Jos de mul. The Living Sign. Reading Noble from a Biosemiotic Perspective. Biosemiotics. 14 (2021), 1  (

The author argues that the reductionist illusions of the Modern Synthesis, which Noble criticizes in his target article, are to a large extent resulting from a mere syntactical notion of biological information, neglecting the pragmatic and semantic dimension of information. Although the syntactical notion, introduced by Shannon, has been applied with much success in information theory and computer technologies, it is too narrow to understand biological reality. Biosemiotics can help to clarify the problems identified by Noble, and offers a more adequate biological information concept, which not only may help to overcome these problems in the life sciences, but may also serve to integrate natural-scientific and humanities approaches to life.

Keywords Biosemiotics . Noble . Living sign . Syntactics . Pragmatics . Semantics

ジョス・デ・ムル . 総合的チューリング・テスト ─日本的観点およびヨーロッパ的観点からロボティクスを考える─ [Jos de Mul, The Total Turing Test. Robotics from Japanese and European perspectives]. Ritsumeikan Studies in Language and Culture. Vol.31 (2020), Vol.32, no.2, 95-107. [English version]


2019 年 10 月 8 日開催 ジョス・デ・ムル氏 招待講演




Floortje Scheepers,  Jos de Mul,  Frits Boer and  Witte Hoogendijk. Psychose als evolutionair adaptief mechanisme bij omgevingsverandering; pleidooi voor een functioneel verklaringsmodel. Tijdschrift voor psychiatrie. Jaargang 42, juni 2020, 472-480.

ACHTERGROND Vanuit een evolutionair perspectief is het opmerkelijk dat psychosegevoeligheid, vooral optredend in de reproductieve periode en geassocieerd met verminderde vruchtbaarheid, zich kan handhaven in de menselijke populatie.
DOEL Argumenten aandragen voor de hypothese dat we psychotische symptomen op zichzelf niet moeten zien als afwijkend, maar als adaptief verschijnsel.
METHODE Filosofische beschouwing en literatuuronderzoek.
RESULTATEN Tot op heden heeft men met biomedisch onderzoek de etiologie van psychotische stoornissen nog niet definitief kunnen vaststellen. Bevindingen zijn inconsistent en laten niet-specifieke hersenafwijkingen zien en genetische variaties met kleine effectgroottes. Er zijn daarnaast overtuigende aanwijzingen voor een relatie tussen psychosegevoeligheid en stressvolle omgevingsfactoren, vooral als die samenhangen met sociale uitsluiting. Psychotische symptomen als fenomeen zouden we daarom wellicht beter kunnen begrijpen als een natuurlijk afweermechanisme of een protectieve reactie op een stressvolle omgeving. Dit past bij het gegeven dat psychotische symptomen meestal tot ontwikkeling komen tijdens de adolescentie. In deze levensfase is een belangrijke ontwikkelopgave het verlaten van de vertrouwde, veilige thuisomgeving en het ontwikkelen van nieuwe sociale netwerken. Dit kan een status van ‘hyperbewustzijn’ veroorzaken en doet een beroep op het vermogen tot sociale adaptatie. Dit mechanisme kan ontregeld raken door onderliggende kwetsbaarheid van de hersenen en/of externe stressoren die met sociale uitsluiting gepaard gaan.
CONCLUSIE Er is een theoretisch kader verdedigbaar waarin psychotische symptomen beschouwd worden als een evolutionair functioneel verschijnsel. Het onderzoek naar psychotische stoornissen kan gebaat zijn bij een focus op onderliggende algemene kwetsbaarheden van de hersenen of het voorkomen van sociale uitsluiting, in plaats van psychotische symptomen an sich als ‘abnormaal’ te beschouwen.

TREFWOORDEN psychose, evolutie, adaptatie, sociale uitsluiting, afweermechanisme

Jos de Mul. The Emergence of Practical Self-Understanding. Human Agency and Downward Causation in Plessner’s Philosophical Anthropology. In: Human Studies, December 2018 (DOI: 10.1007/s10746-018-09483-2)

Abstract Helmuth Plessner’s Levels of Organic Life and the Human [Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch, 1928] is one of the founding texts of twentieth century philosophical anthropology (understood as philosophical reflection on the fundamental characteristics of the human lifeform). It is argued that Plessner’s work demonstrates the fundamental indispensability of the qualitative humanities vis-à-vis the naturalscientific study of man. Plessner’s non-reductionist, emergentist naturalism allots complementary roles to the causal and functional investigations of the life sciences and the phenomenological and hermeneutic interpretation of the phenomenon of life in its successive levels and stages. Within this context, human agency can be understood as a higher-order property of organic life, which act by the selective activation of lower-level psychophysical powers. Plessner’s three ‘anthropological laws’ are used to situate the notion of practical self-understanding in between two extremes: deterministic views that deny human freedom and responsibility and views that ascribe an unrealistic amount of autonomy to human beings.

