Quest for Global Intuition(s): Pope Francis and Michel Serres

This special study is trying to open the possibility of plurivocal welcome between the Posthumanism (universal) Humanism of Michel Serres and the New Humanism of Pope Francis. We have discerned that their thoughts and teachings have new figures of the human and can help us build a deeper understanding of both as well as open new salubrious ways of being human in the world. To do this we have to move beyond Plato’s dichotomous method that pretends to take us from shadows to light. Serres thinks that this is an umbilical thinking. Dichotomous approach breaks apart who belongs together. Hence, we have the challenge to step out of this platonic cave because it belongs to violence. It belongs to the tribunal. it belongs to the right-wing. Serres teaches that our knowledge arises from transparency and opacity, manifestation and secrecy and not from the blinding light of Platonic sun. hence, we try to see how the universal humanism and new humanism flows into each other without reducing one into the other.

Michel Serres is said to be a thinker whose time has come. Led by the thought and method of Godfried Leibniz, he contests all umbilical thinking and umbilical disciplines. In anatomy, umbilicus is a navel fixed central point through which a foetus is fed. Discourse becomes umbilical if it claims to have privileged access to plain and unvarnished truth. Serres does not privilege any one singular approach to the truth. No one single theory can totalize truth. He embraces the possibility of plurivocal welcome of discourses uttered around it.

Knowledge produces darkness and ignorance. Serres thinks of knowledge of little pockets of lights of dancing fireflies surrounded by a little rings of shadow and blindness. He replaces Plato’s allegory of cave with his own that he borrows from Jules Verne in which Plato’s single all seeing sun becomes a play of reflection from multiple hand-held torches. We can also find a replacement of Plato’s single source/ sun in the work of Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze. Derrida and Deleuze replace Plato’s identity with difference while Serres does it by multiplying the sun and dynamic emergence.

In the work of Serres, there is no reversal of the priority of identity and difference but a move to affirm Platonic account as far as it goes, reframing it as a local instance of a system that exceeds it. This means Plato’s cave becomes one model of a more complex structure. This means to Serres knowledge is true not by virtue of vertical correspondence to a single solar paradigm but through a lateral translatability from one to another. This method seeks to federate rather than divide. Therefore, to think is not to divide or analyze but to federate and seek relations. His thought is not under the banner of cut and divide but remains under the banner of knots and folds where knowledge grows not through interminable analysis but through overlapping strands. This federating thinking is on the opposite end of the spiral of dividing and analytic thinking of Rene Descartes.

Serres follows Leibniz and takes us a combinatory approach. He federates , multiplies and pluralizes. This approach comes close to algorithm which acts less a transcendental condition of isomorphism but more as a procedural operator which generates the local instances of order without any instance of preexisting grand unity. The method of Serres enables us to bring two or more views together and let new insights emerge as a synergy. This synergy is moving, living and changing and we can also draw insight from several of its connections. This means Serres inclines his thought to propositional logic. He does not depend on defining nouns (being, difference, power) but a series of movements and relational dispositions (under, against, though, alongside). His logic does not cohere in a logic of logos but in the bodily, sensory global intuition. Global intuition comes closest to Michel Foucault regimes of truth. This means there are several global intuitions.

The global intuition is not about tracing the relations between entities, discourses and disciplines. It about relations. But relation is not a generic term that stands for all forms of relations. It also not any kind of relations. It is about certain ways of moving from place to place. Serres does not accepts relations of hierarchy. All hierarchical relations are umbilical to him. It is not a master disciple relationship that Serres is seeking . Serres also rejects the relation of subsumption that bundles a group into a class. It results into a reduction of complexity into few of its common traits. Besides, Serres embraces relations that are open, productive and inventive and not descriptive. This means relations to him are creative and generative of new ideas, approaches as well as new relations.

The inventive relations occurs through juxtaposition and conjunctive turbulence. This means the figures of relations or the figures of thought cohere into a global intuition. The levels where there is coherence and where there is no coherence, we find profound and deep insights. There is great value in the method of Serres. It moves beyond the semantic hermeneutics and arrives to productive hermeneutics. We can also trace such productive hermeneutics in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Their approach is mainly asemantic and asemiological though very open to the flows and emerging forces of desire. The work of Serres does not fully leave the shore of semantics and is deeply transversal. His method is inductive and open ended. This is why is profoundly embedded in a polylogue with humans and nature. Our quest for global intuition by dialoguing (polyloguing) the works of Pope Francis and Serres himself does promises to be deep and profounds insigts that will influence our ways of being in the world.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao