A translation (February, 2013) by Randolph Burks of the section entitled Ruisseaux from Michel Serres, Hermès IV: La distribution (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1977), 87‐111.1
The Wolf’s Game
The Wolf and the Lamb2 The reason of the stronger is always the best.3 We will show this shortly. A Lamb quenched his thirst In the current of pure waters, A fasting Wolf arrives, looking for adventure, And whom hunger draws to this place. "Who makes you so bold as to muddy my drink?" Said the animal, full of rage: "You will be punished for your temerity." "Sire," answers the Lamb, "may it please Your Majesty Not to become angry; But rather let him consider That I am quenching my thirst
1 Much of “The Wolf's Game” has already been translated and published in Hermes: Literature, Sci
ence, Philosophy, Michel Serres (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1982), 15‐28. This book doesn't specify who the translator was, but it was most likely David Bell. For an early translation of Serres, it is very good. I have retained much of his translation, only changing the places where I dis‐ agree: for instance, he translates relation d'ordre as “ordering relation” and structure d'ordre as “or‐ dered structure,” implying a possible active and passive relation that does not exist in the French text. Any further changes in the text were stylistic ones to keep in line with the translation of the new and omitted sections, in other words, to cohere with my style. Which brings me to the main reason I undertook the retranslation of this work: a significant portion of the original French text had been omitted and without any warning that this is the case, thereby obscuring the meaning. 2 I’ve included translations of the relevant fables for the English reader’s convenience, modifying them as necessary in accordance with the needs of Serres's commentary. Serres’s original text does not include the fables. All footnotes except one, which will be duly noted, are the translator’s. 3 As Serres's text will show, "La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleur" can also be understood as meaning "The reason of the stronger is always better." The phrase la raison du plus fort can be under‐ stood as “the reason of the strongest” as well.
Serres, Streams In the stream, More than twenty steps below him; And that, consequently, in no way Can I muddy his drink." "You muddy it," responded this cruel beast; "And I know that you slandered me last year." "How could I have done so, if I had not yet been born?" Responded the Lamb; "I am not yet weaned." "If it is not you, then it is your brother." "I do not have any." "Then it is one of your clan; For you hardly spare me, You, your shepherds, and your dogs. I have been told: I must avenge myself." Upon which, deep into the woods The Wolf carries him off, and then eats him, Without any other form of procès.
I. Jean de la Fontaine’s Meditation The notion of structure, insofar as it is new in the sphere of methods, has an alge‐ braic origin. It designates a set of elements whose number and nature are not speci‐ fied, a set provided with one or more operations, one or more relations which pos‐ sess well‐defined characteristics. Supposing one specifies the number or nature of the elements, the nature of the operations, then the model of said structure appears. Perhaps the simplest example is that of an order structure. It designates a set of ele‐ ments provided with an order relation. Given three points A, B, and C, aligned, given a direction defined by the arrow on line D, the order relation between these three
points, which are elements of the set, can be one of precession or one of succession. A precedes B, which precedes C. C, in turn, is the successor of B, which succeeds A. One sees immediately that no point is its own predecessor or successor: the relation is irreflexive. One also sees that if A precedes B, it is impossible for B to precede A:
the relation is antisymmetric, and lastly that if A precedes B and if B precedes C, then A precedes C: the relation is transitive. An order relation is irreflexive, anti‐ symmetric, and transitive. An order structure is a set provided with such a relation. The reader must excuse these prolegomena, which come from children’s mathemat‐ ics. We’re in the countryside, beside a stream; let’s forget all this for a moment – ex‐ cept the fable's last words: the form of the procès. This term has two meanings, at least: the judicial meaning [trial], and the etymological meaning [process]. A process envelops a precession and a succession: it is an order. Question: what here is, first of all, the form of the procès, to wit, the formality of the process? The form is a reason, a ratio, a connection, a relation. A, B, C. The wolf, the lamb, and a third: Who? Who makes you so bold? Who? Them, perhaps. They told it to me.4 "The reason of the stronger" is definitely an order relation. A cannot be stronger than itself. A's being stronger than B excludes B's being stronger than A, and if A is stronger than B, and B is stronger than C, it follows that A is stronger than C. In the set of the present animals, being stronger clearly defines an order structure. This is the first model; let’s call it biological. The whole question will soon become one of finding the strongest, he who will have no predecessor in the order, but only succes‐ sors. The better is also an order relation. A cannot be better than itself. A's being better than B excludes B's being better than A; if A is better than B and B is better than C, then A is better than C. This is the second model of the order structure; let’s call it ethical. The whole question will soon become one of passing from the relative (of the order relation) to the absolute, of finding the best, he who will no longer have any predecessor in the order, only successors. So the flowing of the transitive, the reference to the situation in the course of the process is blocked, and stability, in‐ variance is attained: always. Finally, the use of is indicates nothing other than the invariance of the models in the structure; hence there is no need for demonstration. It is obvious, it is shown, it is not demonstrated: it’s always a matter of the same process. Let there be "the current of pure waters." This is a third model, topographical this time, of the same structure. It deals with an irreversible process which can be named, point by point, by upstream and downstream. I shall no longer verify the axioms, because they’re self‐evident: no point is upstream from itself, the upstream of the upstream is still the upstream, and so forth. The wolf "whom hunger draws to this place," and not thirst, is farther up than the lamb, who drinks, in the current, "more than twenty steps below Him." At the limits, to the left and right, the source and the river mouth. In the fourth place, on an irreversible current, one can define a process of causal‐ ity. The cause precedes the effect, which succeeds the cause, without any possibility 4 On me l’a dit, which is translated in the above poem as “I have been told.” On in French refers to an
indefinite third person.