Keywords Helmuth Plessner · Philosophical anthropology · Non-reductionist naturalism · Emergentism · Downward causation · Human agency · Practical selfunderstanding

 Floortje Scheepers,  Jos de Mul,  Frits Boer and  Witte Hoogendijk. Psychosis as an evolutionary adaptive mechanism to changing environments. Frontiers of Psychiatry, Volume  9,  June 2018.

Background: From an evolutionary perspective it is remarkable that psychotic disorders, mostly occurring during fertile age and decreasing fecundity, maintain in the human population.

Aim: To argue the hypothesis that psychotic symptoms may not be viewed as an illness but as an adaptation phenomenon, which can become out of control due to different underlying brain vulnerabilities and external stressors, leading to social exclusion.

Methods: A literature study and analysis.

Results: Until now, biomedical research has not unravelld the definitive etiology of psychotic disorders. Findings are inconsistent and show non-specific brain anomalies and genetic variation with small effect sizes. However, compelling evidence was found for a relation between psychosis and stressful environmental factors, particularly those influencing social interaction. Psychotic symptoms may be explained as a natural defense mechanism or protective response to stressful environments. This is in line with the fact that psychotic symptoms most often develop during adolescence. In this phase of life, leaving the familiar, and safe home environment and building new social networks is one of the main tasks. This could cause symptoms of “hyperconsciousness” and calls on the capacity for social adaptation.

Conclusions: Psychotic symptoms may be considered as an evolutionary maintained phenomenon.Research investigating psychotic disorders may benefit from a focus on underlying general brain vulnerabilities or prevention of social exclusion, instead of psychotic symptoms.

Keywords: psychosis, evolution, adaptation, social exclusion, defense mechanism

Jos de Mul. Encyclopedias, hive minds and global brains A cognitive evolutionary account of Wikipedia. 立命館言語文化研究29巻3号. Ritsumeikan Studies in Language and Culture. Volume 29, no.3 (2018), 143-153.


Wikipedia, the crowd-sourced, hypermedial encyclopedia, available in more  than  290 languages and  consisting  of  no  less  than  40 million  lemmas,  is  often  hailed  as  a  successful  example  of  the ʻwisdom of  the  crowdsʼ.  However,  critics not only  point  at  the  lack  of  accuracy  and  reliability, uneven coverage of topics, and the poor quality of writing, but also at the under-representation of women and non-white ethnicities. Moreover, some critics regard Wikipedia as an example of the development of  a  hive  mind,  as  we  find  it  in  social insects, whose  ʻmindʼ rather than being a property of individuals is a ʻsocial phenomenonʼ, as it has to be located in the colony rather than in the individual bees. In this article an attempt is made to throw some light on this controversy by analyzing Wikipedia  from  the  perspective  of  the  cognitive  evolution  of  mankind.  Connecting  to Origins  of  the  Modern  Mind (1991) of neuropsychologist Merlin Donald, in which three stages in the cognitive evolution -  characterized by a  mimetic, an linguistic, and an external symbolic cognition  respectively  -  are  distinguished,  it  is  argued  that  the  development  of  the  internet,  and crowd-sourced  projects  like  Wikipedia  in  particular,  can be understood as a fourth, computer- mediated form of cognition. If we survey the cognitive evolution of hominids and the role played in this evolution by cultural and technical artefacts like writing, printing press, computers, and internet, we witness a process of increasing integration of individual minds. With outsourcing and virtualization  of  the  products  and  processes  of  thinking  to  external  memories,  and  the  fast development of implanted computer interfaces, we appear to be at the edge of the materialization of the  hive  mind  in a  ʻglobal brainʼ.  The article ends  with  some  speculative  predictions about the future of human cognition.

Keywords: encyclopedias, Wikipedia, wisdom of the crowds, cognitive evolution, hive mind, global brain

Jos de Mul. The Earth Garden: Going Back or Going Forward to Nature? Frontiers of Philosophy in China. Vol.12 (2017) 2: 237-248.

