Michel Serres

Michel Serres

Michel Serres in Rennes, February 2011
Born (1930-09-01) 1 September 1930
Agen, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Alma mater École Navale
École Normale Supérieure
Era 20th-century philosophy
21st-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Continental philosophy
French epistemology[1]
Institutions Stanford University
Main interests
Philosophy of science
Notable ideas
Hermes, the messenger of the gods, as standing for the communication that takes place between science and the arts[2]

Michel Serres (born 1 September 1930) is a French philosopher and author.

Life and career

The son of a barge man, Serres entered France's naval academy, the École Navale, in 1949 and the École Normale Supérieure ("rue d'Ulm") in 1952. He aggregated in 1955, having studied philosophy. He spent the next few years as a naval officer before finally receiving his doctorate in 1968, and began teaching in Paris.

As a child, Serres witnessed firsthand the violence and devastation of war. "I was six for my first dead bodies," he told Bruno Latour.[5] These formative experiences led him consistently to eschew scholarship based upon models of war, suspicion, and criticism.

Over the next twenty years, Serres earned a reputation as a spell-binding lecturer and as the author of remarkably beautiful and enigmatic prose so reliant on the sonorities of French that it is considered practically untranslatable. He took as his subjects such diverse topics as the mythical Northwest Passage, the concept of the parasite, and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. More generally Serres is interested in developing a philosophy of science which does not rely on a metalanguage in which a single account of science is privileged and regarded as accurate. To do this he relies on the concept of translation between accounts rather than settling on one as authoritative. For this reason Serres has relied on the figure of Hermes (in his earlier works) and angels (in more recent studies) as messengers who translate (or map) back and forth between domains (i.e., between maps).

In 1990, Serres was elected to the Académie française, in recognition of his position as one of France's most prominent intellectuals. He is an influence on intellectuals such as Bruno Latour and Steven Connor. He currently serves as a Professor of French at Stanford University.[6][7]

In an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serres expressed interest in the emergence of a new political philosophy that addresses the digital context of the 21st century, "I think that out of this place of no law that is the Internet there will soon emerge a new law, completely different from that which organized our old metric space."[8]

Serres is a vocal enthusiast for freely accessible knowledge, especially Wikipedia.[9]

In 2012, Serres was awarded the Meister Eckhart Prize.


