Auto-Didacticus Philosophicus

Four years ago I decided to take matters (my life, my thoughts, my world?) in my own hand. Frustrated with unanswered questions, irrational belief and the fear of averages, I found my way to the library at Haifa University, Israel. A library in which half of the books were in languages I could not read. But in which the philosophy bookshelves held some real treasures.

Four years later, I still don’t read Arabic, Russian or Hebrew. But I continue drawing on the books I read in that period. My own crash course in philosophy proved very fruitful. And especially as I read them without any prejudices (mind you, I didn’t even know the difference between analytic and continental philosophy), without any greater scheme in mind… I could form my own thoughts. I could decide who to befriend and who to shun.

In the year that followed this first visit to that library I continued this self-education. In February 2010 this free-floating was brought to a stop, when I started a master in (political) philosophy, when teachers started to fill my time with required reading list. But that first year and the books I choose – why did I pick these specific books? – continue to be the basis of all my present thought.

I started with reading Michel Foucault‘s “The Order of Things”. Still my favourite philosophical musing, perhaps also because it was the first book I ever read to make me realise there are things that are bigger than anything I can ever understand. My notes from that time are priceless to me. My trying to figure out these strange words like ‘episteme’ remind me of this struggle that brought me back to life at a time I was really in one of the worst places I’ve ever been. Needless to say, the notion of ‘episteme’ is so dear to me, that it’s pretty much the topic of my PhD now…

I continued reading all of Nietzsche, and a biography on Nietzsche by Walter Kaufman. Again, I don’t know why. But it appealed to me, as it still does. It has become part of me, this notion of the death of the church, the need to face what one is despite human structures… “One should only speak where one cannot remain silent, and only speak of what one has conquered—the rest is all chatter, “literature,” bad breeding.” (Opening lines of “Human, all too human”)

And I read Kojéve‘s Introduction to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Karl Jasper‘s “Origin and Goal of History”. Martin Buber‘s “I and Thou”.

Although I still linger within these texts, there is also much more. I’ve made more friends I could have ever realised, Sartre, Heidegger and Arendt amongst others. Lately Badiou and Benjamin should be added to the list. But I am still young, and it’s never too late to make new friends…

Fortunately, now at the European Graduate School, I’m having the opportunity to float within texts while finding my own voice…  And to meet living thinking friends, from all over the world…

Speak in your voice. Speak as you.

Defying what is said in this article, I am going to quote a part I especially liked, as it is so very true that I feel it in my bones…

“…Which might well be why Nietzsche warned us: beware of your followers. Not so much that they may betray you (it didn’t hurt the legacy of the Nazarene too badly), nor even attempt to take over (otherwise the notion of dynasties would long have fallen), but that they may cite you, borrow your voice, echo you.

Speak in your voice. Speak as you.”

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With beautiful art by Yanyun Chen (