I first crossed paths with Michel Serres in the late 90s. I was studying philosophy at that time in Copenhagen when I overheard someone speaking about a French writer and philosopher who had a “poetic style.” Shortly afterward, I found a book written by Serres called Genèse published in 1982. The volume marks a shift in his oeuvre from a more traditional academic style to a more poetical tone. For example, from Genèse onwards Serres rarely used footnotes. It was the beginning of the kind of love affair that philosophy is full of—illustrating that philosophical thinking begins with a vital force like loving friendship.
Michel Serres was born in Agen, France in 1930 and died Saturday, June 1st, 2019.
He was the son of a sailor—a path he too followed by entering the École Navale in 1949. In 1952, he began studying at Ècole Normale Supériere. Significant for a multidisciplinary thinker like Serres, he was a licentiate in three disciplines: mathematics, philosophy, and classical philology. After graduation, he returned to sea, working as a naval officer until 1958. Following this period he began teaching, and his philosophical opus began with his doctoral thesis on Leibniz in 1968. Still, the sea never left him. For example, on several occasions, he described philosophy as a journey through an archipelago, where the philosopher connects what is being separated. For a time, Serres was a professor at Stanford in the US, and in 1990, he became a member of the French Academy.
Read the rest of the essay in Erracticus.