Philosophical skills

While enjoying an ice tea at the Paviljoen, Ruby talks about her development as a philosopher. “The first bit of philosophy I encountered was the book 1984 by George Orwell. When I read it, I thought: I want to do something with this, because I don’t want anyone to ever tell me what I have to learn or think. I want to always keep thinking critically, for myself.” That critical attitude has stuck with Ruby over the years.

Ruby Knipscheer 1-Denkwolken_Feb2023_ThanhNguyen
Image credit: Thanh Nguyen

According to her, the philosophy education at EUR has shifted more towards the practical side in recent years. She feels this approach is a good one: “I see philosophy as a collection of skills such as close reading and building an argument.” Ruby tries to instil those skills in students through her teaching. In doing so, she tries to teach people to think outside their own ‘box’. “Everyone should have philosophical skills in order to be a good citizen – for instance, looking at the world from another person’s perspective and having real conversations instead of debates.”

Two collections

For Ruby, writing poetry has been a part of her life for years. “I never used to talk about the things that were bothering me, but poetry was always an outlet for me. When I started uni, I suddenly noticed that I already had volumes full of poetry.” In 2015, she decided to send a selection of her best works to publishers for feedback. Much to her surprise, the publishing house Boekscout was immediately willing to publish a collection. “That was something I hadn’t expected. When I sent the poems off for feedback, I hadn’t told anyone about it. So when my first book Gedachtenstromen was published, it came as a big surprise to everyone.”

Gedicht Democratie

Democratie lijkt een zege.
Waarom gaat het dan toch steeds mis?
Misschien omdat er recht is
om een ieder te horen,
terwijl naar elkaar luisteren
nog steeds geen plicht is.

Denkwolken (Uitgeverij Boekscout)

While Ruby’s poems deal with personal emotions and experiences, to a large extent, they are also about how she views society. She expresses criticism of what she sees and offers ideas on how to treat each other differently. “To me, it’s quite simple: if  people paid attention to what someone else is saying and truly listen, rather than just worrying about being right, it would solve so many of our problems.” Her philosophical skills are on display in the poems as well. “These days, you see that people on social media have so many opinions, but since they don’t offer any arguments to support their views, I don’t consider them ‘real’ opinions.”

Following the success of her first book of poems, Ruby is now publishing a second collection. Initially, she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to do it: “It’s an incredibly personal thing and you literally become an open book; everyone knows what you are feeling and thinking. But in the end, I think I have something worthwhile to say.” She had already put together a large portion of the poems back in 2015; the rest were added in the past seven years. So how do the two books differ from one another? “This one is thicker”, she says with typical Rotterdam practicality. She adds: “Both collections are about ideas I want to disseminate, yet I’m prouder of the second one, because I can tell that I’ve been able to shape my ideas more effectively thanks to my degree programme. Actually, they are the same – except one was written by young Ruby and the other by old Ruby.”

Gedicht Handboek voor Rotterdammers

Sta vastbesloten op je standpunt,
laat je niet meevoeren met de wind.
Wees zo hard als een volwassene,
met de onbevangenheid van een kind.

Spreek luid en duidelijk en plak
achter sommige woorden eens een T,
wees niet bang voor de waarheid
en neem alle gratis dingen mee.

Zie de waarde in een ander net als
dat je weet waar je zelf voor staat.
Kijk eens ontroerd naar de gebouwen
en sta voor je medemens paraat.

Wees niet bang om hard te werken,
maar klaag wel lekker steen en been.
Laat zien dat je overal voor moet vechten
en doe niet lullig over Feyenoord 1.

Voel je absoluut niet meer dan wat je bent,
wees jezelf, want dan ben je al gek genoeg.
Geniet van een lekker bakkie pleur
of drink een biertje met Arie in de kroeg.

Rotterdammers weten wie ze zijn,
kennen hun taak en waarvoor ze het doen.
Rotterdammers zijn niet snel tevreden,
maar lullen vol passie over een oude schoen.

Zeg wat je over ons wilt, het doet ons niets,
we springen net als onze stad in het oog.
Lul jij maar verder over Rotterdammers,
we doen niet onder voor een filosoof.

Denkwolken (Uitgeverij Boekscout)

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