Surrationalism after Bachelard: Michel Serres and le nouveau nouvel esprit scientifique

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Abstract
The work of Michel Serres is often presented as a radical break with the work of Gaston Bachelard. The aim of this paper is to partly correct this image, by focusing on Serres’s early Hermes series (1969-1980). In these books Serres portrays himself as a follower of Bachelard, exemplarily shown in his neologism of the ‘new new scientific spirit’ (le nouveau nouvel esprit scientifique), updating Bachelard in the light of more recent scientific developments. This allows a reinterpretation of the relation between both authors, one where there is room to acknowledge how the roots of Serres’s philosophy lie not in a radical break with Bachelard, but can be partly understood as a Bachelardian criticism of Bachelard himself. This Bachelardian criticism consists in what could be called his ‘surrationalism’: the sciences do not follow the categories imposed by philosophers, but are always more flexible and open than these categories allow. Specific critiques of Serres, such as those concerning the novelty of Bachelard’s thought, the role of epistemology and finally the political dimension of science will be evaluated through a reappraisal of this Bachelardian move that underlies Serres’s criticism.
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Archival date: 2019-02-20
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2019-02-20

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