Translation from Michel Serres’s thesis on Leibniz: “we must enrich our models of thinking which are, generally speaking, lamentably poor”

Translation of Michel Serres on Bergson and Leibniz.

Christopher Watkin

At the moment I am working my way through Michel Serres’s monumental Le Système de Leibniz et ses modèles mathématiques. I am struck by how many of the ideas that have come to be thought of as characteristically Serresian are already present implicitly or (more often than not) explicitly in this 800 page doctoral thesis. If it weren’t so huge, we might think of it as the genotype which generates the phenotype of all of Serres’s subsequent writing. it holds further fascination for the Serres scholar because, constrained by the conventions of the thesis genre with its footnotes and requirement for microscopic detail, it presents us with a Serresian thought that is quite unlike any of his subsequent writing. The thesis offers an incredibly fecund incipit into Serres’s thought, fecund because it blossoms forth in multiple possibilities of thinking that we see ripen in Serres’s subsequent writing.

Here is one passage among many which I…

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