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Etienne Vermeersch, the art of lecturing, and coming into your own

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I expect that not many readers of this blog will have heard of Professor Etienne Vermeersch, a philosophy professor who died recently, aged 84. But he was what one would call world-famous in Flanders, the part of Belgium where I grew up and studied as an undergraduate. I took his Introduction to Philosophy course (a first-year mandatory course for all undergraduates in arts and humanities) and a course on Christian thought.  Etienne Vermeersch was not famous outside of Flanders because he did not follow the publication model of writing philosophy in English, and as Anglophone philosophy is quite insular (see Eric Schwitzgebel's work on this) this work did not get much international uptake, as his writings were mostly in Dutch.  Nevertheless, I would be hard-pressed to think of many other philosophers that were as influential as Vermeersch. He took part in numerous television debates, wrote for newspapers and magazines, was involved in several governmental commissions on legislation about asylum seekers, weighed in on debates on legalising abortion and euthanasia, and much more. Politicians in Belgium listened to Vermeersch and were always interested to hear his opinion (just today Guy Verhofstadt wrote a tribute to him on FaceBook). He stated his opinion boldly, but always backed up by arguments.  Here I want to reflect on the art of lecturing, a much-maligned art as philosophy professor as tasked to make their work ever more entertaining and digestible for students (see e.g., Eric Steinhart's excellent recent post here on teaching statements where he says "Do you just stand there and lecture? Do you lecture with power point? Our students don’t respond very well to those styles.") - and how I experienced it as an undergraduate.  Etienne Vermeersch taught in a large lecture theatre that held 500 or so students, and had about 1000 students per year. His intro to philosophy was a historically organized course with few. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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