The Department of French and Italian presents: The 2021 Michel Serres Distinguished Lecture
"On the Eternal Silence of These Infinite Spaces"
A tribute to Michel Serres by Jean-Pierre Dupuy
At once a mathematician, a philosopher, and a poet, Michel Serres was the Blaise Pascal of the 20th century. Like Pascal, he did not conceal the dread he felt before an infinite universe where “the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.” Pascal’s quest for a center was thwarted not by lack of what he sought, but by overabundance: we navigate a desacralized space in which each point is equally central and, for that very reason, none is. But that is only true of this world from which God has taken leave. Here cosmology is simply an entryway into a much broader quest: the search for something that could serve as a privileged vantage point, a center of gravity or fulcrum, an origin or reference point for human reason, history, action, and salvation. Whether their goal was mastering the world around us (Descartes), determining the place of our destiny (Pascal), or achieving universal knowledge (Leibniz), the great philosophers of the classical age all posed the question of the existence of what T. S. Eliot called a “still point of the turning world.”
How Michel Serres approached that quest will be the focus of this lecture.
Register in advance to receive the Zoom link.