Self-Organizing Life: Michel Serres and the Problem of Meaning

In Giuseppe Bianco, Charles T. Wolfe & Gertrudis Van de Vijver (eds.), Canguilhem and Continental Philosophy of Biology. Springer. pp. 209-232 (2023)
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Within continental philosophy of biology the work of Michel Serres has not received a lot of attention. Nonetheless, this chapter wants to argue that Serres was part of a group of thinkers – together with Jacques Monod and Henri Atlan – that started to think about biology in terms of second-order cybernetics and information theory. Therefore, this chapter aims to do four things. First of all, it maps the relation between Serres and Canguilhem, one that was mediated by authors such as Louis Althusser or Jacques Monod. Secondly, it fleshes out Serres’s own ‘biophilosophy’. I label this alternative tradition as a ‘biophilosophy without a subject’. Finally, this chapter explores the consequences of this alternative biophilosophy through a brief examination of two authors whose work lies in the line of this tradition: René Girard and Bruno Latour. Though at first sight different, they both draw inspiration from this biophilosophy to develop a framework that, paradoxically, ‘jumps over’ the subject. Hence, the reason why biology is neither a prominent theme in Girard’s nor in Latour’s work. This is not because of a lack of biophilosophy, but because of an implicit one: a biophilosophy without a subject.

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Massimiliano Simons
Maastricht University


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