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Michel Serres: To think is to invent

Interview with the French philosopher and mathematician

The work of Michel Serres is a magnificent journey through the scientific and humanist disciplines that shape our world. According to Serres, we are nearing the end of the era in which the concentration and density led to power, constituted knowledge and constructed the state, as well as social and individual life. Serres can discern a poetics of lightness emerging in an evolutionary landscape in which the convergence of flows is moving through the old deposits of a crystallised knowledge, giving rise to new, unpredictable phenomena. Through books like Northwest Passage (1980), the French philosopher and mathematician has sought the passage connecting the exact and human sciences, noting the difficulty of the endeavour due to the resistances and prejudices of both cultures. Serres is also one of the first European thinkers to propose the idea of a “natural contract” as a way of meeting the challenge of the environmental crisis we are in the midst of. And unlike some of his intellectuals who complain about the cognitive damage caused by new technologies, in Thumbelina (2014) Serres defends the “reversal of the presumption of incompetence” in digital natives, and predicts a reinvention of the ways in which we know and inhabit the world.

We interviewed Michel Serres on his visit to Barcelona to present his book Figuras del Pensamiento (Gedisa, 2016), a charming and rigorous intellectual autobiography that sums up the adventure of thinking: in other words, of “seeing big”. To think is to invent, says Serres. Everything else can be considered preparation, but you soon fall into repetition, plagiarism, and servitude. It’s better to forget that domination, that format, and to make it lighter, innovate.

14 June 2016