Stine Jensen: ‘Thinking deeply usually makes me happy’

Stine Jensen holds the door to the Amsterdam apartment complex, where she lives, open with one hand, while she holds a take-away cup of Persian tea in the other. She is wearing a bright yellow blazer and matching heels, which she is wearing to the finals in Who is the mole? bought. She squeezes the extra tea bags she received from the store between her fingers. In a bright apartment, she turns on a kettle and places a thermos with a bag on the table. She moves in.

The philosopher writes columns, philosophical books for the wider public and children’s books. Three days a week she is employed by broadcaster Human, where she makes podcasts and TV shows. From the TV station, she is posted to Erasmus University one of the three days. Her plan is to go to Rotterdam once every two weeks. Although the frequency may increase if she teaches.

You are a philosopher, columnist, author, children’s author and programmer. We know you from TV shows such as So I am and you were a candidate for in 2018 Who is the mole?† It sounds like a very exciting life. Is not such a university very boring?

“No, it does not seem boring to me at all. In addition, I will continue to write children’s books, columns in NRC and I will continue to lecture. I also worked at VU for a long time until 2014. I can imagine that it can be boring to give lectures if your students go there because they have to. But I have actually never met a philosophy student without inner motivation. The students make it fun. And they will probably teach me something too. ”

What kind of lectures do you want to give?

“I like to give lectures where the students have an active role. I taught at VU Art and society where, based on philosophical theory, we looked at books or films that attracted attention. Think, for example, of the gigantic tumult that arose then The satanic verse by Salman Rushdie came out. We then discussed based on philosophical theory where the ballad came from and then came more often with the same patterns. For example, students often felt that such tumult was caused by the exclusion or insult of a particular group or nation, or that it had to do with strict moral laws. “

Which topic do you want to research in EUR?

I like to explore the tension between the special and the universal. I recently received an invitation to an annual dinner for researchers and representatives from the community and industry. You should tick off extra fish or meat for dinner. So it was assumed that you would eat vegetarian anyway. I myself am a vegetarian, but I found it striking that as a guest you almost have to be accountable when ordering meat. The norm had suddenly changed. I would like to write about this dynamic. Also to see how this is expressed between groups of people. How a majority takes or does not take into account the wishes of a minority. “

The red-orange bundle saying by the classical philosopher and humanist Erasmus stands in a closet filled with books that cover the entire wall of the study. The books are not limited to this departure only. She beams and flips through saying† ”The most beautiful flowers bloom on the edge of the gorge. Just think! Your brain will crack. That vitality in Erasmus should really come back a little. “In the living room there is a bench under which several stray hardcovers lie. The biography Erasmus: Cross-thinker by Sandra Langereis is on top. Humanistic values ​​such as religious freedom, seeking diversity and self-development are important for Jensen as well as for Erasmus.

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In an interview with the television company Human, you indicated that you would like to arrange a symposium on humanistic values. How do you imagine that?

“I’m a big fan of Erasmus and certainly his proverb or proverb. I have not really devised such a symposium yet, but I think it would be very interesting to arrange a symposium on humanism and how it still plays a role with Ronald van Raak, professor of Erasmian Values, for example. ”

What does a public philosopher do?

He questions what is obvious and sometimes goes against your intuition. For example, if everyone says that we should have fewer incentives around us, the public philosopher will explain why incentives can also be good for you. ”

If you were to portray public philosophy as a landscape, what would it look like? And how has that changed?

Except in politics – I’ve never heard Mark Rutte quote Spinoza – philosophy has actually permeated everywhere. One sees two movements in that landscape: Philosophy as medicine and philosophy as a method of thinking through crises. With the first one, think of self-help books, retreats and yoga as well as Eastern philosophy. The second movement is more about the way in which philosophical thought traditions are expressed in the public debate. Think of popular books where philosophy is used to ask questions, such as: Socrates on sneakers† But such a form can also be in columns or children’s books, which I am often involved in. ”

How has academic philosophy contributed to the popularization of philosophy?

