Do you trust what you feel? 

Over the coming weeks, we will investigate the world of non-rational knowledge at several SG events. The world of intuitions, gut feelings, emotional intelligence, instinct, and so on. This is stuff we don’t usually learn about in school, perhaps because of our culture’s focus on the rational and the objective. But in a post-truth world, shouldn’t we be better educated on how the non-rational affects our lives?

In preparation for this series of events, SG program makers Sanne and Klaas tested each other’s thoughts and feelings about thoughts and feelings. A sneak peek at the minds of the program makers:

 Klaas: why do you care about other people’s emotional intelligence? Or their intuition, instincts, etc? 

Sanne: I think it is the way to connect, the way we build relationships. If I want to feel I am a part of something (a group, family, or community), I need to connect with others on the level of emotions and feelings. You can be part of a group through shared visions or theories of course, but when shit goes down, I need people to be there for me. They need to recognize my need, that’s when you’re emotionally connected. And being part of something, being recognized and seen, is a necessary ingredient for happiness, I believe.  

 Sanne: Emotions, feelings, and intuitions are often implicitly part of conversations and relationships. Do you dare to trust what you feel, even if it’s never been made explicit? 

Klaas:  Good question. I know that after making big decisions in my life based on intuition or feeling rather than logic, I’ve never regretted them. Regardless of the consequences. So my answer is yes, I trust what I feel. Because it somehow feels more true (to myself) than any mental gymnastics I might apply afterwards to determine what’s right or wrong. Can a feeling be wrong? I don’t know. I don’t pretend to be able to explain it rationally. But I guess that’s the point? 

 

Klaas: Do you think our education teaches us enough about how to balance our rational and non-rational processes? 

Sanne: Hell no. The focus is on the cognitive, other processes are to be developed anywhere else but during your education. I already see it happening with my son, who is almost six. He’s ahead of his age when it comes to cognitive skills, yet he’s not as quick with social and motor skills. But all the focus is on how far ahead he is cognitively. This pattern keeps repeating itself through high school and any education after that. If you don’t learn your emotional, spiritual or intuitive sides at home or among friends, you just won’t develop your emotional (or spiritual, ‘cause that’s a thing too) quotient very well. 

 

Sanne: Do you think our education is the right place to learn these things? And if it’s not, where should we learn about this stuff? 

Klaas: I think our educational institutions should aim to poop out whole human beings, not stunted, purely rational or purely irrational ones. The question is – what should that look like? Rationality and scientific thinking are presented as universal, but the personal is not. So how do you teach a group of individuals how to “listen to your gut”? Or emotional intelligence? The only way I know, in terms of education, is to take a broadly philosophical and anthropological approach. But you don’t necessarily get a lot of that in Delft, except at SG of course. Of course. 

  

Join us for a deep dive into the non-rational. Check out our upcoming programme here.

April 30th – Existential Tuesday – Have you ever had an independent thought? – the Nook, TUD Library
May 14th – Existential Tuesday – Is everything somehow alive? – the Nook, TUD Library
May 21st – Existential Tuesday – Can you control your feelings with your thoughts? – the Nook, TUD Library
May 28th – Existential Tuesday – Do you trust your gut?  – the Nook, TUD Library

June 5th – VOX Book Club – We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin – the Nook, TUD Library
June 10th – SG Café Het buikgevoel (in Dutch) – Theater de Veste

Why Climate Theatre?

According to a recent study conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Milieudefensie Jong, 1 in 5 young people aged between 16 and 30 regularly experience stress due to the climate crisis. 70 percent are concerned about climate change, and 1 in 4 avoid climate news and are uncertain about having children.

In short, the climate crisis has a significant impact on the quality of life for young people – including students and PhD candidates at TU Delft.

What can we do about it? Partly through researching the changing climate and exploring technological mitigation and adaptation possibilities, like the Climate Action Programme at TU Delft. Additionally, by reflecting on and giving form to the uncertainties and emotions that underlie the facts. These are critical life questions; for now and the future. What perspective do I have, can I grieve – but also hope? What can I expect, and what is my role?

