MA, Philosophy (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Doctorate, Philosophy (Leiden University)
Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy
I was born and raised in the Netherlands, where I lived in a number of places until moving to London, back in 2003, where I have lived ever since. I studied Philosophy, Dutch Language and Literature and General Linguistics at the Radboud University Nijmegen, graduating with a Masters degree in Philosophy (old-style Dutch "doctoraalexamen"). My thesis, in philosophy of language, was supervised by Pieter Seuren, who was a wonderfully inspiring mentor and continues to be so until the present day. I had other great teachers there, too. I learned Neo-Thomist metaphysics from Ad Vennix, the sharpest mind in the Nijmegen Philosophy Department at the time, who showed me that adaequatio rei et intellectus has a lot more to it than was commonly thought; Aristotle's Metaphysics from Horst Seidl; Wittgenstein, speech acts and the beginnings of analytical philosophy from Harm Boukema and Nietzsche from Paul van Tongeren. Thomas Baumeister, one of Gadamer's students, taught Kant and aesthetics. I had a very happy time as a student in Nijmegen. Then I worked as a researcher (and later a lecturer) at Leiden University, where I obtained my doctorate in 1998, with a thesis on Whitehead's metaphysics and the question of being, written under supervision of Wouter Oudemans, who had come out of the phenomenology/hermeneutics school and was influenced by Heidegger. He taught me the value of writing philosophy in one's own language (which I don't do enough), against the global academic tide, and that philosophy is about "becoming empirical": "to experience what is, not at the service of any kind of practice". During my doctoral research I spent time at Leuven University and at Memorial University Newfoundland, both hotbeds of Whiteheadian thinking in the nineties. In Leuven I learned from Jan van der Veken and André Cloots, who represented process philosophy in such a forceful way in the Low Countries, and I attended Lewis Ford's profound weekly seminar on Whitehead. In Newfoundland I worked with James Bradley, who had become co-supervisor of my thesis. His epistemic optimism and his view of speculative metaphysics as dealing with "strong" theories of existence, in distinction from the "weak" theories, which claim that nothing can really be said about being as such, influenced me enormously. After graduation I had the choice to take a post-doc or to try out what I could do with my expertise outside of academia. I took the road less traveled by and so, before coming to Middlesex, I worked in various global roles at Royal Dutch Shell, where, for some years, I looked at various aspects of communication, human resources and future scenarios. It was an extremely valuable experience for a philosopher and I made dear friends while working there. I was a part-time lecturer at Leiden University and, after that, first Senior Lecturer in Rhetoric, then Reader in Philosophy and Critical Theory at the University of Central Lancashire. In 2013 I spent a sabbatical at the Research Centre for Classical German Philosophy, University of Bochum.
Dutch, German, French, English, Latin, Greek (classical).
I can sum up my teaching philosophy in a few words. It's a remark a colleague made when I first started teaching: "teach on the verge of peril". Look for the places, the moments, where teacher and students are on unfamiliar terrain, where something new can happen and we are put in touch with our spontaneous and creative ability to perceive, to learn, to know, to think. Teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin and in the best moments, which are always unpredicatable and contingent, teacher and student enter a flux in which roles become interchangeable. If we develop a sensibility for these moments, learning-teaching (this is "studying"!) can be an adventure; it is always a risk and as much unlearning as learning. We change ourselves and the world by becoming conscious learners, aware of our ignorance.
All of this requires what Joseph Beuys used to call "learning in freedom", a compass and value I use to shape my practice of learning, teaching and studying.
I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and in that capacity I mentor colleagues at Middlesex. I also have an interest in the future of higher education and regularly participate in seminars and other events on this topic.
