biology, daybreak, irreversibility, language, Politics, Serres

New Serres in English: Biogea from Univocal

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“Always the same. This history could make a rock cry from boredom and death. How sad that history seems when faced with the crystalline and floral diversity of things; how often human history seems monotonous in comparison to the enchanting adventures of the world.” (Michel Serres, Biogea)

The presses at Univocal have caught fire lately. This first English translation (thanks to Randolph Burks) of a major work of Michel Serres, the Biogea, thunders with the authors’ fierce ingenuity and glows with his gentle wisdom. Michel Serres always versifies, but in the rhapsodic Biogea, this spontaneous musicality becomes symphonic: stories and theories slowly develop their singular contours in high-tension counterpoint. Fabulations and memories pass into theories and critique; celestial and rapturous encomia to the Biogea flow from the most severe of warnings about a biosphere on the verge of irreversible catastrophe.

The essence of the work is profoundly multiple; the Biogea hums and resonates with both intimate and radically alien languages. In prose that openly fabulates and mythologizes, Serres gives immersive voice to a series of critical memories — cautiously re-entering the serpentine fluidity of the waters of his youth on the sea or rehearsing a terrible symphony of wind, wolves and human cries on a dangerous trek up Mount Everest — enveloping these delicate arias within elegant theoretical formulae.

Biogea is an animated, joyous, spiritual work; a new sculpture of Venus rising from chaotic seas. Serres becomes a many-tongued artist of pure mutation; our Joyce, prophet of fire for the hypertext era, here close in spirit to Deleuze. Artaud said the violent blows of Van Gogh’s brush knocked even rivers off their course; suffice perhaps to say the joyous ellipses traced in this work could not help but shift time, life, the world around us from their former trajectory. Biogea is joy: hence a future and untimely book, even a dangerous book, written in vigorous defiance of a melancholy history.

The text is highly recommended to readers of Serres, who will undoubtedly luxuriate in the glowing pages of this powerful and delicate work. For those not yet familiar with Michel Serres, it may serve as a whirlwind introduction to the most urgent themes in his later work; and since to some degree it also provides a personal-critical intellectual history of the author, it might even be recommended before other major works such as the Parasite or Troubadour of Knowledge.

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acceleration, Deleuze, machine, metaphysics, motion, Nietzsche, ontology, Serres, sign

Earth

In the duplicity of beauty there is the strange trope of a presence which is the shadow of itself, of a being which, anachronously, lurks in its own trace. (Levinas, Otherwise than Being)

Loyalty to Earth! There is a primordial immanence of the body, a primacy of lived experience; natural-and-spiritual forces are firstly constellations of singular point-signs, assembling lines of flight or death, and merely falsified (explicated at best) through signifying abstractions incapable of unleashing — and in fact devoted to nullifying — their chaoid variability. The Earth, whose infernal and howling depths unground the transcendence of organic representation, purifies the living death of abstraction through oblivion.

Consider the transcendent death-carrying agency transmitted by the sign, its inherent duplicity and danger. Signals hide virulent spiritual and natural forces beneath their opaque transparency, imperceptible and uncanny agencies strategically and fiercely engaged in combat against the tyranny of heaven.

The speech of angels would be the unvoice of the Godhead, the planetary annunciation of a regime of point-signals (logospheres) ungrounding or self-awakening. Desertification indexes fiery pathways to aridity, holey spaces desiccated by an eternal fire. Consider Heraclitus’ paradox of the inescapable proximity of  warmth and dryness: “[h]ow, from a fire that never sinks or sets, would you escape?”

For the destiny of matter is to be swept up and conjoined to a differential field of explosions, overturnings — to be thrown into a combat zone. Continue reading

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banquet, communication, epistemology, fractal, history, humanities, information, interruption, logic, matter, michel serres, narcissism, ontology, parasite, physics, power, relation, Science / Mathematics / Technology, Serres, symmetry, time, topology, turbulence

Science and Parasites: Michel Serres and the Unification of Human and Natural Sciences

Theorem: the history of science obeys the law of diminishing returns. The first attack on the narcissism of science…

Second: if we examine the set made of the problem and of the actions that transform it, there is no doubt that it is, at the beginning, more complex than the thing itself or the process. Clearer perhaps, yet more complicated. The question can then be reexamined in order to try to illuminate this new complexity and maybe, to transform it. Thus we form a set: the chain seems unending. The strategies of intervention, the interruption of the process or of the thing, observation that seeks to clarify, photon bombardment, the inseparable association of the knowers and the known–all make complexity increase, the price of which increases astronomically. A new obscurity accumulates in unexpected locations, spots that had tended towards clarity; we want to dislodge it but can only do so at ever-increasing prices and at the price of a new obscurity, blacker yet, with a deeper, darker shadow. Chase the parasite–he comes galloping back, accompanied, just like the demons of an exorcism, with a thousand like him, but more ferocious, hungrier, all bellowing, roaring, clamoring.

Have I described the elementary link of a system of knowledge or its pathology? I do not know. Anyway, it makes work, gives sustenance. One parasite drives out another. The second attack on the narcissism of scientists. The shadow brought by knowledge increases by one order of magnitude at every reflection.

Can we henceforth do without an epistemology of the parasite?

Michel Serres, The Parasite 17

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empiricism, entropy, error, French Translation, Hermes, information, information theory, mathematics, negentropy, philosophy of science, sensation, Serres, Untranslated Theory

Translation: Michel Serres and the Mathematization of Empiricism

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The following is a translation of Michel Serres’s essay “Mathematization of Empiricism.” from Hermes II: L’Interférence. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972. 195-200. Original translation by Taylor Adkins 11/03/07.

