Here’s the latest evidence: He’s one of the five winners of this year’s Dan David Prize, which was announced last week by the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University. The other winners include Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, and Esther Duflo, a French economist who studies poverty in the Third World and has been active in the fight against malaria, and epidemiologist Alfred Sommer, and Sir Geoffrey Lloyd, a Cambridge historian of the philosophy of ancient Greece.
Haaretz described Michel Serres as “a French scholar whose work on the atrocities of war has helped seal his reputation as one of the greatest French philosophers living today.”
Each year, three $3 million awards are made in three dimensions: past, present and future. Serres was recognized in the present dimension under “Ideas, Public Intellectuals and Contemporary Philosophers” Wieseltier represented “the present,” too – so they’ll split the million.
Here’s what the David Prize people had to say:
Michel Serres is a French master thinker of the old school, with an intimate knowledge of the western tradition in philosophy and science, from its origins to the present, a passionate curiosity about the present and the willingness—and the ability—to enter productively into discussion of a vast range of current questions. His career began with an enormous and penetrating investigation of Leibniz’s use of mathematical models, which continues to be a standard work, and rapidly developed into a series of inquiries: into the history and nature of mathematics, epistemology, moral philosophy and humanity’s relations with the natural world.
In the great tradition of French intellectuals, Serres has analyzed scientific, philosophical and fictional texts, deftly and reaching original conclusions. He has led more recent efforts to preserve a French tradition in philosophy, concerned for moral and social questions. …
Serres is an eloquent, even seductive writer. Both in France and in the United States, where he has taught for many years at Stanford, he has been a compelling and charismatic teacher, and his lectures and publications have reached large audiences around the world. His combination of deep learning and profound thought with the desire and ability to address the public has become rare.
The award ceremony will be held at Tel Aviv University on June 9. I’m proud that I appear to have the only video interview with him in English: