Jos de Mul. The biotechnological sublime. From nature to technology and back. IAS. The Institute Letter. Spring 2013, 17.
The (bio)technological sublime: from nature to technology and back
Many things are awesome, but none more awesome than man.
Every once in a while we experience something extraordinary. Such ‘awesome’ experiences might happen in our research, when we unexpectedly discover something really amazing, or when we come across a magnificent landscape, hear a piece of music that really moves us, or when we fall deeply in love. Traditionally these kinds of extraordinary experiences are called “sublime”. In the following I will present some reflections on one particular kind of sublimity: the technological sublime.
Jos de Mul. Destiny Domesticated, or Five Not-So-Easy Ways to Tame Fate, in Frank van der Stok (ed.). Daan Paans: Letters of Utopia. Breda: The Eriskay Connection, 2013 (forthcoming).
Fate. Sooner or later it knocks at everyone’s door. In many different ways. It can enter our lives gradually in the guise of an incurable disease or spring on us suddenly in the guise of an unexpected oncoming car in our lane. It can befall us from the outside like a devastating tsunami, or loom up from within like an all-consuming jealousy. Fate can happen unintentionally, or be done to us – or another person – on purpose. It comes in the horrible guise of war and the intoxicating appeal of an addiction. It is painful when it happens to us, and often even more painful when it befalls someone we love. Without wanting it our frail happiness is continuously interrupted by fatal events. And even when we are lucky enough to avoid grand catastrophes in our lives, in the end we inevitably lose our loved ones and we, ourselves die. While fate inescapably befalls us we find it hard to bear that thought. It is a burden that we cannot carry, but that we also cannot shed.
Jos de Mul, eLife. From biology to technology and back again, in P. Bruno and S.Campbell (Eds.), The Science, Politics and Ontology of Life-Philosophy. London: Continuum, forthcoming.
One of the most striking developments in the history of the sciences over the past fifty years has been the gradual moving towards each other of biology and computer science and their increasing tendency to overlap. Two things may be held responsible for that. The first is the tempestuous development of molecular biology which followed the first adequate description, in 1953, of the structure of the double helix of the DNA, the carrier of hereditary information. Biologists therefore became increasingly interested in computer science, the science which focuses, among other things, on the question what information really is and how it is encoded and transferred. No less important was that it would have been impossible to sequence and decipher the human genome without the use of ever stronger computers. This resulted in a fundamental digitalization of biology. This phenomenon is particularly visible in molecular biology, where DNA-research increasingly moves from the analogical world of biology to the digital world of the computer.
In their turn, computer scientists have become increasingly interested in biology. One of the highly promising branches of computer science which has developed since the 1950s was the research into artificial intelligence and artificial life. Although the expectations were high – it was predicted that within some decades computers and robots would exist whose intelligence would exceed by far that of man – success remained limited to some specific areas, in spite of the spectacular development of information technologies in the past decades. It is true that, more than fifty years later, we have computers which can defeat the chess world champion, but in many areas toddlers and beetles still perform better than the most advanced computers. Top down programming of artificial intelligence and artificial life turned out to be much less simple than expected. This not only resulted in the fact that computer scientists started to study in depth the fundamental biological question what life basically is, but it also inspired them to use a bottom up approach, which consists of having computers and robots develop ‘themselves’ in accordance with biological principles.
Jos de Mul, Understanding nature. Dilthey, Plessner and biohermeneutics. In:G. D’Anna, H. Johach, E. S. Nelson, Dilthey, Anthropologie, und Geschichte. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2013, 459-478.
Wilhelm Dilthey, der Begründer der Philosophie der Geisteswissenschaften, starb am 1. Oktober 1911 in Seis am Schlern (Südtirol). Zum Gedenken an seinen 100. Todestag trafen sich Hauptvertreter der internationalen Dilthey-Forschung zu einem Symposion „Anthropologie und Geschichte“ in Meran vom 26. September bis zum 1. Oktober 2011. Mit der Titelgebung verband sich die Idee zu überprüfen, wie weit Diltheys Denken für heutige anthropologische Fragestellungen und die aus der gesellschaftlichen Globalisierung resultierenden Probleme von Diversität und Universalität fruchtbar zu machen ist.
Die Herausgeber Giuseppe D´Anna ist Professor für Philosophie an der Università degli Studi di Foggia/Italien. Helmut Johach, Dr. phil., ist Mitherausgeber von Diltheys Gesammelten Schriften, Bd. XVIII und XIX. Eric S. Nelson ist Associate Professor am Departement of Philosophy der University of Massachusetts in Lowell/USA.