The law known as Fechner-Weber’s law can be written S = K log I, and read: sensation grows like the logarithm of the stimulus[1]. The definition of Information, in the contemporary sense, can be written I = K log P, and read: information grows like the logarithm of the number of equally probable states[2]. Can the analogy of formation result in thinking the analogy of the alleged phenomena?

1. The notion of information is used in physics and communication theory in a way independent from the sense of the message that transports it. A succession of letters forming a word deprived of sense for whomever contains an easily calculable quantity of information. This magnitude does not have any relation to knowledge, in its traditional meaning. It is independent of the sense of the message, it is it thus of the observer.

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affirmation, becoming, darkness, Deleuze, depth, guattari, horror, Negarestani, noise, pestilence, satan, Serres, unground

Warning, Hive Meltdown Imminent: Serres, Negarestani and Deleuze on Noise, Pestilence and Darkness


Four Birds Mixed media on paper (Catheryn Austen)

Openness only comes in the imperceptible recesses of infection: A faceless love. (Reza Negarestani)

Michel Serres never fails to remind us of something simple and indispensable. It is that all relationships are founded upon noise. In the beginning, there is noise, not silence. Even the simplest words arrive much later; and, at any rate, our words are still noise. The din and clamor of the many is sometimes frightful; and Serres’ work can be singularly terrifying. But Serres’ reminder is highly rational, even a joyful reconsecration of science.

Serres delights in showing us old meanings of new words, and vice versa; but it particularly to this word, noise, and its French cognate, parasite, that he gives unique expressivity and sonorousness. One of the primary meanings of noise in his work is chaos: the pure multiplicity behind things, without any pre-existing order or organization. All our knowledge is an organization of unorganized noise; noise is being-in-itself. In this context noise can also mean static, a cross-signal or lawless irruption, witnessed in the chaotic permutations introduced by chance into a flow of information, perhaps even from another physical system entirely. Static can also mean stationary, the white noise which persists even in the stillness of non-existence: in this sense noise also stands for the ever-present background noise, the racket and din of human and inhuman machines, over which it is often necessary to speak loudly in order to make oneself heard. Noise means that no system is without turbulence for very long, that there is always chaos, multiplicity and deviation; in short, there is always a parasite, always background noise, always depth and darkness beyond order and disorder. No system is an island, without relations, above the sea; but there are islands of ordered relations upon an ocean of noise. The universe is turbulence, but — and this is the strange and subtle turn — the converse is not true: turbulence is not universal, but local. It is absolute and relative at once: the violent sea becomes calm, a top falls, an earthquake ends. Still there are always larger forces, larger closed systems tumbling into chaos. Every system is an image of a system free from turbulence, an abstract or virtual composition. But reality is always chaotic, always in minimal deviation from every possible model: everything is in motion; everything falls.
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abstract machine, atomism, autopoeisis, chaos, code, complexity, Deleuze, differentiation, digital space, evolution, form, individuation, modularity, molecularity, morphogenesis, network, self-organization, Serres, speed

Machines, Morphogenesis and Complexity


Cellular automata

The harmony of the world is made manifest in Form and Number, and the heart and soul and all the poetry of Natural Philosophy are embodied in the concept of mathematical beauty. D’arcy Thompson

All organisms are modular: life always consists of sub-organisms which are involved together in a biological network. The interrelations between organ and organism form a series of feedback loops, forming a cascading and complex surface. Each organ parasites off the next, but this segmentation is not spontaneous. Rather, it is development itself, the decoupling of non-communicating spaces for the organization of divergent series. Creative evolution, self-organization and modularity are the same idea.

The theory of the development of metabolic modularity is called morphogenesis. ‘Morphogenesis’ in its literal sense means the creation of shapes or forms. But in the (relatively) narrow sense we intend it here, morphogenesis is a self-symmetry of the biological structure (onto itself) which allows it to develop in such a way as to divide while remaining unseparated, that is: to ‘individuate,’ or split apart into fused symmetrical segments.
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becoming, chaos, culture, Deleuze, desire, multiplicity, nomad, reason, Science / Mathematics / Technology, Serres, space, state, unity

Nomads: Space, Solitude, Science

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Royal science is inseparable from a “hylomorphic” model implying both a form that organizes matter, and a matter prepared for the form; it has often been shown that this schema derives less from technology or life than from a society divided into governors and governed, and later, intellectuals and manual laborers. …all matter is assigned to content, while all form passes into expression. (Gilles Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus)

The difference between state science and nomad science is practice; the difference is as great and as narrow as that between geometry and poetry. The practice intrinsic to each mode of scientific exploration is implicit in their method, in their metaphysical categories, and especially in their respective divisions of labor. Nomad thought works continually against the grain of traditional categories and conventional methods; it upsets orders of scale, imparts unusual rhythms, creates social turbulence and sometimes, if it is fortunate, gives birth to new modes of expression.

The state cannot spontaneously create scientific assemblages any more than it can create poetry; the state struggles only with its habitat, its Other, its medium, never (or only in extreme cases) with itself. And in the end, nomadic science draws the state bloodhounds to its hide-out by its exotic odors. The nomads are not only killed formally and indifferently; they are annihilated precisely for their indifference to the state formalism. Nomadic signals hijack the royal message, forge the signature of the state; such floating signals are seeds, impressions of novel forms, sparks which sometimes inspire revolutions. Conventional science is quite effective at reincorporating these signals, as it is skillful at organizing prepared matter; but minor science contraverts every state by inventing new forms of matter, and just as easily a poet dreams up novel expressions.
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