Abstract Against the background of a short meditation on the contrasting ways in which landscape has been represented and idealized in Eastern and Western painting traditions, the article will try to show, using some striking examples, that the development of landscape painting in the last two centuries reflects the changing relationship of humanity and nature, leading in both the East and in the West to either the expression of a nostalgic longing for nature to be back as it once was, or to a gloomy expression of the vanishing of nature amidst the modern, technological world. Connecting to both the concept of “harmony,” which is a key concept in Eastern aesthetics, and to some recent reflections in Western philosophy on the relationship of nature and technology, a post-nostalgic conception of nature and natural beauty is defended, in which nature and technology are no longer seen as opposing categories, but rather as poles that are intertwined in an ever-lasting process of co-evolution. It is argued that we should not so much strive to go “back to nature,” but rather to go “forward to nature” and establish a new harmony between human and non-human nature and technology. The article ends with some reflections on the role artists and aestheticians may play in this transformation.

Keywords environmental pollution, environmental aesthetics, philosophy of nature, comparative aesthetics, philosophy of technology

Jos de Mul. Human nature after Neo-Darwinism. in: Eidos .A Journal for Philosophy of Culture. Special issue: Is the Category of Human Nature Still Relevant? Vol 1 (2017), 1: 5-17. 


In the course of the 20th century the so-called Modern Synthesis of Neo-Darwinism has become the dominant paradigm in modern biology. First, it is explained how and why Darwin’s broad definition of evolution, in which the environment plays an important role, was narrowed down by Neo-Darwinism to a radical gene-centric view.  Next, the paradigm shift taking place today in ‘postgenomic’ evolutionary biology and genetics is discussed. It is argued that this shift opens the way to a more humane conception of evolution, more in line with Darwin’s view. Finally, I will discuss some of the implications of this paradigm shift for human self-reflection, taking The Music of Life. Biology Beyond Genes of systems biologist Denis Noble as a starting point.


Neo-Darwinism, Dennis Noble, gene-centrism, postgenomics, agency, human self-reflection

Jos de Mul. Athens, or the Fate of Europe. Journal of Philosophical Research. Special supplement: Selected Papers from the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy. 2015: 221–227.

ABSTRACT: In his essay ‘The Idea of Europe’ George Steiner claims that European culture derives from “a primordial duality, the twofold inheritance of Athens and Jerusalem”. For Steiner, the relationship between Greek rationalism and Jewish religion, which is at once conflictual and syncretic, has engaged the entire history of European philosophy, morality, and politics. However, given this definition, at present the United States of America seem to be more European that ‘the old Europe’ itself. Against Steiner, it will be argued that in order to fathom the distinctive characteristic of European culture, we have to take a third European tradition into account, which is inextricably bound up with Athens: the tradition of Greek tragedy. If we may call Europe a tragic continent, it is not only because its history is characterised by an abundance of real political tragedies, but also because it embodies, as an idea and an ideal, a tragic awareness of the fragility of human life. Instead of reducing the ‘idea of Europe’ to a financial and economic issue, Europe should remain faithful to this idea and ideal.

First of all I like to thank the organizers for their invitation to join this symposium on Art and Cultures. As a tribute to the magnificent city of Athens and its inhabitants, I will talk about the relationship between European culture and the art form that is inextricably tied to the city of Athens: Greek tragedy. The thesis I will defend is that European culture distinguishes itself from other world cultures, and in particular from North-American culture, with which it shares both its Christian and its scientific worldview, by its deeply tragic character. This claim, I will argue, is neither a pessimistic nor an optimistic one, because tragedy is beyond this simple dichotomy. If I claim that Europe is a tragic continent, I refer both to its grandeur and pitfalls.

My talk consists of two parts. First, in a critical discussion with George Steiner, I will address the question of the identity of European culture. In the second part I will relate this identity to Greek tragedy.

NextNature. Sublime natural and technological landscapes, in: Ritsumeikan Studies in Language and Culture.  Volume 26, no.3 (2015),  5-23.

The development of the representation of the landscape in Europe since the 14th century Renaissance can be understood as a mirror of the development of modern and postmodern Western culture as a whole. After sketching the development of landscape representation in modern and postmodern Europe, the article focuses on the theme of sublimity, which, at least since the era of Romanticism, has been inherent to the European experience and representation of the landscape, both in its successive natural and technological manifestation. Against this background, the paper also discusses some striking differences between the European and the Asian landscape.