The climate crisis is too vast to comprehend; philosopher Timothy Morton aptly refers to it as a ‘hyper-object’. Despite well-founded scenarios, we find it challenging to prepare for the coming decades. How can we make something like this manageable?

Historically, theater has always been a means of coping with intense emotions and uncertainties. Theater is partly fiction – not always – but deeply rooted in human experiences such as despair and mortality, love and struggle, corruption and hope. The power of theater is to make such emotions visible, as we empathize with actors. Aristotle, in his text about drama, Poetics, recognized the power of catharsis, which means an emotional cleansing experienced through watching theater. Theater acts as a mediator: we can allow emotions without being overwhelmed because actors literally give them form for us. Good theater is often more captivating than a book, conversation, or a film. You vicariously experience the same emotions the actors have.

Therefore, climate theater plays a significant role in climate discussions. It gives a voice to what is otherwise difficult to articulate: the fear of what is to come. In collaboration with the Climate Action Programme and Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, we are doing something special. In the heart of IDE’s hall, the theater group TG Vagebond will perform the play “Adem” (“Breath”) – in which a couple faces the difficult question of whether or not to bring a child into this world (Again: 1 in 4 young people express doubts about this due to the climate crisis). An impactful dialogue, with plenty of action from both actors. TG Vagebond specializes in site-specific theater, making full use of the hall. It’s a unique event, and we are grateful that IDE is willing to experiment with this.

After the performance, Eva van der Kooij, TU Delft alumna and climate advisor at KNMI, and Maurits van der Heijde, a climate psychologist at Hogeschool Inholland, will engage in discussions with the audience. We are very curious if the play contributes to articulating feelings and emotions.

Important note: The performance is in DUTCH. It is challenging to organize climate theater in English – but if this time is a success, who knows what we might arrange next.

Embracing interconnectedness – thinking about FLOTW

I found it a beautiful quote from philosopher and biologist Andreas Weber during the For Love of the World festival. It’s about death, not a cheerful subject. But Weber reassured: ‘If you think death is a definitive end, it puts enormous pressure on our short lifespan. With so much pressure, you cannot build a tender relationship with the world. You lose yourself in the threat of the end.’

Weber starts from a radical standpoint: the interdependence and interconnectedness of forms of existence on this planet. Dying is not (only) the end of an individual, but merging into a larger whole. Of course, we grieve when we lose a loved one—such an idea won’t change that. But it is liberating concerning all the gloom and even apocalyptic visions of the end of civilizations and even the planet. Those paralyzed by a possible end ultimately achieve nothing.

The interdependence and interconnectedness of all forms of existence were the basis of the completely sold-out For Love of the World (FLOTW) festival at Theater De Veste. Because of this interconnectedness, the question arises whether we—humans—should see ourselves as the pinnacle of creation or as constantly co-evolving with everything around us. This is called posthumanism; not because we are bidding farewell to humans, but because the idea of being human is changing. The planet (or technology) does not revolve around us but forms a community with us. The planet is not an amusement park where you can have fun and cheerfully go home after 5 hours. We are in this together.

This applies to our interaction with nature but certainly also to technology. Yke Bauke Eijsma, researcher in human-robot interaction at TU Delft, showed this using robot dog Spot, which demonstrates that terms like care, affection, fear and even love also could apply in the interaction with technology. Aafke Fraaije, who researches the role that art can play in climate solidarity, showed how interconnectedness also applies to future generations; with a poetry workshop by spoken-word artist Nabil Tkhidousset. Joost Vervoort, researcher in Transformative Imagination in the Environmental Governance Group at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, led a guided meditation on the mystical, while Julia Rijssenbeek—PhD in philosophy at Wageningen University—showed her experimental film Cobalt, which explored the future relationship with technology through dance.

The fascinating thing is that these Dutch researchers show how science itself is increasingly intertwined with art forms—a return to the classics: science was still called art during ‘the seven liberal arts (artes)’ in the Middle Ages. But also with the fact that there is meaning, pondering about robot love, generations to come, and even the mystical feeling you are a part of a bigger whole (as science sometimes does: think about the ‘pale blue dot’ picture of our planet, sent to us by Voyager1, sent from a distance of approximately 6 billion kilometers from Earth).

