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…

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…

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)…

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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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
Bruno Accarino, Jos de Mul and Hans-Peter Krüger (eds.). Internationales Jahrbuch für Philosophische Anthropologie. Band 2 / International Yearbook for Philosophical Anthropology. Volume 2. R. Becker, J. Fischer & M. Schloßberger, (eds). Philosophische Anthropologie im Aufbruch. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2010, 364 p.

Die Geschichte der Philosophischen Anthropologie beginnt 1928 mit einem Doppelschlag: Zeitgleich erscheinen Max Schelers "Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos" und Helmuth Plessners "Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch".
Bis heute wird kontrovers diskutiert, inwiefern sich beide Ansätze ergänzen bzw. in Spannung zueinander stehen. Auf der einen Seite hat das durch die Lebenswissenschaften neu gestellte Problem einer philosophischen Biologie die bei beiden Autoren zentrale Idee der psycho-physischen Indifferenz des Lebendigen in den Mittelpunkt der Aufmerksamkeit gerückt.
Auf der anderen Seite stellt sich immer noch die Frage, in welchem Verhältnis Philosophische Anthropologie und Metaphysik stehen: Hier gibt es vor allem in Hinblick auf die Konzeption des Geistes Differenzen, deren Bedeutung es herauszuarbeiten gilt. 
Neben zahlreichen Beiträgen zu diesen Fragestellungen enthält der Band ein bislang unveröffentlichtes Manuskript Max Schelers: "Das Problem der Struktur des Menschen und die sog[enannten] ‚psychophysischen Theorien’", das Anfang der 20er Jahre entstanden ist.

Published in Books
Liesbeth Noordegraaf-Eelens and Jos de Mul, The sovereign debt crisis or Sophie’s choice. On European tragedies, guilt and responsibility. Heinrich Böll Stiftung. European Union. December 21, 2011. 

Does it matter at all?

oedipusTBAThe year 2011 will probably be known for its quick succession of Euro summits. They all had a similar, tragic outline. Every summit started with good intentions: this would be the summit bringing the solution for the crisis. As a result, expectations ran sky high and financial markets lifted. As the summit came closer, expectations were moderated, ballyhooing tempered, rumors about failures spread, and possible solutions were put into doubt. During – or just before – the summit, it became clear that although some solution was to be expected, it definitely would not be the solution. For a moment markets had seemed relieved after the summits, but within a few days pessimism took over. Instead of restoring confidence the summit had further weakened it: once again it became clear that this was not the final solution; once again a new summit would be needed. Just as in Greek tragedy, every next step seems to bring us closer to the final catastrophe.

Published in Online publications
Thursday, 15 December 2011 13:49

Europe – the tragic continent

Jos de Mul. Europe - the tragic continent. Michigan Paper Series. International Institute, University of Michigan, 2008.

Jos de Mul

Two weeks ago, in his lecture in this series on Europe, Neal Ascherson asked two intriguing questions: ‘Where is Europe?’, and ‘When is Europe’. Intriguing because it turned out that these seemingly simply questions are very hard to answer. Today I want to add a third question, as simple as the other two and as difficult to answer. This question is: Whatis Europe? In a sense, we may regard this third question as the primordial one, as we can start our search for Europe in time and space only when we at least have a slight idea of whatwe are actually looking for. So the question I want to address this afternoon is: what is it that makes Europe European? And as the title of my talk already indicates, the answer I will defend today is that Europe first and foremost is a tragic continent.

Valerie Frissen en Jos de Mul. Under construction. Persoonlijke en culturele identiteit in het multimediatijdperk. Amsterdam (Infodrome), 2000, 52 p.

Vanuit verschillende wetenschappelijke disciplines is de afgelopen jaren onderzoek gedaan naar de mogelijke structurele veranderingen in de samenleving door het toenemend gebruik van ICT. Infodrome heeft afgelopen zomer een aantal wetenschappers uitgenodigd om vanuit hun eigen discipline dergelijke studies in kaart te brengen en om aan te geven wat de bevindingen betekenen voor de rol van de overheid in de informatiemaatschappij. Dit heeft geleid tot vijf overzichtsartikelen: recht, sociale psychologie, culturele sociologie, economie en genderstudies. Hieruit blijkt dat de nieuwe ontwikkelingen zeer wezenlijke vragen voor de overheid oproepen. Deze vijf studies hebben tot doel om de politiek en beleidswereld te informeren over de stand van wetenschappelijke kennis over de informatiemaatschappij en dienen tegelijkertijd als input voor het programma van Infodrome.
Uit de voorliggende studie van filosoof Jos de Mul en antropoloog Valerie Frissen blijkt dat de wijze waarop mensen en groepen in de informatiesamenleving hun identiteit construeren aan veranderingen onderhevig is. De veelheid aan informatie die via de nieuwe media wordt verspreid betekent dat identiteiten veranderlijker worden en eigenlijk altijd under construction zijn. De overheid, die inmiddels zelf in een identiteitscrisis lijkt te geraken door de afbrokkelende autoriteit van de klassieke nationale staat, staat nu voor een belangrijke keuze. Moet zij de groeiende individualisering en persoonlijke autonomie van de burger bevorderen of moet zij zich juist richten op het versterken van de sociale cohesie en een collectieve identiteit? Dit laatste lijkt van belang voor een overheid in de informatiesamenleving waarin burgers minder belang hechten aan een nationale publieke identiteit en eerder loyaal zijn aan internationale opererende organisaties, zoals Greenpeace, dan aan het land waarin ze (fysiek) wonen. ICT is in dezen niet alleen aanleiding tot versplintering, maar kan juist ook kansen bieden om collectieve vormen van identiteit te versterken en te construeren.

