Paniek in de Polder. Polytiek in tijden van populisme

Paniek in de Polder. Polytiek in tijden van populisme

Jos de Mul. Paniek in de Polder. Polytiek in tijden van populisme. Rotterdam: Lemniscaat, februari 2017. Uitgebreide en geactualiseerde editie…

Plessner's Philosophical Anthropology. Perspectives and Prospects

Plessner's Philosophical Anthropology. Perspectives and Prospects

Jos de Mul. ( ed.), Plessner's Philosophical Anthropology. Perspectives and Prospects. Amsterdam/Chicago: Amsterdam University Press/Chicago University Press, 2014. Helmut Plessner (1892–1985)…

2017-11-25 (Trouw) Hoe ik bijna boeddhist werd

2017-11-25 (Trouw) Hoe ik bijna boeddhist werd

Jos de Mul. Hoe ik bijna boeddhist werd. Trouw. Bijlage Letter en Geest, 25 november 2017, 14-18. Het gastenverblijf van…

Destiny Domesticated. The Rebirth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Technology

Destiny Domesticated. The Rebirth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Technology

Jos de Mul. Destiny Domesticated. The Rebirth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Technology. State University of New York (SUNY)…

Horizons of Hermeneutics

Horizons of Hermeneutics

Jos de Mul. Horizons of Hermeneutics: Intercultural Hermeneutics in a Globalizing World.  Frontiers of Philosophy in China. Vol. 6, No.…


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Monday, 06 August 2012 11:29

2012/09/09 (Beijing) New Humanism

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.

Published in Lectures
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’. 

Published in Book chapters

Jos de Mul, The (Bio)technological Sublime. After Hours Conversation lecture. Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, October 2, 2012.

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In our (post)modern world it is no longer the superior forces of nature that calls forth the experience of the sublime, but rather, the superior forces of technology. However, with the transfer of power from divine nature to human technology, the ambiguous experience of the sublime also nests in the latter. In the era of converging technologies – information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and the neurosciences – it is technology itself that gains an ungeheuer character in its battle with nature. Without doubt these technologies have increased our power over nature enourmously.

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However, this does not mean that we have become gods in the sense that we have gained control over our own destiny. Rather, our relation with nature is changing:

Where technology and nature are traditionally seen as opposed to each other, they now appear to merge or even trade places. While old nature, in the sense of trees, plants, animals, atoms, or climate, is increasingly controlled and governed by man – it is turned into a cultural category –, our technological environment becomes so complex and uncontrollable, that we start to relate to it as a nature of its own.

While technology is an expression of the grandeur of the human intellect, we also increasingly experience it as a force that controls and threatens us. Technologies such as atomic power station and genetic modification, to mention just two paradigmatic examples, are Janus-faced: they reflect, at once, our hope for the benefits they may bring as well as our fear of their uncontrollable, destructive potentials.

At first sight it seems that in these cases technology completely controls and conquers nature. However, in the fast growing domain of the biotechnologies (which will probably become as important in the twenty-first century as the physical sciences were in the twentieth century), we witness a remarkable revenge of nature within technology. After all, technologies like genetic modification and synthetic biology create entities that are no longer passive manipulatable innate elements, but have, and will increasingly have, their ‘own agenda’.

A full version of this lecture will be published in the Spring 2013 issue of the Institute Letter of the IAS.

Published in Lectures
Thursday, 08 March 2012 11:44

Tragedy and repetition

Tragedy and repetition. XPONIKA AIΣΘHTIKHΣ / Annales d'esthetique / Annals for Aesthetics, Vol.46. Volume B (2011), 191-202.

Abstract  According to writers such as Nietzsche, Steiner, and Oudemans and Lardinois the tragic culture of the Greeks has become entirely alien to us. They argue that within the Christian and modern worldview there is no place for tragedy anymore. In this article it is claimed that this does not entail in any shape or form that tragic events cannot take place anymore within Christian and modern culture. In modern culture this particularly happens, with no lack of tragic irony, precisely in the domain in which we believed tragedy had been eliminated: (our interaction with) technology.

