Of Troubadours, Angels, and Parasites:
Reevaluating the Educational Territory in the Arts and Sciences
Through the Work of Michel Serres
Michalinos Zembylas
Michigan State University

Serres’ major interest is the parallel development of scientific, philosophical, and literary trends. In a very simplified manner, one might say that Serres runs counter to the prevalent notion of the two cultures—scientific and humanistic—between which no communication is possible. In Serres’ view ‘criticism is a generalized physics,’ and whether knowledge is written in philosophical, literary, or scientific language it nevertheless articulates a common set of problems that transcends academic disciplines and artificial boundaries. (As cited in Harari & Bell, 1982, p. xi)

Serres’ passionate skepticism and rejection of the traditional French philosophy of Critique—the rational separation between nature and culture in the line of Descartes, Marx, and Sartre (see Latour, 1988;Wesling, 1996)—have been condemned both by postmodernists and traditional empiricists. Katherine Hayles says that Serres is confused and needs a logic lesson; Luc Ferry writes that Serres is a dangerous prophet who might unite with other mystagogues, get power, and overturn the order of modernity; Jean Baudrillard, one of Serres’ fiercest critics, argues that Serres should be almost admired as a small morbid symptom of a doom to be welcomed (Wesling, 1996, p. 1999). The reactions to Serres’ work range “from admiration for a maverick thinker to incredulity, and finally to outright rejection” (Assad, 1999, p. 4).


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