In the main hall of De Veste, besides Weber, theoretical physicist Heinrich Päs (TU Dortmund) discussed netlike intricate fabric to which we all belong—viewed from the entanglement theory of quantum physics, and Elisa Giaccardi (former professor of post-industrial design at TU Delft) discussed how design is not a tool to be wielded according to our intentions but is a humble and adaptive attunement. And one where technology doesn’t just serve human needs but helps us connect to other-than-human scales and sensibilities, opening up new possibilities for our collective survival.

In addition to researchers, numerous student clubs were involved in the organization. Debates, art, making art oneself, music, and so on—too much to mention here. There were also artworks, and the AI assistant Aurora, created by New Media Centre of TU Delft.

As was said in the final discussion with some guests: this is a new paradigm. That is exactly what we felt during the evening. It is new; things still need to take shape. But we saw how the approach of interconnectedness and posthumanism offers profound value to science by fostering a more inclusive, ethical, and innovative approach to understanding and interacting with the world. By challenging anthropocentric biases and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, posthumanism enriches scientific inquiry and encourages responsible advancements that benefit diverse forms of life. That is why we call it For love of the World.

Interconnectedness and posthumanism encourage researchers – and us all – to explore the agency and intelligence of non-human entities, such as animals, ecosystems, artificial intelligence, robot dogs, and the next generations. This shift in perspective leads to a more holistic understanding of complex systems and promotes ethical considerations in scientific practices, ensuring that advancements are made with empathy and respect for all beings.

Additionally, posthumanism inspires scientists to adopt interdisciplinary approaches that integrate insights from philosophy, cultural studies, and ethics into scientific endeavors. This holistic approach enables researchers to consider broader implications and societal impacts of their work, leading to more informed and responsible decision-making in scientific innovation.

In essence, posthumanism enriches science by promoting a more expansive and ethical vision of the future, where scientific advancements are aligned with values of diversity, empathy, and responsible stewardship of the natural world. This paradigm shift in scientific thinking holds the potential to create a more harmonious relationship between humans, technology, and the broader ecosystem, paving the way for transformative and inclusive progress in science and society. But besides that: it enriches science with existential questions like: why are we on earth? What is purpose?

And indeed, if we do embrace being part of a broader ecosystem – who would fear the end?

 

 

 

Brief Uit de Toekomst | Lieve overgroot-oma

Lieve overgroot-oma,

Het duurde vier jaar, maar mijn ouders hebben eindelijk de verhuisdozen uitgepakt die na de verhuizing op zolder zijn gezet. Hiertussen vond ik jouw oude dagboeken en brieven. Wat jammer dat the sketchbook library niet meer online is! Ik had graag je inzending bekeken. Net als jij schrijf ik graag brieven. Leuk (en jammer) om te lezen dat dit in jouw tijd dus al niet meer zo gebruikelijk was. Aangezien we dit gemeen hebben leek het me toepasselijk om je een brief te schrijven.

Ik ben afgelopen augustus 25 geworden en ben zojuist gestopt met mijn opleiding. Deze zomer zal ik werk moeten vinden als ik ooit nog aan een appartement wil komen. Er zijn dagelijks demonstraties sinds de meerderheid onvoldoende credits heeft om aan een goede woning te komen. In de tussentijd moeten we het doen met de cellules vergelijkbaar met legbatterijen uit jouw tijd. Behalve als je geld hebt natuurlijk.

Het lijkt me fijn om mijn eigen inkomsten te hebben, maar ik weet ook dat ik dit doe alleen maar omdat het moet. In de brieven die je aan Sonia schreef vond ik mezelf op haar lijken. Binnenkort werk ik dus fulltime voor weinig loon om te doen wat ik echt wil. Alleen weet ik niet wat dat ‘hogere doel’ is. Hoe weet je waartoe je op aarde bent? Je schreef erover alsof je met filosofie bij het antwoord kwam zonder te zeggen wat dat antwoord was. Heel… filosofisch van je. Al moet ik eerlijk zeggen dat sommige bladzijden uit je dagboek totaal onsamenhangend waren voor me.