of going back up. The third model was sequential; this one is consequential: "Who makes you so bold as to muddy my drink?" Since the cause is upstream from the ef‐ fect, the lamb replies: and that, consequently, in no way can I muddy the drink. One notes a demonstration here. Demonstration by cause and effect is only one particular model of the global structural chain. The lamb demonstrates and La Fontaine shows. One shows the structural invariance by the models’ variance; one only demonstrates on one of the structure's models. Hence this idea, suited to teach us Descartes: the order of reason is only a local figure of order in general. And this result is immense. And moreover, at the limit of the process, the question of self‐causation is posed. One can construct a phenomenon on a spatial‐type sequence or on a chain of con‐ sequences. Geometry, algebra and physics are the Cartesian construct of the real. As Descartes wrote to R. P. Bourdin, the simplest of these phenomena can be seen in a basket of apples; if one of them is rotten, it diffuses rottenness around it by an irre‐ versible process. In other words, and contrary to certain cosmogonies, chaotic mix‐ ture is the successor of separation; muddiness succeeds purity. We have since learned that this is a matter of thermodynamic irreversibility. The chain of purity or separation followed by muddiness or mixture is the physical model of the order structure. For us, it is isomorphic to the relation of the stronger: maximal energy is always upstream in an irreversible process. It is always a wolf, and not a lamb, who quenches his thirst in the transparent current of a pure reason. “You muddy it,” re‐ sponded this cruel beast. Let there now be a political hierarchy, such as – let’s say – that of the XVIIth cen‐ tury. Mark two points on the drawing and name them king and subject. This is a new model of the order structure: '''Sire,' answers the Lamb, 'may it please Your Majesty not to become angry; but rather let Him consider that I am quenching my thirst in the stream more than twenty steps below Him.'" Here, precisely, is something new. It’s no longer a question of a strong individual who can find a still stronger one, of a better that can become better, an upstream that is downstream from a place, a cause which can be an effect, or a purifiable energy; it is not, in short, a question of a ma jor, but of a maximus. For there is nothing above the king. The monarchy is absolute. Is this the answer to the question posed just now? In seventh place, as Rousseau – and many others – would say, none of these chains and none of these processes can be thought without time. This is a new, chronic model of the order structure. On its current, you mark the before and the after, then you verify the axioms. "And I know that you slandered me last year." But two events block the flowing of the current: birth and death. "How could I have done so, if I had not yet been born?" If you kill me and then eat me, my time freezes and its order flees. Relative relation and absolute limits. The wolf, upstream from time, is indeed looking for adventure. The master of the future. Of death, if not birth. Let there now be the parental relation. This set is now well known. It is endowed with several order relations. Either the parent‐child relation: "I am not yet weaned," or the older child‐younger child relation: "If it is not you, then it is your brother." The latter is the elder, since it’s a question of last year. Or finally the general relation on the irreversible genealogical tree: "Then it is one of your clan." Complete models of kinship for the order structure. Finally, let there be a social organization and its roles. Mark two points on their
flow chart and call them – no joke – protector and protected. Designated in this way, the relation clearly verifies all the axioms. One thereby obtains the ninth model: "You, your shepherds, and your dogs." The procès is only a process.5 Whose global balance sheet is easy to record. An order structure, whose axiomatics are known, leafing out in several models: on the social tree, on the genealogical tree, on the tree of time and history, on the political tree, on the tree of the production of energy, of entropy and of pollution, on the tree of causes, on the hydrographic tree, on the tree of the better, the tree of good, of evil, and of knowledge, on the tree of the distribution of forces, and on a tree in general. So many trees all at once that they form a forest into which the wolf carries him off, and then eats him. The wolf carries him off. God of the Jews, you carry the day.6 The cruel God of the Jews also carries the day over me. Over me, the queen. This is not demonstrated by anterior and consequence but shown as a forest of models, as a forest of symbols. Demonstration is only one process among others: there exist philosophers for whom one tree hides the forest. Thus, the form of the procès, structure, is the sum, placed at the end of the text, of the reunion text of the models. To say: the form of the procès is almost to speak of an isomorphism. The models engender one another, starting from space, by a process of the con‐ struction of the real in the classical or Cartesian sense. Absolute Limit Order Relation Model the strongest stronger‐weaker biological the best better‐less good ethical source upstream‐downstream spatial self‐cause cause‐effect rational purity‐muddy physical king dominant‐subject political birth‐death before‐after chronic parent‐child genealogical protector‐protected social MAXIMUS MAJOR‐MINOR ORDER STRUCTURE 5 Le procès n’est qu’un processus. Again, procès may mean “trial” or “process” in this essay. 6 This line comes from Racine’s Athalia, act V, scene vi. Tu l’emporte. It can also mean “you carry him
off.” The previous sentence in Serres' text reads: Le loup l’emporte, which can also be translated as “The wolf wins” or “carries the day.”
In this way one obtains something like a space, a very general space organized by the order structure. All of the fable's model‐spaces are deducible from the very ele‐ mentary properties of the order relation. Let’s take the most general case, or the formality of the process. And let’s say that this space, organized in this way – a space in which a pair like upstream‐downstream, cause‐effect, mother‐son, etc. always ex‐ ists – is a game space. Now the process [processus] becomes a procès. What is its form? What are the rules of the game? In the sense of elementary jurisdiction, a procès first of all tries to establish a re‐ sponsibility. Let there be a wrongdoing that a plaintiff claims to have suffered: be‐ fore evaluating the vengeance, the punishment that the accused must incur, it’s nec‐ essary to show, at a minimum, the possibility of injury. The set of possibilities: physical, moral, temporal, sociopolitical, and so on. Now, possibility is always the upstream on the tree, whatever that tree might be. If an order is strict, the minorant can do nothing to the majorant, who, on the contrary, can do anything to him. Hence the fable's strategies. They are all engendered by the wolf’s first word: who? Until now we only knew two terms, defining an order in the game space: wolf and lamb. It’s necessary to de‐ fine a third one, namely that which makes the lamb so bold. Hence the rule of the game and the trial's law: the wolf plays, in the order, either the lamb or the third man upstream of himself, and the lamb plays himself downstream. The term who is a reference to the majorant. But he who majorizes is responsible and loses. The mi‐ norant wins and eats the other. Drinking, eating, dying. Hence the series of moves, in the game, according to all the order relations: you are the stronger, I am the weaker; you are upstream, I am downstream; you are the cause, I am the effect; you muddy it, I cannot muddy it; you slandered me last year, I had not yet been born; it must be your brother, I do not have any, and so on. The lamb shows, at every move, that he is absent, him or the third man, from the upper site where his adversary places him. In short, the wolf majorizes or maximizes the lamb, who minorizes or minimizes him‐ self. Everything is played upstream from the wolf: the places there are occupied or vacant. The succession of moves is nothing but the series of models. Hence the re sults of the game. Theorem I: the lamb wins. The number of moves would be quasi uncountable. There would be as many of them as there are models of the order structure. So the game would never end: it would be necessary to show at every move that the place is vacant. This is what the lamb does. But, straightaway, passing to the limit, he no longer demonstrates the place's vacancy, but rather its inexis‐ tence, and the game is over. Not only is the place vacant, but there is no place. For if the wolf is King, Sire and Majesty, he does not have a majorant. He is maximus, abso‐ lute, like absolute monarchy can be. Not only is there no third man, but it’s impossi‐ ble to conceive of one: quo nihil majus cogitari potest.7 So the lamb has won, and the wolf has no majorant. He is himself the maximum. But theorem II: the wolf carries him off nonetheless, and according to the rule of the game. He succeeds in showing 7 Cf. St. Anselm’s proof of God’s existence: than which nothing greater can be conceived. The Latin
quoted a few lines below reads: than which nothing greater can be said.