In Dilthey’s Lebensphilosopie, anthropology and history are closely connected. As Dilthey himself states in an often quoted remark: »Was der Mensch sei, sagt nur die Geschichte«. However, for Dilthey history exclusively means cultural history. In order to develop a proper understanding of the historical condition of man, we should take natural history into account as well. After all, as a psycho-physical unity, Homo sapiens sapiens is the historical product of a complex interplay between both natural and cultural developments. Moreover, in the age of the life sciences, natural and cultural history seem to breach into one each other with an ever increasing tendency. Biotechnologies such as genetic modification, pathway engineering and genome transplantation transform organisms into cultural artifacts; and in the attempts to create artificial life (arguably the holy grail of synthetic biology), cultural artifacts increasingly display qualities that used to be restricted to organic life.
In the following, I will argue that Dilthey’s hermeneutics, especially his analysis of the triad Erlebnis, Ausdruck, and Verstehen, still offers a fruitful starting point for the development of a biohermeneutics that not only deals with human understanding and interpretation of human beings, (inter)actions and artefacts, but which also includes the understanding and interpretation of and by non-human agents. However, the fact that Dilthey, in his later hermeneutical writings often makes a rather dogmatic distinction between nature and culture, at first sight seems to be a serious obstacle for the development of a Dilthey-inspired biohermeneutics. For example, Dilthey explicitly denies the possibility of a human understanding of plant life: »Bedeutung oder Wert kann etwas nicht haben, von dem es kein Verstehen gibt. Ein Baum kann niemals Bedeutung haben« (GS VII, 259). The possibility of understanding or interpretation by non-human agents is not even considered by Dilthey. Despite that, I will argue that Dilthey’s later hermeneutic writings do contain some clues for the development of a biohermeneutics. I will further develop these clues with the help of the biophilosophy of Plessner and with reference to some recent developments in systems biology and neuropsychology.
Jos de Mul. Redesigning Design. In Bas van Abel, Lucas Evers, Roel Klaassen, and Peter Troxler. Open Design Now. Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive. Amsterdam: Bis Publishers, 2011, 34-39.
The title of my talk today is “Redesigning (open) design” and the subtitle reads “Applying database ontology”. Let me start explaining this title, the question I want to address this afternoon and the answer I’m going to defend. One of the themes of Picnic 2010 is Redesigning design, of which (Un)limited Words and the (Un)limited Design Awards Ceremony are also part. In the program of Picnic 2010 the theme Redesigning Design is introduced as follows: “The design industry is going through fundamental changes. Open design, downloadable design and distributed design democratize the design industry, and imply that anyone can be a designer or a producer”. The subtext of this message seems to be that open design - for reasons of brevity I will use this term as an umbrella for the aforementioned developments, thus including downloadable design and distributed design – is something intrinsically good, so that we should promote it. Though my general attitude towards open design is a positive one, I think we should keep an open eye for the obstacles and pitfalls, in order to avoid that we will throw out the (designed) baby along with the bath water.
My talk consists of three parts. First I will present a short sketch of open design. I realize that most of you will be familiar with open design, probably even more familiar than I am, but as this concept has quite some different connotations and for that reason is prone to conceptual confusion, it might be useful to illuminate this tag cloud of connotations. In this first part, I will also summarize the main objections that can be (and has been) directed against open design.
Just like the other members of the ‘open movement’, such as open source software, open science, and open technology (as we will see, especially the open biology movement is an interesting example within this context), open design is strongly connected with the development of the computer and the internet. For that reason, in order to gain a deeper insight in both the chances and the pitfalls of open design, we should study the fundamental characteristics of the digital domain. In the second part of my talk I will give a sketch of the database ontology, the ABCD of computing, that underlies the digital domain. And finally, in the third part of my talk I will investigate some of the implications of this database ontology for the world of design. I will argue that in order to develop the positive aspects of open design without falling into the pitfalls, the designer should not so much give up his activities as a designer, but rather should redesign these activities. The designer of the future has to become a database designer, a meta-designer, who does not design objects, but rather a design space in which unskilled users are able to design their objects in a user-friendly way.
