Marjan Slob is an alumnus of Utrecht University and an independent philosopher, speaker and essayist. Her theme is ‘Ruim denken’ [broad thinking]: making room for other perspectives from a place of acceptance.
As a philosopher I am used to the idea that I don’t understand reality. Being able to live comfortably with that realisation is perhaps the greatest gift that my studies in Utrecht have given me. And don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t fully understand all values and insights! As I learned from philosopher Richard Rorty, awareness of your own inadequate understanding can go hand in hand with a passionate commitment to certain beliefs.
A human being can do no more than live by beliefs. The everyday work of scientists is to make such beliefs logically coherent and systematically put them to the test. Generally speaking, alumni who work outside of academia will no longer be able to do this. And that is fine; each to their own. Because scientific precision is a great thing but, if we are to have a thriving and successful public domain, what is more important is that decision-makers and opinion-makers are imbued with a scientific mentality. That mentality lies in the realisation that you too may be wrong. Because you overlook something. Because you have no knowledge of certain realities. Because you simply make a mistake.
It is my fervent hope that alumni will carry that mentality with them throughout their lives, and communicate it to others. Because the openness that comes with that mentality is the greatest contribution that the university and its alumni can make to society.