Although technological tragedies differ in many respects from classical tragedies, they also show deep continuities. Just as in the case of their classical models, the behavior of the tragic heroes of our time is characterized by miscalculation (hamartia), blindness (atè) with regard to the tragic reality and foolhardiness (hybris).Now, tragic events do not automatically raise tragic awareness. Tragedies are characterized by the fact that the tragic heroes – unlike the spectators – are unaware of the fate that is befalling them, and coming about because of them. But most tragedies also have a reversal of circumstances (peripéteia), a moment at which hopeful expectation crumbles and the hero suddenly becomes aware of his tragic position. Postmodernity is another way of saying that modern culture recognizes itself as tragic.

"In an era of heightened existential vulnerability and awareness of finitude there is a correspondingly heightened need for new contexts of human understanding. Here we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to de Mul for providing us with a superb explication of the thought of Wilhelm Dilthey, whose precocious insights into the finitude and historical contingency of human understanding promise to contribute immeasurably to the widening of its horizons."

Robert D. Stolorow, Human Studies. A Journal for Philosophy and the Social Sciences (2012) Read entire review

Also see The Tragedy of Finitude

Published in Publications
Jos de Mul. The game of life. Narrative and ludic identity formation in computer games. In: J. Goldstein and J. Raessens,Handbook of Computer Games Studies. Cambridge MA (MIT Press), 2005, 251-266.

Human identity is not a self-contained entity, hidden in the depths of our inner self, but is actively constructed in a social world with the aid of various expressions, such as social roles, rituals, clothes, music, and (life) stories. These expressions not only mediate between us and our world (referentiality) and between us and our fellow man (communicability), but also between us and ourselves (self-understanding). Consequently, changes in these mediating structures reflect changes in the relationship between us and our world, in our social relationships, and in our self-conception.

In recent decades the domain of expressions has been (massively1) extended by computer games and, as a result, we witness the emergence of a new tool for identity formation. In this chapter I shall examine the way computer games construct our identity in comparison with traditional narrative media, such as novels and movies. My investigation is primarily philosophical: it aims at a conceptual clarification of the relationship between ( playing) computer games and human identity. However, though this study is not empirical, one of its aims is to contribute to the theoretical framework for empirical research in this field. The theoretical starting point of my investigation is Ricoeur’s theory of narrative identity. I will argue that this theory provides a fruitful conceptual framework for understanding the way playing computer games construct personal identity. However, because his theory exclusively focuses on standard linguistic narratives, we will have to amend this theory in order to apply it within the domain of computer games.

I will develop the argument in three sections, starting with a short analysis of the concept of identity. Against this background, I explain Ricoeur’s theory of narrative identity and discuss some constraints that prevent its application to computer games. In the next section, after a short analysis of the concepts of play, game, and computer game, I discuss the narrative dimension of computer games and the interactive dimension that distinguish computer games fundamentally from narratives. Then I present an outline of a theory of ludic identity, and discuss the transformation in our present culture from narrative to ludic identity construction. Finally, I formulate some aspects of this transformation that are crucial for its evaluation.

Published in Book chapters
Jos de Mul. Wittgenstein 2.0: Philosophical reading and writing after the mediatic turn. In: A. Pichler & H. Hrachovec (eds.) Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Information. Proceedings of the 30th International Ludwig Wittgenstein-Symposium in Kirchberg, 200 Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society. New Series, Vol 6. Heusenstamm: Ontos Verlag, 157-183.

