The Childlike Philosopher

We’re visiting Maarten Coolen. Maarten is a philosopher from Amsterdam, respectably old at 80 years. He still has the same astonished eyes as in a childhood portrait hanging in his room. He’s 5 years old in it. Never really aged. He is not just any ‘philosophologist’, an expert in philosophical systems, someone who can succinctly and cleverly explain what Hegel, Kant, Marx, and Heidegger stand for and how they relate to each other. No, he is a philosopher. He speaks in ordinary language and knows how to penetrate the meaning of everyday phenomena.

Renske Oldenboom and I are visiting him because MoTiv wants to invite him to a major debate on the TU campus. We organize such a debate regularly-irregularly, about every year. This time we’re calling it Lab for a Free World. The concept of freedom is inspired by Tim van der Hagen, the rector, who praised academic freedom in his Dies speech. We have taken the liberty to interpret this concept more broadly. Academic freedom is threatened, certainly, but other forms of freedom are also at risk. I don’t need to explain this on the international-political level.

But certainly, at the level of our own daily lives, we must pay close attention. For how free are you if you work at the TU and your work environment is not safe? Delta and the newspapers are full of it. Dozens, hundreds of people come forward with stories of not being heard, being pushed aside on a side path on the road to success. And how free are you if you carry tens of thousands of euros in student debt after graduating?

At this everyday level, we want to talk with students in this Lab. We expect close to a hundred student leaders, members of the boards of the many student organizations Delft is rich in. The challenge for them is to share how they experience their life as a student. Come out with your stories. Now is your chance, now you will be listened to. We also expect a member of the Executive Board. And we have invited Maarten Coolen, the philosopher who has always remained a child. Our challenge is: pinpoint where in the stories of all these Delft students it really pinches. Where is freedom truly threatened, and where lie your opportunities? No small task, we understand, but still, his childlike eyes light up when we propose it to him.

And make no mistake, he is dead serious. He cancels his visit from Switzerland for us and is our highly esteemed guest on April 24th.

Ton Meijknecht MoTiv TU Delft foto door Joram Boumans

Ton Meijknecht

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