Some really valuable observations by Serres on critique in Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time.
To press home my plea to dispense with judging, let me say a word about the philosophies that, seen from afar, made me run in the opposite direction– although they occupied my contemporaries, fascinating them for a long time. These are the philosophies Paul Ricoeur classified in the order or class of suspicion.
I was turned off for two reasons. For one, these philosophies took up a position like spying, like looking over the shoulder of someone with something to hide. This position immediately invokes a third person, who in turn looks over the shoulder of the second, who now is also under suspicion, and so on, ad infinitum. This argument , a renewed version of the third man, opens up a vista of ongoing cunningness, like a succession of policemen and felons. As a result, philosophy becomes like a police state; in fact, every police force requires another police force to police it. When a policing body is looking over a person’s shoulder, assessing his heart and innermost workings, are we to suppose that this policing body has neither a shoulder of its own, nor heart, nor innermost workings? This launches us into a “detective” logic. And the best detective is the one who is never interrogated, who places himself in a position beyond suspicion.
The critic’s ultimate goal is to escape all possible criticism, to be beyond criticism. He looks over everyone else’s shoulder and persuades everyone that he has no shoulder [Laurelle?]. That he has no heart. He asks all the questions so that none can be asked of him. In other words, the best policeman is the most intelligent fellow. Critical philosophy ends with Inspector Dupin, who is invulnerable to it.
Better yet, what would you call the only person who could be imagined as looking over everyone’s shoulder, without having a shoulder of his own? God. So beware of philosophies that put he who practices them in the august position of always being right, of always being the wisest, the most intelligent, and the strongest. These philosophies always and eternally come down to strategies of war. (133 – 134).