I have taught widely in philosophy in HE and elsewhere, with a preference for metaphysics and history of philosophy, especially ancient philosophy and German post-Kantian thought, and philosophy of communication. Philosophy asks the question how to live and uses our capacity for critical and speculative thinking to address this question: as we think we live, said Whitehead. When you do it well, it opens the mind and enhances your sensibility. The questions of philosophy are questions we all ask and which affect all aspects of our lives, personal, professional and public. I believe that philosophy is valuable, exciting and worthwhile for everyone and that it should be taught to all students in HE. I have developed a set of elective modules to this purpose, which I hope to be able to offer to Middlesex students in future.
I have also taught communication theory, critical theory, rhetoric, syntax, critical thinking and argumentation theory and research methods in humanities and social sciences.
At the moment I teach Enhanced Study Skills and Communication in first year, Contemporary Social Theory and Religion, Self and Society in second year and I am available for BA and MA dissertation supervision, all in the Department of Criminology and Sociology.
My main research interest is Aristotle's age-old question "what is being?" and the role this question plays in human existence, culture and in our ways of knowing. I can't let go of this question, and, it seems, the question doesn' t let go of me. I draw my inspiration therefore mainly from the long classical tradition of speculative metaphysics (and its critics), that runs from Plato and Aristotle via Aquinas and Descartes to Kant, Hegel, Heidegger and Whitehead. But I also have an interest in Daoism and have explored the relations between Daoism and process philosophy. At the moment I am working on a study of the reception of Plato in German thought since Leibniz, in which I am interested in those moments at which the interpretation of Plato's philosophy became a catalyst for philosophical development and change.
In addition to this I am interested in Ernst Bloch and his futuristic philosophy of the unfinished world, of not-yet being. I am an honorary associate fellow at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where I am based at the Ernst Bloch Centre for German Thought. I am Vice-President of the Ernst-Bloch-Gesellschaft, Ludwigshafen. With Keri Facer I edit Routledge Research in Anticipation and Futures.
I also work intensively on philosophical questions about communication. In this context I am the founding and principal editor of Empedocles: European Journal for Philosophy of Communication and founder and former chair of the Section for Philosophy of Communication of the European Communication Research and Education Association. Here at Middlesex I am a member of the Language and Communication Research Cluster.
I have an interest in philosophical practice as a way of doing philosophy with individuals, groups and organisations outside of the academy and I hope to develop this interest into concrete activities in future. Having worked outside of the university, I have experienced the value philosophical perspectives can bring to most areas of our lives. More people should be able to benefit from it and experience how exciting and enriching philosophy can be. That requires trained philosophers who make their expertise available to others, to think with them, not for them, about the question that animates all philosophical thinking, and which we all ask ourselves: how to live our lives?
I am available for doctoral supervision in these areas.
Pablé, Adrian and Siebers, Johan (2018) The Dao of communication. Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication, 9 (2). pp. 103-106. ISSN 1757-1952
Siebers, Johan and Cullen, Anthony and Guest, Carly and Kerin, Lughaidh and Peyrefitte, Magali and Rodriguez, Sara and Seoighe, Rachel (2018) Exploring the impact of contemplative methods in HE learning and teaching. In: 2018 Annual Learning and Teaching Conference: Pedagogies Fit for 21st Century Learning, 07 Sept 2018, Middlesex University, London, UK.
Bergman, Mats and Kirtiklis, Kęstas and Siebers, Johan , eds. (2018) Models of communication: theoretical and philosophical approaches. Routledge Studies in European Communication Research and Education (15). Routledge, London. ISBN 9781138294554
Siebers, Johan (2018) Being as communication: an exploratory model. In: Models of Communication: Theoretical and Philosophical Approaches. Bergman, Mats and Kirtiklis, Kęstas and Siebers, Johan , eds. Routledge Studies in European Communication Research and Education (15). Routledge, London. ISBN 9781138294554 (Accepted/In press)
Siebers, Johan (2018) Ernst Bloch's geist der utopie after a century: a Janus-Faced reading on the Trail of Hope. In: Back to the Future: Tradition and Innovation in German Studies. Silberman, Marc , ed. German Life and Civilization, 68 (68). Peter Lang, New York, pp. 37-62. ISBN 9781788743044