Wittgenstein 2.0: Philosophical reading and writing after the mediatic turn

Wir sind aufs Glatteis geraten, wo die Reibung fehlt, also die Bedingungen in gewissem Sinne ideal sind, aber wir eben deshalb auch nicht gehen können.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Glattes Eis, ein Paradies für den, der gut zu tanzen weiß.
Friedrich Nietzsche


‘Although Wittgenstein is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential philosophers of this century, there is very little agreement about the nature of his contribution. In fact, one of the most striking characteristics of the secondary literature on Wittgenstein is the overwhelming lack of agreement about what he believed and why’. These are the opening words of David Stern’s article ‘The availability of Wittgenstein’s philosophy’ in The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein (Stern 1996, 442). In his introduction to the same volume, Hans Sluga even proposes that our fascination with Wittgenstein might be ‘a function of our bewilderment over who he really is and what his works stand for’ (Sluga 1996, 1).

Published in Book chapters
Jos de Mul. The work of art in the age of digital recombination. In J. Raessens, M. Schäfer, M. v. d. Boomen, Lehmann and S. A.-S. & Lammes (eds.), Digital Material: Anchoring New Media in Daily Life and Technology. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, May 2009, 95-106.

Artists, from the prehistoric painters who engraved and painted figures on cave walls to new media artists whose work depends on computer technologies, have always used media. Media, used here in the broad sense as ‘means for presenting information’[1], are not innocent means. Ever since Kant’s Copernican revolution, we know that experience is constituted and structured by the forms of sensibility and the categories of human understanding, and after the so-called linguistic and mediatic turns in philosophy, it is generally assumed that media play a crucial role in the configuration of the human mind and experience. Media are interfaces that mediate not only between us and our world (designation), but also between us and our fellow man (communication), and between us and ourselves (self-understanding). Aesthetic experience is no exception: artistic media are interfaces that not only structure the imagination of the artist, but the work of art and the aesthetic reception as well.[2]

In this paper I aim to contribute to this reflection by analyzing the way the computer interface constitutes and structures aesthetic experience. My point of departure will be Walter Benjamin‘s ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction‘,  first published in the Zeitschrift  für Sozialforschung  in 1936. In this epochal essay Benjamin investigates how mechanical reproduction  transforms the work of art, claiming that in this ontological transformation  the cult value, which once characterized the classical work of art, has been replaced by exhibition value. The thesis I will defend in this paper is, firstly, that in the age of digital recombination, the database constitutes the ontological model of the work of art and, secondly, that in this transformation the exhibition value is being replaced by what we might call manipulation value.

Published in Book chapters
Jos de Mul. ( ed.), Plessner's Philosophical Anthropology. Perspectives and Prospects. Amsterdam/Chicago: Amsterdam University Press/Chicago University Press, 2014.

Helmut Plessner (1892–1985) was one of the founders of philosophical anthropology, and his book Levels of the Organic and Man, first published in 1928, has inspired generations of philosophers, biologists, social scientists, and humanities scholars. This volume offers the first substantial introduction to Plessner’s philosophical anthropology in English, not only setting it in context with such familiar figures as Bergson, Cassirer, and Merleau-Ponty, but also showing Plessner’s relevance to contemporary discussions in a wide variety of fields in the humanities and sciences.

September 2014 - Hardback - 156 x 234 mm - 498 pages
ISBN 978 90 8964 634 7 - e-ISBN 978 90 4852 310 8 - €119.00 / £96.00

Open Access edition 2016: free download (see attachment)


"Dieser Band ist inhaltlich von der sehr aufschlussreichen Einleitung bis zum äußerst spannenden Entwurf der 'Philosophical Anthropologt 2.0'  äußerst gelungen. Es handelt sich sowohl um einen Beitrag zur Plessner Forschung, der weit über diese hinausreicht, als auch um einen Einblick in die aktuellen Debatten der philosophische Anthropologie. De Band nimmt den Faden  der Philosophische Anthropologie Plessners auf, die sich von Anfang an als interdiziplinäres Unternehmen verstand. Nicht nu, das die Autoren aus verschiedenen Gebieten stammen, sondern Plessners Denken wird auch mit fremden Disziplinen konfrontiert. Auf diese Weise liefert dieser Band ein farbenfrohes Panorama, das dazu einlädt Pl;essner neu zu Lesen und interdisziplinär zu arbeiten."