Jammer dat je niet meer leeft! In jouw lifetime moest een AI mind nog echt op gang komen. Ik had graag een brief van je ontvangen of gewoon gesproken over levenlessen die je leerde. Misschien had ik dan nu beter geweten wat ik wilde doen.

Tijd om af te ronden. Ik heb zo afgesproken in de lounge met een bedrijfje. De laatste keer startte de app niet op waardoor ik te laat kwam. Niet deze keer!

Liefs,

Je achterkleinkind


Another Letter from the Future by For Love of the World visitor Charis!

Article | Let’s make the world a little bit different

Who among us would be willing to lend a hand in making this world just a bit better? It sounds straightforward – do good deeds; volunteer for the elderly, animals, or refugees; make a donation; be kind to those around you… Yet, even the simplest gestures often prove challenging. Or they may seem insignificant in the face of the daily onslaught of suffering. In Ukraine, Gaza, and countless other unreported regions, war and profound hardship persist. Almost every day, we confront dire scenarios related to climate change. What more can we do? Where does one even begin? Is there any real value in starting? Continue reading

It makes your blood boil

It’s 9am on a Monday morning, and my blood is already boiling. The reason? Rush hour traffic. I almost got mowed down on my bike, together with my kid, by a driver who was in a hurry to bring his own kid to school. It’s the kind of moment that’s over in a flash, with rage and fear and a feeling of powerlessness that’s hard to channel. I yelled at his car, he probably didn’t hear me. Life goes on.

We all know there’s plenty of other issues to be angry about, not just on a daily basis but on a permanent basis. How do you deal with your thoughts and feelings about climate change, racism, gender inequality, housing, inflation, wars, politics, farmers, Trumpism, and so on? Are you angry all the time? Fearful, disappointed? Ready to give up? Or ready to fight for what’s right?

In spite of my own feelings, like most people I don’t really do protests. I’ve been to a few, out of anthropological curiosity mostly. I’m curious about the people who do stand up and say something. Who demand change. They seem to be in the minority, especially in a place like Delft. But they are there. I’ve been to some of the Extinction Rebellion highway blockades in Den Haag. And I dropped by the climate change protests organized by End Fossil LU/TUD, most recently last week at the faculty of ME. There were only a few dozen people in attendance, on a campus of tens of thousands of people, but they were there, enacting their right to protest.

What’s interesting to know is that they are hardly the first to speak up in Delft. Don’t be fooled by the superficial silence on campus. University historian Abel Streefland has been digging around in the archives and discovered the earliest mention of a student protest in Delft was way back in 1861 (the university was founded in 1842). If you want to know more about it, next week Abel is going to walk us through more than 150 years of issues, activists, and consequences in a mini-seminar on the history of activism on the TUD campus.

Personally, I’m quite curious what kind of issues have made people’s blood boil over the decades. Sure, climate is a hot issue now. Student housing has always been important. But what else? War, nukes, colonialism, immoral technologies…? I have no idea. Join me next Thursday and we’ll find out. And after we’re all up to date on the past, we can talk about what makes our blood boil today, and what we should do about it. Is activism the way? If not, what then? But if yes, then how?

In the meantime, my traffic anger issues are abating. I’m chill. Work here is awesome, and there’s never anything to complain about, let alone to protest over. Hahaha. Never 😀

  • Klaas P. van der Tempel, program maker

Why Discuss the Gaza Conflict at Studium Generale? And Why Choose This Format?

I felt from the start that it was important for Studium Generale (SG) Delft to host an event on the Gaza conflict. There has been a good deal of debate within our own team about whether it is worthwhile to do so. Throughout its long history, SG has seen plenty of controversial, uncomfortable, and sometimes even ill-advised events. So what made us decide to go ahead with this particular idea, to focus on the legal dimensions of the Gaza conflict?

Now, we are co-hosting with Begüm Sari from ESP Delft, who has her own perspective and motivations, and I am also working alongside the Head of SG, Leon Heuts. But I wanted to write this article to give a personal insight into the debate that goes on behind closed doors, and also to provide my answers and motivations to some of the questions that were raised.

