The following is Michel Serres’s essay “Eternal Return” in Hermes IV: Distribution. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1977. pp. 115-124. Original translation by Taylor Adkins on 10/10/07
Philosophers glorify Nietzsche for having suddenly rejoined the Greeks through their fulgurating intuition of the Eternal Return. Either from an ignorance of ethics or incomprehension of the general figure that this thesis takes in his philosophy, I reduce this to a vision of the world. Vision with the meaning of sight, and world with the sense of the world. All simply.
If time is considered in geometrical figures by optical interceptions and a mechanism of movements, the Eternal Return is cosmological. In that case, the solar system (and it only) has been calculated by Laplace. Celestial Mechanics and the Exposition of the System of the World established rigorously, for the first time, the mechanical invariability of the large axes for the planetary orbits. The stars turn forever. This eternal return reduces the world to the exclusion of the universe, and reduces mechanism to the exclusion of other sciences. Neither the Greeks nor the classical age ever obtained this demonstration. Conversely, the time that we consider is reversible.
If the time that one endorses is that of a formation, of bodies as spheres, and with which one tries to surpass mechanical reversibility, then, if there is return, it is cosmogonic. However, cosmogony enters science little by little around the middle of the 18th century, with Thomas Wright and Buffon. If Laplace has erased the latter in the seventh note of the Exposition, the former has inspired Kant. Natural History and the Theory of the Sky marks the appearance of the Eternal Return in scientific cosmogony.