Keywords : NextNature, Sublimity, Sublime landscapes, European landscape, Asian landscape, natural landscapes, technological landscapes

约斯·德·穆尔:《从开放设计到元设计——3D打印数据库本体的冲击》,《社会科学战线》2014年第10期。[Jos de Mul, From open design to metadesign. Social Science Front, no.10, 2014, 248-254]

国外社会科学从开放设计到元设计(metadesign)  ——3D打印数据库本体的冲击


(伊拉斯谟大学哲学系,荷兰鹿特丹 3062PA)



3D打印作为一项备受关注的技术,其令人咋舌的功能在医疗、工业、生活领域内引起的巨大变革已经使我们不得不持续对其关注和思考。3D 技术在法律、监管、社会、政治以及经济模型创新等方面都已经有了不同理论维度的探讨。在这篇文章里,我将不同于以往的讨论,从另外一个角度——设计,特别是开放设计(open design)的角度来讨论3D打印的问题。

在Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing[1]这本书中,Lipson和Kurman认为“3D技术是我们设计和制作东西的方式的一场革命”,因为它把一个物体的软件设计和它的实物显示(physical manifestation)之间的关系变得异常紧密。[2]尽管我认为在信息与通讯技术(ICT)世界里,当说起革命一词,我们应该多少有所怀疑,但是,很明显,3D技术在很多领域都有前途,而且,因其开放的特点(至少在一些方面是)而对传统设计实践提出了挑战。

接下来,我将讨论数据库本体(database ontology)的蕴意,这种数据库本体表征着我们当今设计界。我将要强调,为了发展开放设计的积极一面而不落陷阱,设计者不应该轻易放弃作为设计者的活动,而且更应该重新设计这些活动。未来的设计者不得不成为一个数据设计者,一个元设计者,他们不是设计一种客体对象,而是设计一个空间,在这个空间里,没有技巧的使用者可以通过使用者友好界面(user-friendly)设计自己的东西。

3D打印可以看作设计界的一个发展,它使设计行为的重新定义成为必要。2010年阿姆斯特丹重新定义设计大会[3]的宣传词中对开放设计的状况描述道:“设计工业正在经历着根本性的改变。开放设计、可下载的设计和分散的设计使得设计工业民主化,也意味着任何人都可以成为设计者和制造者。”这则消息的潜在意思似乎是说,开放设计,本质上是好的,我们应该发展它。(为了简略,我用open design 这个词来总括之前提到的那些设计界的发展,包括了可下载的、分散的设计以及重组模块使设计变得个性化,并用3D在家里或街角的专业商店打印出来)。尽管我对开放设计(或者任你管它叫什么)总体上持积极的态度,但是我认为还是应该注意这进程中的困难和陷阱,以避免我们会犯那种将孩子和洗澡水一起泼出去的错误。


正像“开放运动”(open movement)的其他成员一样,开放设计在很大程度上与个人电脑和互联网紧密相关(我们将会看到,开放运动包括多个运动,比如开放软件资源、开放科学、开放科技等。特别是开放生物学运动,是开放运动中一个很有意思的例子)。由于这个原因,为了能够对开放设计的机遇和陷阱都看得更清楚,我们应该研究一下数字领域(digital domain)的基本特点。因此,在论文第二部分,我会简要描述数据库本体,它是计算机的基础(ABCD of computing),也是数字领域的基础。



Jos de Mul, The possibility of an island. Michel Houellebecq's tragic humanism. Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology, Vol. 1 (2014), Issue 1, pp. 91–110.


The Possibility of an Island: Michel Houellebecq’s Tragic Humanism1



Various authors, including Friedrich Nietzsche and George Steiner, have argued that the tragic worldview, as we find it expressed in Greek tragedy, has become an entirely incomprehensible phenomenon for (post)modern man. The claim defended in this article radically opposes this view. It is argued that tragedy can still teach us something today, and maybe even more so now than in the many intervening centuries that separate us from her days of glory in the fifth century bce. The tragic reveals itself once more in (post)modern society, and nowhere more clearly than in technology, the domain in which we believed the tragic had been domesticated or even eliminated. Referring to the tragic humanism in Michel Houellebecq’s novels The Elementary Particles and The Possibility of an Island it is argued that it is precisely in (post)modern (bio)technologies that we experience the rebirth of the tragic.

Keywords: tragedy, technology, humanism, transhumanism, Michel Houellebecq, Friedrich Nietzsche


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