I studied Philosophy, Dutch Language and Literature and Linguistics at Radboud University Nijmegen, passing the (pre-Bologna) Dutch doctoraalexamen in philosophy (MA) in 1993, with distinction. My MA dissertation "Facts and Events", in Philosophy of Language, was supervised by Pieter Seuren, whose intellectual passion and whose love of language and the people who speak it has never ceased to inspire me. My first academic post was at Leiden University, where I was a researcher in the Philosophy Department until 1999, division Ethics, Social Philosophy, Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Culture, where I worked on Whitehead's process philosophy under supervision of Wouter Oudemans. He taught me the difference between, as he called it, "real philosophy" and "philosophology", showing me that philosophy is not one of the sciences and does not use the methods of the sciences to increase knowledge. "Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. -Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain" (Wittgenstein). Or, in Whitehead's words, "philosophy is the eliciting of self-evidence". This idea, with far-reaching consequences, stayed with me and is responsible for much of the joys as well as the sorrows of my life in the academy. I look at our existence in speech through the lens of this view of the nature of philosophy and, vice versa, I think that the reflection on speech is a good place for this kind of philosophy to be done. I was a visiting researcher in the highly creative and welcoming Process Philosophy group at Leuven University for a year, learning from Lewis Ford, and, on several occasions, at Memorial University Newfoundland, where I was screeched in and worked with the late James Bradley, whose ground-breaking work on Whitehead and whose notion of speculative metaphysics as concerned with strong theories of existence have been formative for me. In 1999 I left academia for a few years and worked for Royal Dutch Shell in various roles until 2006, developing sustainable and inclusive communication environments and learning about the forces that influence society, the futures we might make and how to imagine and shape them, individually and collectively. During that period I was also a part-time lecturer in Leiden. In 2006 I moved to the University of Central Lancashire, where I taught communication, philosophy of language, rhetoric, English language and linguistics. In 2013 I was appointed Reader in Philosophy and Critical Theory in the English department. I designed and led (since 2008) the MA in Rhetoric there. The aim of the program was to educate conscious communicators, aware of what it means, in theory and in practice, to be a speaking being. In 2013 I joined Middlesex University. I have been an honorary visiting fellow, and later Associate Fellow and Research Centre Director, at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London, since 2005, where my focus is on the anticipatory philosophy of Ernst Bloch. I have also held visiting appointments at the University of Bochum (Research Centre for Classical German Philosophy) and, as Erasmus lecturer, at the University of Tübingen (Department of Communication) and Tel Aviv University (Department of Philosophy).
Starting with philosophy and the study of language, conjoined in the ideal of practical eloquence as the timely expression of morally and existentially resonant truth, my work has developed into the direction of a theory-praxis of communication, "of all things, the most wonderful", as Dewey said.
Dutch, English, German, French, Latin, ancient Greek
I currently teach the following modules:
At the School of Advanced Study, University of London, I convene the German Philosophy Research Seminar. This year the topic is Martin Buber's Philosophy of Communication.
In my scholarship I aim to understand and articulate the meaning that communication has in the lives of people and to use this understanding to create sustainable communication environments that allow life to flourish. We all have our experiences with communication, or the lack of it, from the mundane to the sublime. Being able to articulate what is alive within us, to be heard and to be able to listen to others, lies at the heart of what it means to be human and what it means to live together with others and to realize our potential. We can hardly imagine being who we are without communication. We can hardly imagine a world open to the new without it: "I speak because I have hope in others" (Walter Ong). We can hardly imagine a moral universe without it. I work with ideas and insights from philosophy, communication theory, literature, art, religion, spirituality and psychoanalysis to develop modes of understanding the role that communication plays and to offer people practical and reflective ways to deepen their awareness of what it means that we exist in communication. I orientate myself on Martin Buber's notion of the I-you relationship as radically irreducible to other modes of rationality. I believe that improving communication to be more authentic, more free, more imaginative, creative, dialogical and aware is essential to improving our lives and to curbing the detrimental effects of power abuse, which always works by silencing. My work is devoted to helping people overcome their fears and find their way to genuine speaking and listening and even to silence, when silence says more than words or when words fail us, are too much or too little, but life may yet find a way.
My research is based in the Language and Communication Research Cluster. I am interested in philosophical, theoretical and practical dimensions of human communication, such as:
Closely related to these themes is my interest in Ernst Bloch's anticipatory philosophy of the unfinished world and of not-yet being. I am an honorary Associate Fellow at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where I lead 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 and with Cosimo Zene the Marxism and Religion series (Rowman and Littlefield)
I often work in interdisciplinary contexts and use methods such as art practice as research, Bohmian dialogue, co-created and participatory research, next to more traditional scholarly approaches.
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.
With Paul Cobley (Language and Media) and Adrian Pablé (Hong Kong University, Department of English) I organise the annual Middlesex Roundtable on Signs, Language and Communication.
I am available for postgraduate supervision in language and communication, anticipation and futurity, social and critical theory, post-Kantian German philosophy, process thought and speculative metaphysics.
Facer, Keri and Siebers, Johan and Smith, Bradon , eds. (2021) Working with time in qualitative research: case studies, theory and practice. Routledge Research in Anticipation and Futures, 7 . Routledge, London. ISBN 9780367714789
Siebers, Johan (2021) Paying attention to time in communication research. In: Working with time in qualitative research: case studies, theory and practice. Facer, Keri and Siebers, Johan and Smith, Bradon , eds. Routledge Research in Anticipation and Futures (7). Routledge, London, UK, pp. 67-85. ISBN 9781003152255
Siebers, Johan (2021) Creativity and the ontology of not-yet being. In: Futures. Kemp, Sandra and Anderson, Jenny , eds. Oxford Twenty-First Century Approaches to Literature . Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 161-173. ISBN 9780198806820
Cobley, Paul and Siebers, Johan (2021) Close reading and distance: between invariance and a rhetoric of embodiment. Language Sciences , 84 . pp. 1-22. ISSN 0388-0001
Siebers, Johan (2019) Ernst Bloch: Revue internationale de philosophie, 2019/3 (n° 289), ISSN 0048-8143. [Journal Guest Editorial]
2021-2024: Voices of the future, NERC/AHRC/ESRC Treescapes Programme. Co-I (PI Prof Kate Pahl, Manchester Metropolitan University), £2,300,000. NERC grant NE/V021370/1.