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Personal Experience - Noortje Schonck

I really feel that it’s my mission to make philosophy accessible to a wider audience

Since childhood, philosophy student Noortje has always been fascinated by philosophy. “There’s a picture of me as a two-year-old where I’ve got one of Sartre’s books on my lap.” During the regular courses in her study programme, Noortje realised that she sought greater depth and that she was looking for more of a challenge. The opportunity to work on a project within her area of interest through the Humanities Honours Programme fulfilled her wish perfectly.

Noortje found the application process quite exciting, because she believed that the Honours Programme was only for exceptional students who were expected to meet exceedingly high expectations, but nothing could have been further from the truth. “I actually now see the Honours Programme as an informal setting where you can take advantage of opportunities and not as a situation in which you’re inevitably expected to meet rather high expectations and attain achievements.”

Noortje was paired with her supervisor, who is working on a PhD project on phenomenology, which is a movement that had already captivated Noortje’s attention during her studies. “Within phenomenology, you can adopt an attitude in which you doubt everyday life. Where you ask yourself questions like: Does that table in front of me really exist? Or is it just a figment of my imagination? The deep sense of wonder that I had as a child has been clearly developed in phenomenology.”

Noortje’s supervisor linked this movement to a question that had been on her mind for quite some time, namely ‘Does the external world that I experience really exist, or is it just an idea in my mind?’, and this subsequently clarified the topic for her project. Together with her supervisor, Noortje reads many texts on her topic, which they then critically examine and discuss. “I really feel like we’re exploring this topic together. It’s impossible to find the right answer on your own; you really need a dialogue. This exchange of ideas is exactly what I love about philosophy. It’s what I often miss during the lectures. It’s these one-on-one conversations that allow you to explore the texts in greater depth.”

Even though Noortje may find sifting through these philosophical texts and the subsequent discussion with her supervisor motivational, she also knows that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. She hopes that she can use her project to contribute towards making philosophy more accessible to everyone. She is still not quite sure about what her end result will be. However, it is quite clear that it should be something that also appeals to non-philosophers and inspires them. “I really feel that it’s my mission to make philosophy accessible to a wider audience.”