the existence of a third man, upstream from himself, in the lamb's social group. He shifts the ordered set a little, to the vicinity his adversary. This is because the shep‐ herds and the dogs, protectors of the flock, are, in reality, much stronger than the wolf and retain, upstream, the constant possibility of doing him harm. "I have been told": quo nihil majus dici potest. In the order relation, they are clearly majorants. Here is the occupied place anterior to the wolf's place. And the strongest is the shepherd. The shepherd of being and his guard dogs above the king. The fable is a perfect operative definition – perfect in that it is free from all psy‐ chologism – of hypocrisy. For the term comes from the verb to judge, to choose, to decide on the one hand, and from the prefix: below. In other words, if you want to win, play the role of the minorant. The wolf and the lamb are not characters that speak. They are the avatars or the metamorphoses of the minor and the major. I imagine that all the Fables, by the metamorphosis that they represent, function in a similar fashion. The moral of the story is, from the beginning, the euhemerist trans‐ lation of it. But the set of translations puts the moral back in its place, one link among others, and the same as the others. The structure merely organizes the game space. Without a set provided with an order relation, there would be no game. But the structure by itself is not the game. There is an arborescent space, and then active and mortal choices on the sites of the tree, whatever the tree may be. Stable structures and dialectical functioning are in‐ separable, even if they do finish by saying nothing. We must, in addition, note the circle: an element A is upstream from B. It must place B upstream from itself or a third upstream from itself in order to have the right to eat or kill the adversary. Let us, for the moment, retain the three results: or‐ der structure, fight to the death, and circularity. II. Descartes’ Fable The seventeenth century founded physics, experimental and mathematical, as well as the calculus of probability. Pascal discovered the rule of probability and gave the equilibrium of liquids; Leibniz had an acoustics, a game theory and a calculus of verisimilitude; one of the Bernoullis dealt with mechanics when he wrote his Ars Conjectandi, and so on. This simultaneity has a meaning, even though, in the detail of the demonstrations and the works, the relationships are not easily visible. I don’t know whether historians have ever described these two acts of birth by saying they were contemporaneous. Or whether they ever pondered their twinness. If we understand nature as the set of objects aimed at by the exact sciences at a given moment in history, in a synchronic state (which is a restrictive but operative definition), the emergence of physics in particular can be thought of only in the global framework of our relations to it, in the broad sense. Now, ever since Chancel‐ lor Bacon's work, these relations have been described, from the height of his social situation, by the command‐obedience couplet. One commands nature only by obey‐ ing it. A political ideology, no doubt, betrayed by the prosopopeia, which precisely implies practices of ruse and subtlety, in short, a strategy. Since nature is stronger than us, we’re forced to bend to its law, and it’s through this that we dominate it.
We’re under its orders and turn its forces back against order. This is the circle of ruse and of a fruitful hypocrisy: nature is a majorant; we try, ourselves downstream, to majorize ourselves in relation to it. Where we find again, intact, an order struc‐ ture, a game, its rules and recipe for success, the struggle to seize power, and the closed cycle outlined by these gestures. Descartes, after Bacon, inherited the precept: he calls for us to make ourselves the masters and possessors of nature. The insistence to obey has just disappeared. Baco‐ nian physics made science into a duel, a war, a struggle for domination; it gave it an agonistic model, proposing a form of ruse for it so that the weak would triumph. It transformed science into a game of strategy, with its rules and its moves. The former techniques, by scattered fits and starts [àcoups], unconnected, seem to be a local and wild tactic in which loses balanced gains, in which, most often, the misfires ex‐ ceeded the victories; hence the reasoned strategy that orders the move for move [le coup par coup] by means of a martingale.8 But the new reason is a weak reason, which loses at least the first round, because it first resigns itself to obedience. Des‐ cartes was no longer so resigned, and consequently, he did away with the loss. In the agonistic relationship of forces between ourselves and the external world, he sought the means that would permit us to win at every move [coup]. The reason of the strongest is always the best. The best Reason always gives a winning game. The foundation of modern science is in this word, “always.” Science is a game in which we always win, an infinite game with an assured win. Reason is an absolute and con‐ stant optimization. In any contest, winning is not always promised to a single competitor. The stronger, for a given move at a given moment, can later be checked when his oppo‐ nent discovers the means or obtains the power to pass upstream of him. The dichot‐ omy then appears to reverse itself; the weaker has taken the stronger's place. In fact, it’s the entire couplet which is displaced in the game space structured by the order relation. And this displacement is infinite and does not stop – as long as one remains in that very space – since it is relative. The infernal time of hierarchical struggle, the time of human misfortune. There are two, and only two, strategies that can give the finishing move to the sequence of moves. First, one stays with the dia lectical game and tries to discover a martingale in order to win, whatever the move might be: then the game is over and there is a definitive dominant. The old history and the old times of struggle stop under the insurmountable power of one of the contestants. With a maximal move, the entire game space is frozen in a singular case of order and hierarchy. It’s the end of a history. Second, one attacks with hammer blows [coups] the order structure itself that is the condition or that without which the game can neither take place nor time. This would mark the beginning of a new history. It’s rare for philosophers to take any other than the first path: finding the maximum and the minimum at the edges of the space organized by the couplet of the majorant and the minorant. As soon as this space is discovered, one can say: al ways. And it’s always the time of the wolf. Breaking the order by hammer blows 8 A martingale is any system by which one tries to make up one’s losses in previous bets by doubling
or increasing the amount bet.