  • 1968: Le Système de Leibniz et ses modèles mathématiques, Presses universitaires de France, rééd. 1982
  • 1969: Hermès I, la communication, Éditions de Minuit, rééd. 1984
  • 1972: Hermès II, l'interférence, Éditions de Minuit,
  • 1974: Hermès III, la traduction, Éditions de Minuit,
  • 1974: Jouvences. Sur Jules Verne, Éditions de Minuit,
  • 1975: Auguste Comte. Leçons de philosophie positive, (in collaboration), tome I, Hermann
  • 1975: Esthétiques sur Carpaccio, Hermann
  • 1975: Feux et signaux de brume. Zola, Grasset, ISBN 2-246-00258-3
  • 1977: Hermès IV, La distribution, Éditions de Minuit, rééd. 1981
  • 1977: La Naissance de la physique dans le texte de Lucrèce, Éditions de Minuit,
  • 1980: Hermès V, Le passage du Nord-ouest, Éditions de Minuit, Paris
  • 1980: Le Parasite, Grasset
  • 1982: Genèse, Grasset
  • 1983: Détachement, Flammarion,
  • 1983: Rome. Le livre des fondations, Grasset,
  • 1985: Les Cinq Sens, Grasset ; rééd. Fayard, 2014
  • 1987: L'Hermaphrodite, Flammarion,
  • 1987: Statues, François Bourin,
  • 1989: Éléments d'histoire des sciences, (in collaboration), Bordas,
  • 1990: Le Contrat naturel, François Bourin, Paris (The Natural Contract (1995), University of Michigan Press (English translation by Elizabeth MacArthur and William Paulson)[10]
  • 1991: Le Tiers-instruit, François Bourin,
  • 1991: Discours de réception de Michel Serres à l'Académie française et réponse de Bertrand Poirot-Delpech, François Bourin
  • 1992: Éclaircissements, (interviews with Bruno Latour), François Bourin,
  • 1993: La Légende des Anges, Flammarion,
  • 1993: Les Origines de la géométrie, Flammarion,
  • 1994: Atlas, Julliard,
  • 1995: Éloge de la philosophie en langue française, Fayard,
  • 1997: Nouvelles du monde, Flammarion,
  • 1997: Le trésor. Dictionnaire des sciences, (in collaboration), Flammarion, Paris
  • 1997: À visage différent, (in collaboration), Hermann
  • 1999: Paysages des sciences, (in collaboration), Le Pommier,
  • 2000: Hergé, mon ami, Éditions Moulinsart
  • 2001: Hominescence, Le Pommier,
  • 2002: Variations sur le corps, Le Pommier, 1999 ; édition texte seul, Le Pommier,
  • 2002: Conversations, Jules Verne, la science et l'homme contemporain, 1re version, Revue Jules Verne 13/14, Centre international Jules-Verne, Amiens
  • 2003: L'Incandescent, Le Pommier,
  • 2003: Jules Verne, la science et l'homme contemporain, Le Pommier,
  • 2004: Rameaux, Le Pommier,
  • 2006: Récits d'humanisme, Le Pommier,
  • 2006: Petites chroniques du dimanche soir, Le Pommier,
  • 2006: L'Art des ponts : homo pontifex, Le Pommier,
  • 2007: Le Tragique et la Pitié. Discours de réception de René Girard à l'Académie française et réponse de Michel Serres, Le Pommier
  • 2007: Petites chroniques du dimanche soir 2, Le Pommier,
  • 2007: Carpaccio, les esclaves libérés, Le Pommier,
  • 2008: Le Mal propre : polluer pour s'approprier ?, Le Pommier, coll. « Manifestes »,
  • 2008: La Guerre mondiale, Le Pommier,
  • 2009: Écrivains, savants et philosophes font le tour du monde, Le Pommier, coll. « Les Essais »,
  • 2009: Temps des crises, Le Pommier, coll. « Manifestes », ISBN 978-2746505926
  • 2009: Van Cleef et Arpels, Le Temps poétique, with Franco Cologni and Jean-Claude Sabrier, Cercle d'Art, coll. « La collection »,
  • 2009: Petites chroniques du dimanche soir 3, Le Pommier,
  • 2010: Biogée, Éditions-dialogues.fr/Le Pommier,
  • 2011: Musique, Éditions Le Pommier ISBN 978-2746505452
  • 2012: Petite Poucette, Éditions Le Pommier ISBN 978-2746506053
  • 2012: Andromaque, veuve noire, Éditions de l’Herne
  • 2013: Les Temps nouveaux (coffret), Le Pommier
  • 2014: Pantopie, de Hermès à Petite Poucette (avec Martin Legros et Sven Ortoli), Le Pommier
  • 2014: Petites Chroniques du dimanche tome VI, Le Pommier
  • 2014: Yeux, Le Pommier ISBN 978-2746507791
  • 2015: Le gaucher boiteux : puissance de la pensée, Le Pommier
  • 2015: Écrivains, savants et philosophes font le tour du monde, Le Pommier
  • 2015: Du bonheur, aujourd'hui (with Michel Polacco), Le Pommier
  • 2015: Solitude. Dialogue sur l'engagement (with Jean-François Serres), Le Pommier
  • 2016: De l'impertinence, aujourd'hui (with Michel Polacco), Le Pommier


  1. Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time: Michel Serres Interviewed by Bruno Latour, University of Michigan Press, 1995, p. 8.
  2. Schrift (2006), p. 181.
  3. M. Serres, "La réforme et les sept péchés," L'Arc, 42: "Bachelard special issue" (1970).
  4. Schrift (2006), p. 180.
  5. Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time: Michel Serres Interviewed by Bruno Latour, University of Michigan Press, 1995, p. 2.
  6. Stanford faculty
  7. Stanford faculty webpage
  8. 032c.com. "MICHEL SERRES". Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  9. Quand l'académicien Michel Serres valide Wikipédia - Framablog
  10. "The Natural Contract". University of Michigan Press. Retrieved 6 March 2015.


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