Joost Van Driessche

Winner Dissertation Prize 2018

Muishond. Techno-wetenschappelijke, literaire en ethische bewegingen van taal.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. L.W. Nauta, Prof. dr. R.W. Boomkens
Co-supervisor: Dr. J.A. Harbers
Nomination: Groningen University, Faculty of Philosophy

Report of the selection committee

Although the theme of this book – the dichotomic relation between techno-scientific and literary-aesthetic language practices – has a long history that extends back to Plato’s condemnation of the poets in The State, the approach taken by Van Driessche in Muishond is highly original. Inspired by such thinkers as Bakhtin, Derrida, Latour and Levinas, the author explores the space between these various language practices, and in his analysis he considers language practice not only in literature and science but also in law, politics and religion.
Without doubt, the style of the book also contributes to its originality: the author has sought to express his subject in an ethnographic and thus unavoidably literary style. That makes the reading experience so special.

The theme of this dissertation is of vital importance at a time when scientific objectivity is coming under fire and ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ are rampant. Although the author describes sciences and technologies in a radical-constructivist manner, he emphatically takes a stance against the accusation that this might lead to a moral deficit or to the impossibility of adopting a normative standpoint. The dissertation’s attempt to restore faith in science and ethics, without resorting to strict dichotomies such as that between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, makes this a challenging and provocative book, lending it – in the eyes of the jury – an Erasmian character.