would yield an unimaginable time. Something like happiness. Not blessed are the strong, blessed are the weak, but: blessed be those who live in a space not cadenced by the order relation. Look at Rousseau, for example. He repeats, after many others: the stronger is never strong enough to always be the master unless he transforms his might into right and obedience into duty. The transformation is the shift from one model to the other, in the sense given above: another move, same game. The second move is as unstable as the first: jurisprudence and ethics are relative to a cultural space orga‐ nized by the order relation. A radical and sometimes a tiny change in the order rela‐ tion is sufficient to make an entire group overthrow both its morals and its laws. We remain in the trial's game, founded on the relations of the majorant and the mino‐ rant, where the division of the stakes is delivered over to the balanced distribution of forces and to the recuperations of ruse. It’s therefore necessary to recognize as quickly as possible the infinity of moves in the relative field of the more and the less. As in the fable, one must maximize the more and minimize the less. Maximize in an absolute fashion, in such a way that there cannot exist, that one cannot conceive a majorant to the maximum and a minorant to the minimum. Transform force into factual necessity and obedience into an inevitable law. One may cut off the King's head, kill the dog, or eat the shepherd, yet one cannot do without Reason's verdicts. And this is why, after Rousseau, one no longer hesitates to speak of Science for ques tions of law, force and politics. It’s because Science has already pointed the way. Its foundation – for the pure sciences at the Hellenic dawn as well as the experimental sciences in the classical age – had taken place in an agonistic field. We wander in the first case because the second wasn’t innocent. Two dogmatisms are always back to back. I could be proved guilty of forcing the answer. And yet one can show that abstract mathematics and axiomatics owe their emergence to the Sophists' discussions and paradoxes, as well as to Plato's dialogic techniques. Agonistics is there, behind. And yet, the purest positivist cannot challenge Auguste Comte's analysis, which defines the birth of geometry (in his eyes a natural science) as a ruse or a set of ruses: to be able to measure inaccessible things, to find indirect means for man to perform that which he does not have the means to do. Which is, once again, a strategy via minor and major. And as soon as laws are written, they allow man to always have access to the inaccessible. The stability, the constancy of certitudes or precisions is conceived in the beginning as the end of a prior game. Another founding word, this one by Gali‐ leo: nature is written, it is drafted in a language; everyone is in agreement that it’s a question of a mathematical language. But this writing isn’t obvious, it’s hidden, in secrecy under the phenomenal appearance of the things. One must force open the secret, find the key to the logogriph and decode this buried writing. But, in this game of decoding or deciphering, nature defends itself. It is subtle. It is hidden. It is secret. One must therefore employ expert strategies in order to compromise its defenses. Once the key is discovered, the world surrenders its weapons. Einstein, in a well‐ known remark, rediscovered this gesture: God is subtle, but he isn’t a cheater. So there is a game, so there are rules. There must be an end of the game, in principle, when the rules are recognized; there must be no end, in fact: with every move, one wins, however many moves there may be. The isomorphic relation between force
and writing, recognized elsewhere, is renewed here. It is as well in the latest transla‐ tion to date of these aphorisms of birth, a translation given by information theory, about which I shall soon speak. Just as in Plato's work there abound traces of this factual state and for the found‐ ing of the rigorous sciences, so in the same way, Descartes' work shows such traces at the dawn of exact science, conceived, since the classical age, as the optimal rela‐ tionship of the subject to objects. I have recalled this founding phrase according to whose terms we were to have made ourselves the masters and possessors of nature. And I had translated it in terms of a game: Baconian obedience having been done away with, the project became one of always winning. Reason is optimized, it is the best, it is always invincible. From La Fontaine springs Descartes, the game, or con‐ versely – it matters little. The three elements located in the fable should then be found in the Metaphysical Meditations: a space structured by the order relation, a circle, lastly a game, its moves, its end and the winner. Two and only two have been recognized by the commentators; the third, which is nonetheless the most visible – since it concerns action – has remained hidden. I have proposed elsewhere9 a static type of solution to the problem posed by said Cartesian circle in the historical tradi‐ tion. Another solution is possible, precisely through the strategy of the game. First of all, there exists in the text an order relation, the famous order of reason, the long chain of the geometricians, such that a link A precedes B, its successor, which derives from A, its predecessor, and such that it’s impossible for A to result from B. The order of reason is therefore irreflexive, antisymmetric, and transitive, according to the axioms of the relation. Transitivity remains a constant preoccupa‐ tion with Descartes, who time and again recommends that we go over the linked set again, that we see its totality: quickly review this totality. But, as we have seen in the fable, the demonstrative (or deductive, if one wishes) sequence is only one tree in the forest of model sequences. One tree alone must not hide the forest from us. Be‐ hind the premises‐consequences couplet, or next to it, other simple couplets exist, other models of the order relation and present in the text, such as precession‐ succession, upstream‐downstream, older‐younger, and so on. Moreover, the demon‐ strative order, purely imitating the Greek geometricians, links together relation‐ ships or proportions, as is said throughout the Regulae. The geometric sequence is a series of relationships and analogies. Yet these relationships quantify very different things: relationships of size, height, ruse and power. Of sovereignty, sometimes, and slavery, since the First Meditation closes with the representation of a slave who, while sleeping, dreams that he is free. Hence an ordered space and no longer just a linear chain whose list of model‐relations would be quite long to draw up: more powerful/less powerful, better/worse, before/after, more wily/less wily, more or less true/more or less false, and so on, where the cause‐effect pair is only one par‐ ticular relation. The set of these models, and not just one of them, makes the order structure visible. This is because the word "structure" was taken by commentators in the Latin sense commonly used until the end of the nineteenth century, that is, in 9 Hermès I: La Communication (Paris: Minuit, 1968), pp. 113‐26.
the etymological sense of architecture, a sense preserved in certain romance lan‐ guages, in the sense of logical architecture. If one takes it in the sense defined above, everything changes: the order structure is common to lots of relations. One need only choose a parallel text, such as Leibniz's Meditationes, in order to understand the question clearly. These meditations are constructed by pairs, such as light‐dark, confused‐distinct, etc. aligned so that they constitute a simple filter. The order struc‐ ture being relative, the pluralist method makes it function iteratively, until it finds one or several remainders. If, with Descartes, in the Cartesian method, there was only order, and order alone, then Leibniz's text would be Cartesian. Reciprocally, Descartes' text would be Leibnizian, since it imposes a maximum and minimum strategy on an ordered space. This is exactly what happens. On the order structure considered as a game space, one can, quite precisely, construct a game. And this, again, Leibniz, at least, had seen, who accuses Descartes of staging a whole spectacle, that is to say, an action, that is to say, an action in a game. "I would… believe myself at fault, if I spent in deliberation the time that remains to me for action."10 Action: characters or prosopopeias, God, the ego, the evil genie, defined as elements oppos‐ ing one another in a regulated global strategy. In the fable, one saw, quite simply, that if the conduct of the moves remained at the level of the formal pair majorant‐ minorant, the game was endless and without a stable victor. It’s therefore necessary to put an end to it once and for all; one of the adversaries must be assured of always winning. That is possible only if one passes from the majorant to the maximum without conceivable predecessor, and from the minorant to the minimum without any imaginable successor. There is no place above the King, there is no place above the shepherd assisted by his dogs, and there is no place below the lamb. Hence the global theorem: in the Cartesian Meditations, all the moves are maximized. Hence the global interrogation: answering the question Who? Who makes you so bold, you the founder of modern science? The syntax confirms this without exception: comparatives of order, superlatives of maxima form the chain of frequency that specifies the style of the Meditations. Descartes speaks of his age: "so mature, that I could not hope for another after it, in which I could be adequate to execute [this enterprise].” Of his project: "it made me defer so long that I would henceforth believe myself at fault, if I still spent in deliberation the time that remains to me…" Optimal age, optimal time, such that there no longer remains any better. Doubt: "as much as reason persuades me already that I should no less carefully keep myself from believing in things that are not entirely certain and indubitable than in those that appear to me to be manifestly false.” Result: the universal quantifier. A constant repetition of all, always, never, abso‐ lutely, and so on. The appearance of always, the key word. "I shall always follow this 10 All quotes are from the First and Second Meditations of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy.
