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Alexander Grothendieck, a radical critic of science

Alexander Grothendieck, a radical critic of science

In the long-awaited publication time Harvest and sowing Written by mathematician Alexander Grothendieck (1928-2014), another timely text on an important aspect of his work, not found in Gallimar’s monumental work, fits with our era marked by the crisis of climate change.

On March 17, Les Editions du Sandre published an unscientific lecture by a mathematician, delivered at CERN in 1972, accompanied by a text from the journal Survive and live Which he co-founded and whose title was: “Shall we continue scientific research?” (104 pages, 9 euros)

At that time, for two years, the famous mathematician branched out. He quit his lab because he was receiving defense funding. The lack of support from his colleagues increases the dispute. Part of the community believes that their former colleague urges them to cease all scientific activity to avoid the destruction of mankind, when they are first asked to question the meaning of that activity, even of other ways of practicing it, as evidenced by this conference. However, he considers that he does not have to “Wasting time doing pure research” When the emergency is to survive.

Alexander Grothendieck asks a provocative question: What is the social use of science? It is immediately stated: “Hardly anyone can answer.” This silence bothers him and has led him to innovate to force his colleagues to question themselves. During each of his sporting invitations, he asks organizers to make time for discussion about the practices and their meaning.

Radical criticism of science

He continues by specifying that he did not join the camp of anti-science, but rather to radical criticism of science, in vogue at the time, enlightened especially by thinkers Jacques Ellul and Lewis Mumford. On the “radical” side, the service was introduced to 1972 listeners. “In a certain number of cases, it can be shown that it is precisely scientific activity that is the source of limitations, oppressions and tragedies.” or criticizing the separation of reason and other modes of knowledge, “We trust the hand pointers on the enamel more than we do what we feel immediately, directly.”. Or this dream of a more open science, Science no longer belongs to a class of scientists, science will be science to all. It will not be done in laboratories by some prestigious people (…)It will be done in the fields, in the gardens, at the bedside of the sick, by all those who take part in production in society, that is, in the satisfaction of our real needs, that is, in fact everyone says”. or this speculation, “Scientific research will simply stop, as something (…) It would be completely unpleasant.”.

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