“What makes an event on an active military conflict typically SG?”

War touches on moral issues that are fundamental to SG’s reason to exist. We provide students and other guests with the information, skills, and motivation to get involved in urgent societal problems.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, every university in the Netherlands was tasked with founding a Studium Generale, because the majority of students had accepted the demands of the Nazi regime. The conclusion was drawn that Studium Generale was required to foster ethical community-building.

Events that centre around human rights, war, and other big themes give students the opportunity to learn about themselves, about the world, and their own position. By articulating your opinion and learning from others, you can build a foundation on which to enter into public debate. Building your critical skills and resilience prepares you to become politically active. Facilitating this process is a key responsibility for SG.

“We need to offer visitors a broader perspective. Why is there war? How do these types of conflicts arise? Why won’t they stop?”

By taking such a distant vantage point, you do not reach objective truth, but merely take the sting out of the discussion. Ethics does not exist in a vacuum. Yes, we do host discussions where you can reflect and make connections. But you also need to exercise your judgement on concrete matters.

“Why not have a discussion about non-violent communication, instead?”

Because violence does exist. Of course we want to turn our students into ideal citizens who will never start a war or send a threatening tweet. It goes without saying that SG is non-violent. I am in fact helping a colleague to organise an workshop that focuses on good conversation skills. It’s not an either-or situation. Being committed to non-violence doesn’t mean you are unconcerned with violence; quite the opposite.

“Will this be another history lesson about the conflict? What is the added value?”

First of all, many students have not had that lesson in full. Part of our audience has unfortunately seen this conflict play out over decades. However, this is not the case for everyone. A younger, international audience has a very different knowledge base and may appreciate more context. Speaking purely for myself, there is a lot I don’t know about the history, politics, and geography of the region.

Secondly, our audience will now learn from experts in an academic context. They will get to pose questions and meet other interested audience members.

Third, my ambition was always to focus primarily on the present day – with a view to the future. For this particular event, we are focusing on the legal dimensions of the conflict. We will examine the court cases that are happening in real time and ask what the international community can and should do in times of war.

“Why not organise a true public debate?”

This is still unresolved in my mind. In an ideal world, perhaps we would organise a balanced debate with representatives from many sides and encourage the whole audience to join in. Unfortunately, we believe the conversation would devolve into the repetition of entrenched positions. It could even become disordered and pose a risk to the safety and wellbeing of the participants. Nevertheless, we will continue to weigh up risks and benefits. SG will always look for the format that best serves our audience. Sometimes that means testing on a small scale, or starting out with a setup that restricts audience participation. My hope is that the atmosphere will be productive and offer a foundation for future events.

Intrigued? Come be a part of it!

I look forward to meeting you and hearing your thoughts on the night. Whether it is through Mentimeter, questions to the panel, or over drinks afterwards.

The Law of War: Israel and Gaza

February 29, 2024, 17:15 – 19:00, TU Delft Library, Orange Room

Could colours have meaning?

Can colour – especially the combination of colours – have meaning? That is a key principle of Studium Generale’s new style. Historically, it’s a point of contention between physicist Isaac Newton and poet, scientist, and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Newton approached colours objectively and measurably, considering their place in the spectrum and corresponding wavelengths. Goethe, on the other hand, explored the experience of colour – how we perceive it and the emotions it evokes.

The new direction of Studium Generale aligns with a new style and colour palette, emphasizing contrast and connection. This reflects the complexity of our interconnected world, where actions have consequences beyond ourselves. Studium Generale values intersectionality and multidisciplinarity, emphasizing the interplay between ecology, philosophy, science, and technology, as well as living harmoniously with diverse people and lifestyles. The chosen colour style contrasts yet forms connections, embodying a tactile materiality that acknowledges the world is meant to be felt, not just understood.

Learn more about Studium Generale’s new mission here. Join us on Monday, February 19 at 12:45 in The Nook of the TU Delft Library, for a small rebranding celebration, where you can play with colours and receive delightful goodies like stylish tote bags featuring our new logo!