Serres's quotations are sometimes inexact.
path.” Quantification, up to here, has been rather vague. Observe the progression from the First Meditation to the Second: "All opinions must be rejected if I can find some reason for doubt” (universal‐particular); "it is never entirely prudent to trust those who have deceived us once" (reduction of the particular to a single case); and lastly "distancing myself from all things in which I can imagine the least doubt" (the reduc‐ tion of unicity to the minimum). This is clearly the final move. God's position, and the atheists establish the rule: "the less powerful the author they assigned to my origin will be, the more probable it is that I am so imperfect that I am always in error.” It will suffice to pass to the limit in order to invert the result, to find the quo nihil cogitari possit, sovereignly, omnipotent, veracious. As far as I know, "perfect" signifies "optimal." A global description of the procedure: "having so balanced my new and old preju‐ dices that they can not sway my opinion any more.” With the model of a simple ma‐ chine, taken up again, later, at Archimedes' point (nothing but a point, the minimum, to move the earth, maximum), one obtains the static comparison of relationships. In this space, the optimized move is precisely the Archimedian fixed point. Like an ar‐ chaic saddle point. The progression is quite the same. Speaking of the evil genie, he first said "no less wily and deceiving than powerful,” and then said in the Second Meditation "a very powerful and very wily deceiver, who employs all his energy to deceive me always.” The progression is still the same, from the comparison of relationships to the maximal relationship such that no other can exist beyond it. The strategy in relation to this genie: "I shall prepare my mind so well against all of this great deceiver's ruses, that, no matter how powerful and wily he may be, he will never be able to impose anything on me.” The final move: "let him deceive me as much as he wishes, he will never manage to turn me into nothing, as long as I think that I am something.” This doubt is called hyperbolic, without any effort being made to understand this hyperbole's function. The word must be analyzed as I have done for the fable's hypocrisy. Hypocritical ruse and hyperbolic doubt are operators to‐ tally devoid of psychologism. They are optimized moves. "My meditation of yesterday has filled my mind with so many doubts, that it is now no more in my power to forget them…" "I am so surprised, that I cannot fix my feet on the bottom or swim…" The existence of the "I," "I am," "I exist" is clearly dis‐ covered by a minimum‐maximum move; it is the minimal remainder of a maximized strategy or ruse. At the end of which, as soon as all that can in any way be disputed has been dismissed, I obtain "a more certain and more evident knowledge than all the knowledge I had earlier.” Once again, the universal quantifier is the final move in the quantification of a relationship followed to its limit. This continues without end: “can I assure that I have the least thing of all those that I just said belong to the nature of the body…?” “Is there anything in all that which is as veritable as it is certain that I am and that I exist even if I might always be sleeping…” “For it is of itself so evident that it is I who doubts, understands and de‐ sires that there is no need here of anything to explain it.” “Let us consider the things commonly judged to be the easiest of all to know… the most distinctly known…” “With how much more manifestness, distinctness and clearness must I confess that I
know myself right now…?” “There is nothing easier to know than my mind.” The fixed point is the maximum‐minimum stop for the order structure. As an exercise, one could continue to demonstrate that. The syntax is constructed entirely in this way. The process is everywhere quantified, tactics are everywhere maximized, the final move with the maximum maximorum, and even more with the quo nihil. . . . Not only is there no one in the places upstream, but there is no longer any upstream site. Giving oneself an adversary and defeating him with the help of an all‐powerful and truthful associate, God Himself. A game between two players, a game between three, in which nature disappears – burned, melted, minimized, de‐ stroyed – the wax is no longer anything but me and my soul, and I always win. God is a point without an upstream, the object a point without a downstream, and myself in the center, hence the circle; I can no longer lose at this game. Functioning like an optimized strategy game in a space structured by the order relation in general. After which everything became possible: optics and dioptics, the world and its system, medicine and everything that follows from it. In the game of truth, error has been checked and mated; in the game of domination, everything around has been reduced to slavery, including the body. Metaphysics is operatory, it is the strategic set without which physics and the exact sciences – partial and dispersed tactics – are nothing. Einstein rediscovered Descartes by turning around the parable: God is subtle, but not a cheater. Knowledge of nature is a game. Not an amusement or fu‐ tile, but dangerous to the point that someone could die playing it. Nature's secret lies in the fact that one sees only the backs of the cards, and that one must play shrewdly and carefully, the most shrewdly and carefully, in order to bring nature down and make it lay its cards down and read their faces, that is to say, mathemati‐ cally. Experimentation is a game in which the more one cheats, the less one knows (hence morals and deontology), a game one can lose and win, but in which there ex‐ ists a strategy through which winning is always assured. Hence the development of mathematics, independently of experimentation, which is neither scandalous nor so problematic: one seeks to refine strategies, ones useful against an adversary whose own strategies are assumed to be extremely shrewd. Beating the iron of the spear, while the boar stays in its wallow. And Descartes, inventing algebraic geometry, also takes up the same gesture: he imposes order structures, numbers, algebra, on non‐ ordered structures, space. Hence the solution to the problem. If physics emerged, at that time, through these prerequisites, these conditions and this model, it was inevitable that the mathemat‐ ics of games should develop at the same time. Méré, Pascal, Bernoulli and Leibniz, among others, succeeded in the two sciences and often adhered to this epistemol‐ ogy.11 Now, if the game is a combat, if it implies adversaries, rules of conduct and division of the stakes, it compels choices, leads to decisions, among a multiplicity of possibilities, it opens the sphere of chance to science. Hence the simultaneous ap‐ pearance of rigorous treatments of probability, which will, precisely and later on, be the essential part of the strongest methods of physics. Scientists have never stopped memorizing this fruitful history; I’m afraid that the philosophers might have forgot‐ 11 Méré is Antoine Gombaud.
