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Foucault's ArchaeologyScience and Transformation$
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David Webb

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780748624218

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624218.001.0001

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Michel Serres: Mathematics, Epistemology, History

Michel Serres: Mathematics, Epistemology, History

4 Michel Serres: Mathematics, Epistemology, History
Foucault's Archaeology

David Webb

Edinburgh University Press

Michel Serres’ early work was concerned with forms of thought proper to mathematics, and with the possibility of their adoption by branches of critical thought outside the sciences. Serres describes how mathematics came to supersede the need for a separate epistemological discourse. Instead, mathematics itself took over the tasks of epistemology to become self-regulating. This leads to a problematisation of the familiar distinction between descriptive and normative forms of epistemology, such that a description of scientific practice in a given field reveals the norms that give it order, its ‘true’ objects, concepts, methods and problems; and that description may itself contribute to the formation or modification of the regularities giving that determination its force. Serres sees mathematics as what Foucault might call an analysis of actual experience, but one in which the experience is restricted to the world of numbers, algebra, sets, topological relations and so forth. It is distinctive in that the world is its own analytic; the rules that give form to experience take shape within that experience, and are not imposed from outside. This will be important when reading Foucault's account of the historical a priori as a set of conditions that are neither empirical nor transcendental.

Keywords:   Foucault, Serres, Mathematics, Epistemology

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