Michel Serres: “Temps des crises”

I just finished reading Michel Serres‘ book Temps des crises (Paris: Le Pommier, 2009, 79 pp.). The idea that struck me most and that seems to me to be really helpful in the context of today’s planetary environmental crisis suggests to allow beings on our planet – air, water, energy, earth, living beings (Serres calls this “Biogée”, a French word, for which, as yet, I have no translation) – to constitute a kind of parliament – called WAFEL (Water, Air, Fire, Earth, Life) with voices that can address with us, human beings, today’s challenges. Nature becomes a subject with a voice, a conversation partner. Of course, the question has to be raised how we, human beings, are going to be able to listen to these voices. Not our politicians, nor our economists, provide the capacity to listen. Here, Serres emphasizes the role of scientists. I like these ideas and suggestions, as they initiate a new kind of epistemology and philosophy. I think also the religions should learn from these ideas, so as to acquire a more humble attitude towards nature as creation and so as to be rescued from their all too narrow focus on the human being. I will continue to read Michel Serres … He has written a lot, and some of it is even available in English.  I also signal a blog devoted to his thought.

I allow myself one quote from Temps des crises, as an appetizer for those who read French. It is taken from p. 51 of the book:

“Je viens de proposer la création d’une institution non internationale mais mondiale, où l’air et l’eau, l’énergie et la terre, les espèces vivantes, bref, la Biogée, seraient représentés. La WAFEL serait le parlement de la Biogée. Mais qui aurait la parole en ce parlement de muets? Mieux vaudrait en discuter vite – je le fais plus loin – que s’adonner aux répétitions susdites. Sûrement pas, en tout cas, les politiques actuels, dont la désuétude se mesure à leur ignorance des paroles et des choses du monde. …”

 

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8 responses to “Michel Serres: “Temps des crises”

  1. Hi Jacques. Thanks for the mention of the Michel Serres websites. I’ve been running it for some years now. The idea was to provide a space in English for people who are interested in his work. His ideas seem to have far greater traction in France and Europe generally than they do here – though I think that his sensibilities are well worth broad consideration.

    The website is set up on a blog so that there can be interaction – I’m not posing as an expert in any regard and encourage readers to engage Serres without worrying about expertise. I’m as much interested in people connecting with each other via the site as I am that they read what is posted. You’ll see that the content of the blog is not an academic discourse on his work, though guest posts along that line are certainly welcome.

    I’ve discovered that those who read Serres are a very diverse group who live all over the world. Currently, I’m working on a paper that examines how his approach can inform a less reductive form of cultural analysis. The plan is to submit it for consideration at a Caputo conference in Syracuse this April. If you are interested, I would be happy to send a draft for comments in advance of the December 15 submission deadline.

    The role of nature in our lives and culture is changing but so many of our systems are predisposed to replicate the extraction/dominance modes of the past – you can pull the brakes on a train but stopping and changing direction won’t happen quickly. However, if the environment can provide feedback, not as a human being but as part of a complex system that responds to inputs, then we may well indeed need to understand the nature of that exchange much more effectively than has been our habit.

    My email is: ingenuityarts [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com

  2. Thank you for this comment, Milton. Michel Serres is a discovery for me, a theologian particularly interested in planetary environmental challenges. One of the issues is how to view nature as an interconnected whole, of which human beings are a part, be it a part with some special capacities. I think Michel Serres can help in articulating these ideas. At this moment, I have started reading his “Biogée”.
    I will be very happy reading a draft of your paper. My private e-mail address is jacques@jesuits.net or jacques.haers@theo.kuleuven.be .
    Jacques

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  5. Venia Dimitrakopoulou

    Biogée is not a French word but a Greek one. Its meaning is Bio for Life and gée for earth (gaia). With respect. Venia Dimitrakopoulou

    • Thank you for the observation. I agree with you, of course. I meant to say that I had no clear immediate English word available to the word “biogée” as M Serres uses it in his French text. “Biogee” might do, of course, but it sounds odd to me in English. If you have any suggestion, please do not hesitate.

  6. Hi, I am working on a PhD thesis engaging with the work of Serres and I spoke lately with the person that is currently translating Biogée into English. I suggested to use Biogea to translate Biogée in English … Best. A

  7. sorry I meant he suggested !

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