约斯·德·穆尔 里斯贝思·努尔德格拉芙 《主权债务危机还是苏菲的抉择：论欧洲的悲剧、罪恶与责任》《社会科学战线》2012年第4期 [Jos de Mul and Liesbeth Noordegraaf-Eelens. The sovereign debt crisis or Sophie’s choice. On European tragedies, guilt and responsibility, Social Science Front, no.4 2012, 1-5]
[荷] 约斯·德·穆尔 1 摇里斯贝思·努尔德格拉芙 2
(1作者简介: 约斯·德·穆尔( Jos de Mul), 荷兰伊拉斯谟大学哲学系教授, 研究方向: 哲学人类学; 里斯贝思·努尔德格拉芙(Liesbeth Noordegraaf-Eelens), 伊拉斯谟大学经济系副教授, 研究方向: 哲学、经济学。郾伊拉斯谟大学哲学系, 荷兰鹿特丹3000 DR; 2郾伊拉斯谟大学经济学系, 荷兰鹿特丹3000 DR)
摇摇摘要: 2011 年, 针对金融危机, 欧洲峰会叠起, 但效果不佳。 我们应该开始在金融领域之外进行深入 思考。 文章将以希腊神话中俄狄浦斯的故事及《苏菲的选择》 为例, 阐释悲剧的意义, 从而透视欧洲危机 的深层问题。 解决欧洲危机的关键在于唤起人的责任感。 新自由主义弊端开始在欧洲显现, 当前, 迫切需 要将政治与经济联系起来, 在政治和文化的意义上定义欧洲, 而不是纠结于金融政策的改革。
关键词: 欧洲; 主权债务危机; 悲剧; 责任
中图分类号: G02摇文献标识码: A摇文章编号: 0257-0246 (2012) 04-0229-05
Geert Mul en Jos de Mul. God's browswer: the biotechnological sublime. Performance at the Next Nature Powershow. Amsterdam, Stadsschouwburg, 5 November 2011.
Philosopher and professor Jos de Mul and media artist Geert Mul set out to visualize God's Browser in a unique art-science collaboration. The result is a conceptual poem of words and an excess of images. Welcome in the technological sublime.
The Next Nature Power Show is an intellectual spectacle where artists, scientists, designers, filmmakers, politicians and philosophers present their radical ideas, visionary statements and powerful images on how to design, build and live in Next Nature: the nature caused by people.
More about the NextNature Powershow at NextNature.net
Jos de Mul, Popular culture in the age of digital recombination. Keynote lecture at the conference Aesthetics of popular culture. Organized by the Academy of Fine Arts and Design Bratislava, and the Aalto University, Finland. Bratislava, 29. November – 1. December, 2012.
Jos de Mul, New humanism. Invited lecture at the International Academic Conference “Bahuangtongshen—New Humanism · Lu Yushun” Beijing, September 9, 2012.
Lu Yushun, a notable Chinese contemporary artist of mountains-and-waters paintings, a professor and a PH.D supervisor, is the vice minister of China National Academy of Painting and the vice president of Harbin Normal University. As one of the leading characters in the field of Chinese contemporary mountains-and-waters paintings, he still keeps the tradition of attaching Chinese poems with calligraphy art and stamping his own seal to his works and, on the other hand, tries to make modernized transfer about his works. His influential series of thematically created works include "Bahuangtongshen", "The Spirit Home", "The Beautiful Landscape", "The Splendid Mountains and Waters" and "The Dream on the Other Side of the River". All these works fully elaborate the spirits of Chinese culture with a unique vision of Chinese fine art, and vividly reflect the aesthetic feature of Chinese art. Meanwhile, he combines foreign factors into his own works and creates a profound, fresh, colorful and diversified art style—Yushun style. Carrying forward the tradition and harmonizing with the modern style, Mr. Lu Yushun depicts the beautiful nature and strong affection of modern human beings with his humanistic feelings. He reveals the aesthetic features of Oriental and reflects the mysterious and profound spirits and qualities of Chinese art.
Bibi van den Berg and Jos de Mul. Remote control. Human autonomy in the age of computer-mediated agency. In: Mireille Hildebrandt and Antoinette Rouvroy (eds.) Autonomic Computing and Transformations of Human Agency. Philosophers of Law meeting Philosophers of Technology. London: Routledge, 2011, 46-63.
Jos de Mul and Bibi van den Berg contend that to a considerable extent, human action has always been ‘remote controlled’ by internal and external factors which are beyond individuals’ control. They argue that it is the reflection on such remote control a posteriori that allows for a ‘reflexive appropriation’ of these factors as our own motivators. The question they thus raise is what difference autonomic computing makes at this point and under what circumstances it will either strengthen or hinder human agency, defined in terms of ‘reflexive appropriation’.