Jahannes F.M. Schlick. Plessner 2.0? Die Philosophische Anthropologie imn Kontext der gegenwärtigen Natur- und Sozialwissenschaften. Internationales Jahrbuch für Philosophische Anthropologie. Volume 5 (2015), 279-289.

"Whether new historical developments demand revisions of, supplementations to, or merely further internal distinctions within the Plessnerian conceptual framework is an important question. A question of arguably at least equal importance is whether researchers will continue to confront new developments with the same systematic depth and breadth and with the same openness to and inventiveness about novel concepts, as Plessner did. From this perspective, Verbeek and de Mul’s “meta-eccentricity” and “poly-eccentricity” show the fecundity of Plessner’s approach as much as any limitation to it. These innovations show that new analyses of centeredness and decenteredness of various kinds, within a model of space and movement that allows for interpenetration among physical, logical, and phenomenological modes of appearance and functioning, can be built through variations—eccentric variations, perhaps—on Plessner’s initial account. [..] Further applications and developments of the Plessnerian concepts should be sought not only in scholarly and historical modes but also in constructive and experimental ones. Some of the strongest and most interesting essays in the new volume are in this genre of extension and re-invention.
The accumulated discussions of Plessner, in the nearly 100 years since the publication of Die Stufen, already include remarkably insightful and provocative work, both in sympathetic and critical modes. I think, for instance, of the discussions of Plessner in Erich Rothacker’s (1966) Philosophische Anthropologie; in many of Jürgen Habermas’s works in works by Jürgen Habermas, Herbert Schnädelbach, Hans Blumenberg, Odo Marquard, Peter Sloterdijk, and Marjorie Grene16; in Axel Honneth and Hans Joas’s (1988) Social Action and Human Nature, Roberto Esposito’s ([2002] 2011) Immunitas, and Christof Wulf’s ([2004] 2013) Anthropology: A Continental Perspective (see also, Gebauer and Wulf 2009); and now this volume. Plessner studies can become more compelling, more wide-ranging, and more eccentric, by building on a dialogue with this accumulating literature."

Phillip Honenberger. Eccentric Investigations of (Post-)Humanity. Review Essay.  Philosophy of the Social Sciences 2016, Vol. 46(1) 56–76 (for the complete review see attachment).

Published in Books
(together with V. Frissen, M. de Lange, S. Lammes & J. Raessens, eds.), Playful identities. The Ludification of Digital Media Cultures. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2015.

Digital media technologies increasingly shape how people relate to the world, to other people and to themselves. This prompts questions about present-day mediations of identity. This book explores the notion of play as a heuristic lens to look at changing media practices and identity construction. Playful media culture is analyzed far beyond its apparent manifestation in computer games. The central argument of the book is that play and games nowadays are not only appropriate metaphors to capture post-modern human identities, but also the very means by which people reflexively construct their identity.

Playful Identities presents academic research at the intersection of media theory, play and games studies, social sciences and philosophy. The book carves out a cross-disciplinary domain that connects the most recent insights from play and game studies, media research, and identity studies.

Valerie Frissen is ceo of the SIDN Fund and professor of ict & Social Change at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Sybille Lammes is associate professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick.

Michiel de Lange is a part-time lecturer New Media Studies at Utrecht University.

Jos de Mul is full professor of Philosophy of Man and Culture at the Faculty of Philosophy of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Joost Raessens is full professor of Media Theory at the Faculty of Humanities of Utrecht University.

“An illuminating study on the increasingly complexity of ludic media and technologies of the self.”
– Prof. Dr. Mathias Fuchs, Leuphana University Lüneburg

“What a brilliant, refreshing, and positively playful approach to the ludic imperative. These are the smartest, most articulate, and up-to-date essays on this subject, by the very people creating this field of study.”
– Douglas Rushkoff, author, Present Shock, Program or Be Programmed, and Playing the Future.

Thanks to a  grant from The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) this book can be downloaded for free in the OApen Library (Open Access Publishing in European Networks).

Published in Books
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