“slippery stuff like philosophy”

Met de start van het nieuwe academische jaar beginnen ook weer alle activiteiten die onderzoekstijd zo onder druk kunnen zetten: onderwijs, vergaderingen, financieringsaanvragen… Menig academicus heeft het voornemen, of in ieder geval de wens, om de productieve rust van de zomerperiode zo lang mogelijk vast te houden, vaak tegen beter weten in. De ervaring leert dat het heel moeilijk is om oog in oog met allerlei urgente vragen en verplichtingen in je inbox en je agenda tijd te maken voor minder urgente, maar misschien wel veel belangrijkere activiteiten zoals vrijelijk denken, lezen, en onderzoeken. Ter inspiratie bied ik je hierbij twee citaten aan uit de dystopische novelle van Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, genoemd naar de temperatuur waarop papier vlam vat.
 
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Another perspective on two years since PhD thesis defense

My previous post focussed on feelings about your PhD thesis topic while you’re in the midst of writing as compared to when you’ve had the time to step back and widen your perspective of your specialist subject. I gave a personal example of what two years distance can mean for the relationship with your thesis topic. Now, I’d like to share with you the second part of my story since defending my PhD thesis. This part tells about the turn I took and the new road I began traveling, of which this blog and this website testify.

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Lessons from the past

In September 2010 I defended my thesis on Stoic philosophy and this summer the journal Mnemosyne published my summary announcement in their section Dissertationes Batavae. Needless to say I’m quite proud, but also it feels very strange to encounter work from the past again in this way: it partly seems to come from a different world. Two years ago, I could not imagine being where I am now. Finishing my thesis was a struggle. How I would have loved to know some of the things I know now!

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Apollo’s advice for PhD’s reflecting on their career

The number of PhD candidates increases whereas career possibilities within universities decrease (cf. Nature 2011 on “The PhD Factory“). Still, most PhD candidates have a strongly research oriented perspective on their career after obtaining their PhD, especially in the social sciences and humanities the primary focus is on a future in academia. How can doctorate holders develop a more realistic view and preparation on their career options and whose responsibility is this anyway? This was the starting point of a very interesting debate on doctoral careers in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany in which I recently participated at the Rathenau Institute.

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On courage

Aristotle famously stated what boils down to “virtue lies in the middle”. The classic explanation of this claim is that courage is not just the opposite of cowardice, but that it is equally opposed to hubris, conceited, reckless overconfidence. As such, courage holds the middle ground between cowardice and hubris. After Aristotle, for over 2000 years now, philosophers have elaborated on the nature of true virtue and the way to attain a virtue such as courage. And indeed, there is much more to say about courage than that it is “to overcome one’s fear”. Many have provided analyses, recipes, good advice and intricate scientific classifications.

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Consciously choosing harmony

These days I have the opportunity to learn more deeply about my principle, my intention to live life in happy, peaceful, joyful harmony. It is so easy to trust in good outcomes if nothing goes wrong, so easy to feel balanced and harmonious if there’s nothing that shakes your ground, so easy to be happy when life laughs at you (even if I sometimes forget to value it when I’m absorbed in my day to day  activities).

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article

An interesting article by Robyn Barnacle and Inger Mewburn on how completing a PhD comprises a transformation of identity. Thesis writing is only one aspect of performing a scholarly identity, so to speak. To be a succesful PhD candidate you do not merely need specific cognitive abilities, but also the capacity to work in a mess of dynamically emerging situations and perspectives in which you develop a specific sensibility not only to the influence of people, such as colleagues and supervisors, but also to inanimate objects and `knowledge enabling artefacts’ that surround you.

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