Christopher Watkin, Michel Serres: Figures of Thought – Edinburgh University Press, March 2020

Christopher Watkin, Michel Serres: Figures of Thought – Edinburgh University Press, March 2020

Great to see details of this major study, several years in the making.

The first full introduction to Serres, from The System of Leibniz (1968) to his final publications in 2019

  • The first assessment of Serres’ thought as a whole
  • Works from the original French to engage with the broadest range of Serres texts: both his translated works and his major untranslated works
  • Provides a resource for scholars in philosophy, ecology, new materialisms, literature, the history and philosophy of science and the history of ideas
  • Brings Serres into conversation with other major thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault and Jean-Luc Nancy
  • Focuses on the repeated moves that characterise Serres’ thinking, opening up his writing for scholars across disciplines and showing how his ideas can be brought to bear on new areas

Christopher Watkin provides a true overview of Serres’ thinking. Using diagrams to explain Serres’ thought, the first half of the book carefully explores Serres’ ‘global intuition’ – how he understands and engages with the world – and his ‘figures of thought’, the repeated intellectual moves that characterise his unique approach. The second half explores in detail Serres’ revolutionary contributions to the areas of language, objects and ecology.
All told, Watkin shows that Michel Serres has produced a cross-disciplinary body of work that provides a crucial and as yet under-exploited reference for current debates in post-humanism, object oriented ontology, ecological thought and the environmental humanities.

This is an exceptionally lucid, detailed introduction to the disruptive thought of Michel Serres. Gone are the classic themes of subjects and objects, agency and responsibility, and in their place Serres charts the arrival of information technologies, climate catastrophe and the morphing of the human, as radically shifting structures of what Serres calls ‘hominescence’. Christopher Watkin opens his admirable account by outlining Serres’ disagreements with Descartes and Plato, and with Serres’ adaptation of Leibnizian monadology. Rethinking space and time, language, quasi-objects and a new broad scope notion of ecology fill out an intense engagement with Serres’ powerfully enabling legacy. Both general readers and specialists are in Watkin’s debt for thus providing access to the strange new world of Serresian philosophy.

Joanna Hodge, Manchester Metropolitan University

Chris Watkin has written a marvellously lucid and accessible guide to the prodigious work of Michel Serres. Watkin takes account expertly of the whole spread of Serres’s long career and breathtakingly various oeuvre, navigating through it not by text or theme, but by ‘figures of thought’. This is a brilliant device that allows him to pay attention not just to the matter of Serres’s thought but also to its particoloured styles and textures.

Steven Connor, University of Cambridge

Update: Entitled Opinions discussion podcast on the book – thanks to dmf for this link.

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