“Groningen, where I studied, was a bit of a classic academic stronghold, which before the 1990s was mainly known for its philosophy of science and logic. With the advancement of the new field of scientific research, research became much more practice-oriented, and interdisciplinary research was accepted because more interfaces emerged between disciplines. Philosophy was also offered as another study for the first time, such as ‘double your degree’ in Rotterdam. I found that trip very inspiring and it made me later take my PhD. in Maastricht on a very interdisciplinary subject. For my dissertation there, I examined the relationship between humans and animals in literature and science. The academic revolution also ensured that philosophy became interesting to a wide audience. ”

Stine Jensen interview Peer 2 - Geisje van der Linden

Stine Jensen is a big fan of Erasmus’ proverb. ‘The most beautiful flowers bloom on the edge of the gorge. Just think! Your brain will crack. ‘


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Geisje van der Linden

Your predecessor, the public philosopher Marli Huijer, often takes a clear stance. For example, in the discussion of the sustainability of life that flared up in the corona pandemic. What do you think about it?

“I find it very inspiring that in that discussion she argued that life is limited and that we should not want to postpone death forever. I appreciate that she takes an attitude that does not coincide with her own. In the discussion, she chose the position of the young people in this discussion. It’s brave. ”

It seems that you also go towards the head sometimes. You recently wrote a column in the NRC, and you approached left-wing activists about their burka position. Did you get angry reactions to this?

“Yes a lot. But it’s nothing new. I’ve been saying the same thing on this subject for ten years now. This country is one of the few countries in the world where it’s possible not to believe and where it’s been historic “It is remarkable that a progressive left-wing party like BIJ1, which claims to stand up for women’s freedom, enters into alliances with very conservative religious clubs and continues to defend burqas. I think that is a strange alliance.”

Do you think that in such a case, your column has a polarizing effect on the public debate?

“Columns is a polarizing genre par excellence. Sometimes it is important to stand behind your values. Sometimes you tend to reduce thinkers to one point of view. Then you do not look for nuances but defend an ideology. As a philosopher, I try to postpone my first impulse as much as possible and try to think beyond the first judgment. If you read a lot and widely, you sometimes have to dare to change your mind and it is very healthy.

“But polarization is, of course, a current problem. We need to talk about that. In the episode of my TV series so I follow the thinkers I interview come up with several solutions. Philosopher Babah Tarawally says, for example, that one could more often ask the other person where the pain is, and the political philosopher Kenan Malik says that one would be wise not to have the conversation about identity as if it were given, but that one rather have a conversation. can steer to values. ”

Jensen lives with his daughter, who goes to primary school. There are children’s drawings hanging in their house and there is a football on the floor. “We are sometimes like children, but with bigger toys,” she quotes Erasmus. In addition to an extensive oeuvre of popular science reading, the philosopher also wrote children’s books such as Philotective that takes the young reader with big names and ideas in the field of philosophy. She also thought a lot about parents. She co-authored two books on it with her colleague Frank Meester. IN How do I raise my parents? young readers get help educating parents and the book The educators in turn, offers parents help in raising their children.

Why do you find children’s philosophy so interesting?

“I think that philosophy can mean a lot to the target group of children aged eight to twelve. They have a huge openness and curiosity. This is how I put in my book Philotective the history of philosophy through quizzes and juicy gossip about philosophers; that makes kids laugh and quizzes make them fanatical. I love the playful mindset. ”

I can imagine that raising children involves philosophical considerations. How do you experience it?

“Of course there is. For example, imagine a parent wondering how to deal with a child who is constantly using a smartphone. So what do you do as a parent? Pull the child off the phone or listen to the underlying reasons for using There is something to be said for both options. Like being strict, listening is also an important value. We then looked at what philosophers have said about both values. If you then make a decision, you can at least substantiate it. and understand where the hesitation lies.It also touches on the core of what I think is important in philosophy, because in that way one arrives at a particular consideration that works, or whether one suggests things differently.Therefore, deep thinking usually makes me happy . ”

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