Bovenstaande en andere vragen over de identiteit van individuen en gemeenschappen in het digitale tijdperk worden behandeld in onderhavige sociaal-culturele studie. Infodrome hoopt hiermee uw interesse in de sociale gevolgen van ICT gewekt of versterkt te hebben. Bent u op zoek naar meer leesvoer of wilt u meediscussiëren over het onderwerp, kijkt u dan op onze website

Rick van der Ploeg Voorzitter stuurgroep Infodrome

Published in Books
Jos de Mul. 后)现代艺术与哲学中的浪漫之欲。Chinese translation of Romantic Desire in (Post)Modern Art and Philosophy. Wuhan: Wuhan University Press, 2010, 306p.

ISBN 978-7-307-08019-5
RMB 42.00

An erudite and wide-ranging discussion of postmodernism and romanticism in twentieth-century art and philosophy.


In this erudite and wide-ranging discussion of postmodernism and romanticism in twentieth-century art and philosophy, Jos de Mul sheds a fascinating light on the ambivalent character of our present culture, which oscillates between modern enthusiasm and postmodern irony. Along the way, he engages the work of such thinkers as Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Habermas, Lacan, Barthes, and Derrida; visual artists Magritte and Stella; poets George and Coleridge; and composers Schonberg, Cage, and Reich, among others, providing a sort of intellectual history of Romantic, Modernist, and Postmodernist "tempers."

Click on 'Read more' for reviews, rating and social media.


Published in Books
Monday, 21 November 2011 10:36

The (Bio)Technological Sublime

Jos de Mul. The biotechnological sublime. In: Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.), Aesthetics beyond Art. Special issue of Diogenes,  Vol. 59 ( 1–2), 2013 32–40.

Abstract  The notion of the sublime, which since the nineteenth century is one of the dominant aesthetic categories, is strongly connected with (the artistic representation of) overwhelming nature. In this article it is argued that in the course of the 20th century the sublime increasingly becomes entangled with the experience of technology. However, in the age of biotechnologies, such as genetic modification and synthetic biology, the sublime regains a natural dimension. Taking Eduard Kac’s Alba fluo rabbit (a ‘transgenic’ bunny, that resulted from the injection of green fluorescent protein of a Pacific jellyfish into the egg of an Albino rabbit) as an example, it will be argued that in the age of biotechnology the difference between nature, technology and art will gradually vanish, and new dimensions of the sublime will become manifest.

Monday, 21 November 2011 08:02

Horizons of Hermeneutics

Jos de Mul. Horizons of Hermeneutics: Intercultural Hermeneutics in a Globalizing World.  Frontiers of Philosophy in China. Vol. 6, No. 4 (2011), 628-655.

DOI: 10.1007/s11466-011-0159-x (DOI) 10.1007/s11466-011-0159-x

Abstract  Starting from the often-used metaphor of the “horizon of experience” this article discusses three different types of intercultural hermeneutics, which respectively conceive hermeneutic interpretation as a widening of horizons, a fusion of horizons, and a dissemination of horizons. It is argued that these subsequent stages in the history of hermeneutics have their origin in—but are not fully restricted to—respectively premodern, modern and postmodern stages of globalization. Taking some striking moments of the encounter between Western and Chinese language and philosophy as example, the particular merits and flaws of these three types of hermeneutics are being discussed. The claim defended is that although these different types of hermeneutics are mutually exclusive from a theoretical point of view, as interpreting beings in the current era we depend on each of these distinct hermeneutic practices and cannot avoid living on them simultaneously.

Keywords intercultural hermeneutics, globalization, horizon of interpretation, premodernism, modernism, postmodernism

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