Nowadays we measure everything from the size of stock exchange transactions to cholesterol rates, from the density of fine particles in the air to household happiness quotients. But the more society succumbs to this measuring frenzy, the less it seems to respect any sense of measure, of measuredness. As if measurements weren’t taken in order to safeguard that sense but, conversely, to obliterate it. As things now stand, we urgently need to recover from this blindness. But exhortations won’t be enough to achieve that: first we need to expose the intellectual matrix which induces the blindness – otherwise any effort to remedy our problems will be in vain and may even drive us further into the abyss.
This book aims to describe and understand how we have lost our sense of measure over the last centuries; and what we might use as a starting point for reclaiming it. Modern thinkers may mostly have ignored questions of scale and size, deeming them beneath their dignity, but the time has come to realise that size isn’t merely a parameter that we’re free to alter at will, but that it changes everything. Whether in our relationship with nature, in politics or ethics, it is vital to consider the issue of scale if we mean to lead a truly humane life and save everything from destruction..
Olivier Rey is a researcher at CNRS, a mathematician and a philosopher. He has been teaching mathematics at the École polytechnique and today teaches philosophy at the Panthéon-Sorbonne University. He is the author of several essays: Itinéraire de l’égarement: Du Rôle de la science dans l’absurdité contemporaine (Le Seuil, 2003), Une folle solitude: Le Fantasme de l’homme auto- construit (Le Seuil, 2006) and Le Testament de Melville (Gallimard, 2011). He has also written two novels, Le Bleu du sang (Flammarion, 1994) et Après la chute (PGDR, 2014).
Ce livre s’attache à décrire et comprendre par quelles voies, au cours des derniers siècles, nous avons perdu la mesure. Et aussi ce sur quoi nous pourrions nous fonder pour la retrouver, afin de mener une vie authentiquement humaine.