ten it a bit. "Game," then, is not just a scientific word, it’s the model for all exact knowledge. Information theory, the daughter of physics and probabilities, has dis‐ covered this model once again. But during the classical age, it is a martial game. Des‐ cartes pursued his military calling in metaphysics. Like many philosophers. One can see here the pure algebraic perfection of the text called Fable, and the advantageous disguise, the staging, the affected fabulation of the text called Medita‐ tion. Of the literary genre as a lark mirror. Boldly generalize: every separation, parti‐ tion, fracture, where one site of knowledge is separated from another, lures clouds of pigeons, vultures and peacocks. The trench between the sciences and letters, for example. And so on. It is often said that probability theory and the art of conjecture were born, in a given economic context, from the idea of life annuities, before the large banks and companies thought of insuring against death. This is probable, although not proven by the detail of the facts. Leibniz, among many others, computed life annuities. Even supposing that one proved it, one would after all only have affirmed on one point an already established theory and which has shown itself to be fruitful. The primary idea is that of the wager, a wager that’s not very specific, since every martial game is a game to the death, a wager on death. If it’s a question of its date, you have insur‐ ance and the annuity; if it’s a question of stakes, you have Pascal’s.12 Thus the rela‐ tion of theory and practice, the relation of metaphysics to knowledge, and the rela‐ tion of this latter to domination converge at the same place, at the outcome of death. For Plato and a tradition which lasted up to the classical age, knowledge is a hunt. Putting the prey to death, to eat it, in the depths of the woods. The lamb, the boar. From extra‐specific combat to intra‐specific putting to death, knowledge now be‐ comes warlike, a martial art. So it’s more than a game; it’s, literally, a strategy. These epistemologies aren’t innocent: they call for executions, at the critical tribunal. They’re policies promulgated by the military. To know is to put to death, to relate to death, as in the case of the master and the slave. Today we live out the major results of these wolfish actions. For the "I," who played the role of the lamb, by minimizing his powers [pouvoirs] and placing the aforementioned powers [puissances] up‐ stream of him, this "I" is the wolf itself. In the order relation, in the game space, yes, the "I" is indeed in the middle, between the victorious sheepdog and the defeated devil or object. It has taken the wolf's place, its true place. The reason of the strong‐ est is reason tout court. Western man is a wolf of science.
12 The reference could be to “game” or “wager.”
The Dove’s Game
The Dove and the Ant The Lion and the Rat One should serve everyone as much as you can [autant qu’on peut]. Often, however great we be, We need the help of lesser folk than we. The proof abounds: witness my double fable. A certain rat – a bumbling sort he was – Came stumbling from his hole, only to find Himself betwixt a lion’s paws! The kingly beast was nonetheless inclined (At least this time) to do a kindly deed. He let him go; most beau the geste! Nor was it lost. Who could have guessed That one fine day a lion would need A rat to save his skin! And yet It happened that our generous liberator, Leaving his lair, got tangled in a net… He roars, he struggles… All for nought. But later, Who comes? Sire rat! He sees him, hears his cries; Nibbles one stitch [maille]; and, little wonder, Gnaws it so well, the rest comes all asunder. Patience and length of time work more than force or rage. My other tale, unlike the one above, Tells of two beasts of smallish size: a dove – The first – was drinking from a brook; An ant – the second – there as well, mistook Her distance; leaned too far; and in she fell. Were one to look one would have seen the ant Struggling against the ocean’s swirl and swell To reach the shore… Alas, she can’t. Of a generous bent, the dove at once lays out A blade of grass (so goes the story) – A veritable promontory! – Whereby the ant is saved… Now, thereabout, A certain barefoot bumpkin, sling in hand, By chance comes by; and, straightaway spying Venus’s sacred bird, he stands there, eyeing Covetously his feast… But as he planned To make said fowl his evening meal, The ant went nipping at his heel:
The churl turns his head… Dove hears, flies off… Our village sinner Watches her go, and no pigeon for a penny. [Fifty More Fables of La Fontaine, trans. Norman Shapiro (Bloomington: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 21] As much as you can [autant qu’on peut], might as well immediately say that you can’t always. Hence the displacement of the universal quantifier from time to the collective. Not always, but often; not a single person, the strongest, the best, but here everyone. When it’s a question of universal reason, a single monstration sufficed, but when the multiplicity of need is unfurled, proofs proliferate and texts abound. Why two Fables? To frame the probability, that is, the possibility of proving, at the two limits of the scale, increasing or decreasing, from the King of the beasts, the Lion, to the tiny mite, the Ant. The Animals ranged on the order structure from the royal maximum to the minimum for whom a puddle is an ocean. Proofs at the limits, the probability of the often is, thereby, optimal. On the scale in question, it’s only a question of return. Not the game of major‐ maximus, but the game of the minor. Hence a first correction to the scale: if it shows a maximum, the King, it doesn’t have a minimum. There is no smaller absolutely speaking, there is only a smaller. The mite is beneath the ant, and so on for as long as you can [autant qu’on peut]. Or the gnat, the excrement of the earth, to whom the Lion can do nothing. Hence the second Fable, in which the smaller among the smaller animals is sought. Closed at the top, the order or minorant structure is open at the bottom. It is indeed the converse and symmetrical game to the preceding Wolf’s Game. What happens at the Maximum. A smaller comes out of the ground there, and to‐ pographically that’s the essential thing. It climbs back up the order ladder and meets the King. What could this last encounter from the bottom to the top? Nothing but himself. He is running the labyrinth of forest tracks, the network of ways amid the woods. Should he leave it, he’ll find it again, above him. What can the King encoun‐ ter, from the bottom to the top? The nets, the network itself [Les rêts, le réseau soi même]. This is Leibniz, after Descartes. For the order structure remains linear for size, force, the quest for power. The structure is more complicated in the need order. It stars out, ramifies, becomes complex. You go from the line to the niche. What the Lion encounters is the network, the crossed net of the need orders. At the limits of the upstream linear order structure are the crossroads of other ordered paths. The strongest is never strong enough; the maximum of force and rage discovers the thousand and one crisscrossed constraints: the more or less long time, the more or less of patience. The strongest is not always the master; he’s mastered by time, by the suspension of desire. The order structure no longer classifies the animals in a
line, it distributes them across a network. The King is always caught in the net [filet]. A power placed there one fine day encounters a thousand other powers. And the impotences. The Rat’s solution, become lord at this point, is the very solution just announced. Not maximizing force and rage, since the maximum has no place, but to break the order structure. Gnaw it on any mesh link whatsoever so that the work, in its en‐ tirety, comes undone.13 It can then be remarked that the minor on the first line – the Rat that’s smaller than the king – is major on another line of the net – the Rat does more by its patience than the Lion by its power (saddle point). Major and minor no longer signify any‐ thing unilinear; everything resides in the intersected distribution of the network. Thus, at the Maximum, the law of laws is discovered: order structures are not in a series, but in a series of series, that is to say, in a lattice. Of course, this can only be discovered at the head of any series. At the line’s end, at the maximum, the perpen‐ dicular is discovered. You will note that the perpendicular is from statics, not ge‐ ometry: the plumb line, or the scales, and therefore, once again, justice. Distributive justice. I didn’t say perpendicular by chance. Of course, the finite path of force has en‐ countered, the oblique line, the way of patience, on which the rat, no doubt, will see those more patient than it. But, above all, the length of the clear stream is no longer counted in the order relation. There is no longer any upstream; there is no longer any downstream. Everything happens, in the Dove’s game, in width and not length. The ant, fallen for having leaned over the water, tries hard, but in vain, to regain the shore. The topographical model is perpendicular to the spatial model drawn in the Wolf’s game. The pure waters and the clear stream, transparent like Descartes’ thoughts, intersect like the referential straight lines of his space. The blade of grass, promontory and arrival path to the shore are perpendicular to the current. It’s one order that crosses another. It’s a connection. Ordo et connexio rerum.14 From the Sto‐ ics, the series of series, to Spinoza, connection. It’s therefore a mesh link, a small mesh link of the network. Two smaller animals who need a smaller animal on the small mesh link. On a single line, the idea immediately occurs to play maximum. On a network, this idea becomes absurd. For the maximum of force can encounter there the minimum of patience, rage. Conversely, the smaller can be played there, and to one’s advan‐ tage. But there is no longer any implacable law for always winning: hence the word 13 Mesh link=maille, which can also mean a stitch.
