By Michel Serres
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Extra resources for The Troubadour of Knowledge
Now then, if one follows language attentively, the term complex, coming from fold or knot, designates and even describes a situa tion that is a bit more constrained than multiplication. Dedicated only to the number, the latter cares nothing for place, whereas the term complex takes it into account. Complex designates a group of folds when it passes from arithmetic, pure counting, to topology, which has a penchant for crumpled bits of cloth. Mter all, the complex never described anything but this kind of situation, and, in physics, for example, a network, electrical or oth erwise, where numerous threads pass one over the other and some under certain others-these to the left or the right of those as much as you like-the outline of a combinatorial topology, a sys temic knot, named complex for the first time by J.
To him alone, the word center speaks of the singular and the multiple simultaneously: the latter, in its obvious spatial sense, of intersection, and the former, in its hidden linguistic roots, of reunion; the two at last, in geometry. Following the history of the sciences, language recounts that the center of the circle or that the center in general, this pure ideality, far from designating from the outset the calm site where one debates in serene, democratic equality, describes the trace left by the prod, stimulation with a distinct style, but also the stud and the whip of the rake, the site of torture and the place of the ridiculed king: geometry arrives in last place, dragging behind it this past, just as the tail of a black comet drags behind it the shinning nucleus.
No, rather a crossbred body, like a chimera. Left-handed when it comes to scis sors, the hammer, the scythe, the foil, the ball, the racket, the expressive gesture if not society-this, the body-the left-hander has never stopped belonging to the maladroit, sinister minority, as Latin has it; hurray for the Greek language, which dubs this minor ity aristocratic! But right-handed for the pen and the fork, he shakes the right hand upon being introduced-this, the soul. He is properly brought up for public life, but left-handed for caresses and private life.