Nederlandse Onderzoekschool voor Theologie en Religiewetenschap
Netherlands School for Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion

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Home / Spiritual Resilience and Humanism. An Interdisciplinary Research Project on Humanistics

Spiritual Resilience and Humanism. An Interdisciplinary Research Project on Humanistics

06 Oct 2010

This research project includes re-thinking the leading question of Jaap van Praag, founding father of contemporary Dutch humanism, as to how humanism as a world-view and a life stance could foster spiritual resilience of people in present-day’s context of mass culture emergences such as consumerism, media hypes, xenophobia. Revisiting this question, much will depend on humanism taking a leading role in debates between different world-views, including religions. A critical and open-minded humanism, studied and aimed at in this project, is believed to further such a responsible mission. Spiritual Resilience and Humanism, chaired by Joachim Duyndam, covers contributions of about 10 to 12 researchers of humanistics, including three Noster membership applicants (Alma, Anbeek, Duyndam).

Joachim Duyndam’s contribution to the project is on exemplars (voorbeeldfiguren) and mimesis. His research is conducted from both philosophical (Heidegger, Girard, Ricoeur, Levinas) and biological sources. Starting from mimetic theory launched by Girard, the question raises whether and how there could be ‘good mimesis’, adopted as the relationship with inspiring exemplars such as moral heroes, sublime role models, etc. Although the relationship with such a ‘good exemplar’ seems to be different from the dangerous and violent mimesis as explained by Girard, it is obviously a kind of mimesis or imitation at stake. In my previous work, I have understood and articulated the imitation of inspiring exemplars in a hermeneutical way. Recently, interesting new views on mimesis are coming from biological sources, particularly from brain research. Girardian mimesis seems to have a biological basis in our mirror neurons. Resilience and resistance to mimesis and group pressure, however, also seem to have a biological basis in the brain. How can the inspiring effect of ‘good exemplars’ against dangerous and violent mimesis be understood in both a hermeneutical and a biological way?

prof. dr. J. Duyndam, University for Humanistics (UvH)