14 Order and connection of things; see Spinoza’s Ethics II, prop. 7.
“often” and this certain bumpkin who by chance had a crossbow. Playing the smaller spatially signifies moving back along said perpendicular. The ant returns to the promontory; the ant moves back. And thereby saves itself. The churl is behind the Dove, who doesn’t see or hear him. The Ant goes behind him and bites the Bumpkin on the heel. “The churl turns his head.” Along the plumb line, on the scales, everything is played behind so that equilibrium might be established. Playing the smaller, playing the minor, playing behind. Along width. Hence the framing of the text: the length of a clear stream [le long de]… the Dove hears the churl, leaves and flees long and far [tire de long]. A dimension becomes freed via the rupture of the perpendicular. The Ant bites and the Rat gnaws; they cut the mesh link of the network. The smallest mesh link suffices. This is no longer the strategy of the strongest link [maillon]. For that, thinking along the unique series is necessary. And playing the maximal. It’s the strategy of the small mesh link [maille]. For that, thinking in networks is necessary. And playing the minor. Intervening locally, behind. Calling a strike on the warehouse that’s condi‐ tional to production, however small that warehouse may be, sweeps away all work. The figure of the network distributes, disseminates, power along the intersected orders. More generally, it distributes anything. It’s a figure of exchange. Hence the necessary appearance of the pot, of the supper, of the feast. The feast that drama‐ tizes the exchange. The scales or the perpendicular are local drawings of the general network, where the gift returns as counter‐gift. Because an exchange flow along a network of the homeostatic variety returns to the departure point, and, most gener‐ ally, behind. The Dove throws a blade of grass in front of her and behind the Ant; starting from there, or upon there, everything happens behind her and in front of the Ant. In the middle of the feedback circle, the Dove is in front of the bumpkin and the Ant returns behind him. He aims from in front with his crossbow, but as he’s get‐ ting ready turns his head. The cycle is complete; the mesh link of the network is closed. The exchange is equitable. At every point of the cycle, the perpendicular scales of justice can be drawn. The rat’s small mesh link is drawn by the Ant, the bumpkin and the Dove. Exchange: no pigeon for a penny. Charity is only segmentary; its justice is integration into the cycle. The network of necessity is transformed, socially, into the network of exchange. The Dove’s game is a minor game. A strategy of behind. And which becomes cyclic along the network. It is the game of exchange: the Dove is indeed Venus’s bird. The bumpkin, without supper, only has to return home to pay homage to Mrs. Bumpkin, Aphrodite.
Ordo et connexio rerum. The laws of the passions are the laws of the stones that fall or the streams that flow. “I finally resolved to try and see if some object existed that might be a true good, capable of communicating itself, and through which the soul, renouncing all else, could be uniquely affected, a good the discovery and pos‐ session of which would have as its fruit an eternity of continual and sovereign joy… At first sight, it seemed ill‐considered to want to lose a certain thing for the sake of something that’s still uncertain… I would need to abandon the pursuit of wealth and honor… I would have to renounce their possession…”15 Playing minor, abandoning this, finding a good that communicates itself, setting up a connected universe. God is the cause of itself, God, that is to say, nature: nature is the cause of itself. Spinoza.
