Deleuze and Guattari, and in other places by Deleuze in his own name, is a self-contradiction, they are debating debate, just as they critique critique.

I think it corresponds to a personal defect in Deleuze, who does not seem to have liked the confrontation with alternative viewpoints.

Of course, we all have memories of bad experiences of horrible debates that were sterile exercises in power relations between egos.However, debate is an intrinsic part of the art of creating and articulating concepts.

Deleuze reserves a way out of this impasse by definitional fiat. The « good » debates he calls « conversations » or « dialogues », and he sets out a description of how they operate.

In fact this description is also a prescription for the « good » way to discuss. As such, as a prescriptive method, it cannot be universally valid, but corresponds to only one type of experience of creativity, and perhaps does not adequately describe even it.

It also corresponds to a particular personality type, and even to a national stereotype, since Deleuze and Guattari ironise over Rorty’s and Habermas’s notion of an extended democratic conversation.

My own experience of blogging for ten years is that the world of Continental Philosophy in both English and French is unable to tolerate debate, discussion, critique, even when it is informed by a reading of the texts, by a deep consideration of the problematics, and is independent of personal career stakes.

Whatever it was meant to incite or to solve in Deleuze and Guattari’s use of it, this slogan has become the reverse. It has become an excuse for narcissistic self-obsession, mutual self-congratulatory dogmatism, and a barrier of exclusion of all those who do not think like the in-group who push their research programme, treating their ideas as sacred and inviolable.

From a Deleuzian point of view we cannot know in advance what is or is not, what will have been or not, part of the creative process. No one knows in advance how the creative process will proceed in order to stay creative.

Yes, debate can often sterilise creation, but it can also help it get out of its one-sidedness, blindness, or other impasses.

To eschew debate on principle is to shoot a hole in one of one’s creative feet, and to limp along proudly giving smug advice to others on how to become just as lame as oneself.

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