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.

Jos de Mul. Etiketten plakken op de golven van de zee: Frederik van Eeden als vitalist. Frederik van Eeden-Genootschap. Mededelingen LV. Maart 2011, 6-19.



Laat ik mijn voordracht beginnen met het uitspreken van enkele woorden van dank en vrees. Laat ik met de dank beginnen. Het is mij een grote eer vandaag de jaarlijkse rede voor het illustere Frederik van Eeden-Genootschap te mogen uitspreken. Vooral gezien het feit dat we dit jaar, morgen om precies te zijn, de 150ste geboortedag van Frederik van Eeden vieren. Het is mij tevens een groot genoegen, omdat Frederik van Eeden ook een van mijn grote literaire jeugdliefdes is geweest en een belangrijke stempel heeft gedrukt op mijn persoonlijke ontwikkeling gedurende mijn middelbare schooljaren, en die jaren behoren – zeker als het gaat om de artistieke, politieke en filosofische voorkeuren die men ontwikkelt – tot de belangrijkste in een mensenleven.

Jos de Mul. Das Schauspiel des Lebens. Dilthey and the historical biography. In: Revue Internationale de Philosophie, (2003), no.2, 99-116.

Das Schauspiel des Lebens. Wilhelm Dilthey and historical biography

"Uber den wissenschaftlichen Charakter der Biographie sind die Ansichten der Historiker geteilt." [1]

These words, written by Wilhelm Dilthey about a hundred years ago, are just as true today as they were then. As in Dilthey's time, many historians still deny that the historical biography is scientific in nature, because of its narrative and literary character. It isn't without irony that authors of literary fiction, conversely, often doubt the literary character of historical biographies because they are not entirely a work of imagination. One might say that historical biography is situated in a no-man's land between art and science.

In order to understand the discussion concerning the status of the historical biography, we have to view it within the broader context of the debate on the status of historiography. This debate has accompanied modern historiography from its birth in the early nineteenth century. Before then the question concerning the relationship between the artistic and scientific dimension of historiography virtually played no role. The reason for this was that before the nineteenth century these two dimensions could barely be distinguished. The word 'novel' not only referred to Active stories, but also to the kind of stories we nowadays call historical narratives. However, under the influence of rationalism and empiricism, literature and historiography gradually became different autonomous genres. The emergence of the modern discipline of historiography was at least partly motivated by the presupposition that knowledge only deserves this title when it is rationally and empirically tested and attains a certain level of certainty.[2] These requirements were inspired by the impressive success the natural sciences and the new technologies connected with them had had since Newton. Based on the discovery of causal relationships in nature, these sciences were not only able to explain natural phenomena, but to predict and to control them, as well. As a result, the objectivity of the natural sciences increasingly began to function as an ideal for all sciences. After the middle of the nineteenth century, the ideal of a 'unified science' became an integral part of the repertoire of (neo)positivist scientists and philosophers.

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

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

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.


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