15 From the first page of Spinoza’s Emendations.
The Girl’s Game The Mouse Metamorphosized into a Girl
A mouse fell from an owl on high: I had not picked it up, not I; A Brahmin did though, and, which I believe, Each country thinks as they their thoughts receive. The mouse was injured by the fall. Of such a neighbour we think nought at all: But Brahmins treat him as a brother, For they have sucked it in somehow or other, That the great soul, just as it quits a king, Takes lodging in some common thing, Enters a mite, a grub, a louse, a fly, Pythagoras drew up this mystery. Ruled by his laws, the Brahmin thought He did his duty, and a conjuror sought, Begged him to lodge the mouse as lodged of old. He did so, and a wondrous nymph behold, With every charm, just turned fifteen. Paris for her had more enraptured been, And had done more than for his Grecian queen. The Brahmin, wondering at this object, said: "You that just now were but a wounded mouse, Have wounded all, 0 lovely youthful maid And you have but to choose your spouse." "I choose the strongest then," the maid replied. "0 sun!" the kneeling Brahmin quick replied, "For son-in-law I fix on thee. "No, "cried the sun," that pitchy cloud ye spy, Hides all my rags, and stronger is than I: I recommend you then my powerful shroud. "Well," cried the Brahmin to the flying cloud, "Art thou born for her?" "No, for still I find I'm chased from clime to climate by the wind! I don't pretend with Boreas to reign." The Brahmin cried with haste again: "Then come, 0 wind! and wed the fair…" He came: mountain stopped him in the air. The Brahmin next the mighty mountain tried, Who in his turn, the ball refusing, cried: "War with the rat might hence ensue, And I my folly soon might rue,
As he in time could eat me through." At sound of rat, the fair Miss Mouse Opened her ears and hailed him spouse. "A rat! a rat! such matches love has made: 0 love! we wonder at the pairs we find; Thus such a one and such in wedlock joined. But this between ourselves be said." Men of their birthplace show the trace; the tale Proves that point well, but then it seems to fail Elsewhere, and shows a little sophistry. For what spouse is not better than the Sun, If we may take it thus? and is a flea Stronger than giants, because, all said and done, It makes its dinner off them? Then the rat In logic ought to offer to the cat His fair one; he should give her to the hound, He to the wolf, and so on till the round Was come full circle, and again The fair one to the Sun was ta'en; Thus had Pilpay doubtless done, And with her young bloom fed the Sun. Again metempsychosis seems to be Proved false by this good Brahmin's sorcery. According to his system, man and mouse Receive their souls from one same treasure-house; All then are of the same stamp, though they act Diversely both in theory and fact. 'Tis owing to the organ solely then, That the mouse creeps and we're erect as men; If so, how comes it that a lovely body So highly organised did not compel The maid to wed the Sun, however warm? The reason was she loved the rat too well. Shortly, they're not the same in my advice, The souls of maidens and the souls of mice. Fixed is your portion by the laws of fate; Fleeting the forms your fancy may create. Consult the devil in a conjuror's room, 'Tis all but marching on to meet your doom. People who wish good counsel to improve, This length of cord from madmen will remove; If not, their blows your fondness soon may cure:
The fool has sold you wisdom, I am sure." [English translation by Robert Thomson. http://www.la-fontaine-chthierry.net/nine7_11.ht] One more word to verify what I am saying. The Wolf’s game, the majormaximus game, is inverted by the Dove who plays minor, who plays behind. The two algebras are not opposed or symmetrical for all that. The one is linear, along the flow of those pure waters, the other is reticulated along the net [rêts] in which the Lion is caught. You might as well say that the first one is primitive, archaic, as much as the simple is in respect to the complex. By everyone wanting to be wolves, a network is finally formed in which even the Lion gets caught. Hence the contract and everything that follows from it, Hobbes, if you like, but especially Spinoza. The grid amounts to ex‐ change, hence the metamorphic girl and the Rat that’s rediscovered by circular rea‐ soning. There is calculable progress in this. As the euhemerists would say, from bar‐ barism to civilization. But those terms don’t have any meaning. From the monodro‐ mic order structure, in which time is repetitive, to the metastability of the network, in which it stars out. Yet this progress can be indexed differently. The Lamb is quenching his thirst and the Wolf has an empty stomach. Beverages and drinks for the one – the pure waters and milk, for it suckles its mother – hunger for the cruel other, attracted by the raw, the bleeding. The latter carries the day: carries the day in the game but carries him off in his mouth by the scruff of his neck into the depths of the forest. He eats him. Drinking water, milk, eating completely raw, drinking the blood. The entire fable is oral. Bloody scraps that the devouring dogs were quarreling over between them‐ selves. Beneath the eyes, behind the back of the Shepherd. It is oral due to the final feast and the manducation, due to the previous refreshment; it is oral because they speak in it. The Wolf and the Lamb hold discourses, as in a court or a class. Rage and anger burst into words before tearing limb from limb. The first algebra is immersed in the first stage. Drinking, eating, speaking, archaisms. Order structure, maximum, predator archaisms. A lesson is worth some cheese, the mouth and the voice. Now look at the Lion. He speaks again to the gnat, who he cannot eat.16 From the bottom of his wrath, he treats him, of course, as the excrement of the earth. Anality, hence the indexation of the progress. That little runt of a gnat, let’s say it between parentheses, goes and rings victory in a spider’s web. His end in another network, in which it’s not written that the Spider eats him; that net I need for the coherence of the exposition. But let’s get back to the rat between the paws of the Lion, to the Ant, the Dove and the Bumpkin with the crossbow. Not one word is uttered, not one dis‐ course, but gestures. Sharp, rapid, lively. The King doesn’t devour the Rat, the Rat gnaws the net. Doesn’t eat, but gnaws. The network is not edible, and the tooth is an 16 SERRES’S FOOTNOTE: “The Lion and the Gnat” is the sum, with supplement, of two minor fables.
instrument. Now the Dove is drinking along clear waters. It doesn’t peck the Ant. And so, supper, cooked, flies off with her. That pot shall remain empty, and the feast is over. No pigeon for a penny: at the beginning of exchange, predatory orality is over, and archaism refused. I think the churl will have a swollen foot. It’s the Ant who knows the foot. The second algebra is immersed in the refusal of the first stage: no one eats or discourses. But as soon as a single word is said, here indeed is the second stage: excrement of the earth. On balance, the last algebra and the avatar of the mouse. Fallen from the beak of an owl who didn’t eat it. Who is the most powerful so as to marry the girl? Call the sun; it answers the cloud. Gather the thick clouds; they say the wind, who comes running, but the mountain stops him. And this latter refuses, having been pierced by the rat. He was the husband, knowing how to do this. For at his name, the young lady’s ears opened up. It was indeed the least. The husband is the ear‐piercer.17 From the king to the mite, everything is gathered for the cycle of metempsychosis. No longer the local mesh link of the network, but the entire assembly. The giant is more or less strong than the flea, which he can kill, but which bites him. Talk, bite, eat, the law is circular. Descend from the King down to the gnat. Then climb back up: from the rat to the cat, from the cat to the dog, from the dog to the wolf, and we are there. Then to the sun, to the sun King, and the fable comes full circle. This is the cir‐ cular reasoning and metastability of the network. To each his system, his soul. All souls are of the same stamp; but acting diversely, the one rises and the other crawls. No longer the algebras of the major, minor, minimum, maximum, but an amiable logic of the identical and the diverse. Leibniz. The order structure has blown up. It’s a wedding. The nuptials of a girl, who is in truth more beautiful than Helen, with he who has had her affection. And who is the sun, whatever he may be. The sunlit festi‐ val of the third stage in which the third algebra is immersed, the free one. But who comes to speak to me about three mathematics and three states, who comes to me to speak of progress, at the festival where the order relation has dis‐ solved? Here wine is wine, always different depending on the type of vine. So give the kneeling married girl something to drink.
17 Ear‐piercer=perceoreille, which means “earwig.”
A translation (February, 2013) by Randolph Burks of the section entitled Ruisseaux from Michel Serres, Hermès IV: La distribution (Paris: Éd...
Published on Jul 6, 2015
A translation (February, 2013) by Randolph Burks of the section entitled Ruisseaux from Michel Serres, Hermès IV: La distribution (Paris: Éd...