Philosophical Qualifications

I don’t have a degree in Philosophy, and frankly, I don’t think you need one to be a “lover of wisdom” – which is the exact translation of the word “philosopher”.

I do have a degree in Theology from the University of Amsterdam. It was something of a genetic necessity: both my parents were ministers in the Dutch Reformed Church, and my maternal grandfather was a Professor of Theology at the University of Leiden. Thinking and talking about Life, the Universe and Everything was something that I was literally born into. Fortunately, my parents were not the “Shut Up and Read Your Bible” -type of reverends, but more the “What A Miracle Our Daughter Has A Mind Of Her Own”-kind of educators. They always seemed delighted by my creative and intellectual achievements, however wacky or outrageous – well, I was their first child, so I had a lot of credit.

My parents always encouraged me and my two brothers to ask questions and develop our own views. They were actually very surprised when I chose to study Theology, since I never showed any inclination towards ascending the pulpit. I chose Theology because it is a very diverse study, including languages, sociology, phenomenology, dogmatics, history and philosophy. The faculty of Amsterdam was a very liberal one, accommodating Christians and atheists alike.

So, what I’m trying to say is: any environment that allows a person to be curious and to learn about their own specific existential questions, can qualify as a school for philosophy. Hopefully, my comic will inspire people both inside and outside of educational systems to find their “love of wisdom”!

Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics
Advertisements

How did my Philosophy Comic come about?

It all started way back in 2007…

I had the good fortune to be making occasional comics for newspaper NRC.Next, with a special assignment: I visited theater shows and made reviews in comic form. I loved the format, and wanted to extend it to other areas.

In April 2007 a philosopher from the North of Holland did a stunt: he spent a week in a huge casket, just like the Greek philosopher Diogenes in the fourth century B.C. I went up and visited him, and drew a comic report about it.

Philosopher in casket

Unfortunately, NRC.Next wouldn’t print it, since they didn’t really have a corner for philosophy. So I went to newspaper Trouw, which not only printed the comic, but gave me my own monthly spot in the paper, which I was free to fill with comic reports on philosophical and spiritual matters.

Since then, I have produced about forty comic reports on a wide range of subjects: I Ching, a convention about Happiness, the Reality of Lord of the Rings, Hallucinogenics, Buddhism, Near Death Experiences, Freemasonry, a Phone Line to God, Freud, the Crusades and Virtual Reality. (some have them have been translated and can be read here). All of the trips I made to special events were huge fun and gave me more than enough to draw about – except one.

In 2009 I attended a talk about Spinoza which was so dull, vague and unfocused that I could see no way to make the experience into a useful comic. So I did something more general: I made a comic about the life and thoughts of Spinoza.

Spinoza
The original Spinoza comic as it appeared in Dutch in newspaper Trouw

It was a great success! I received lots of fanmail about it from people with an interest in philosophy, who thought my comic did not only represent Spinoza very well, but did so in a very fun and accessible way.

A few months later I got a call from publisher Kees Korenhof from Uitgeverij Meinema (specializing in philosophical books). He asked me if I would like to make a comic book about philosophy, in the same vein as the comic reports. My husband and I looked at each other and said: Of course! It was the middle of the crisis, there weren’t many assignments coming my way but we managed financially, so we could easily devote ourselves to making a whole comic book, something that has been a dream of mine anyway.

It was a gamble for the publisher, since Meinema had never published comics and aims at a very specific audience. The first imprint had a cautious number, to see how the book would do. Thanks to a big interview in the newspaper, the first print was sold out in a week, even before the official book presentation. By now, the book has seen three prints, an online workbook and several positive reviews.

Curious yet?

Well, hold on until September, then get your own copy of ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ and see what all the (my) fuss is about!

By the way, part of the Spinoza comic made it into the book – the only piece that has actually been published before, everything else is completely new material.

Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics

Who Am I and What Am I Thinking?

Do you remember the first thought you ever had?

Well, that depends on what you consider a thought.

I imagine that, as a baby, even in the womb, I must have felt all kinds of sensations that registered somewhere in my tiny brain as observations, like “I’m cold”, “I’m hungry”, “I’m tired”.

Are those thoughts?

In my comic, I drew my own theory of types of thoughts.

We have observations, and then start building upon those by connecting them, and then we derive conclusions.

And that process, the switching between Observing, Connecting and Concluding, is what we call Thinking.

I think.

Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics

 

One of my earliest recollections about my own thinking process was from when I was about five years old. Like many children, I liked cute, small animals. It bothered me that I could not pick up and cuddle the small sparrows in our garden. Oh, how I wished that one of them would come to me and be my friend!

So I made something up.

I told my teacher and parents that I had rescued a small baby-bird that had fallen out of a tree, and that I had restored it to health and then its mother came to pick it up. They both happily flapped their wings at me in thanks as they flew away.

My parents and teacher just smiled and said: “Oh, that’s nice.” At first I thought I had fooled them with a lie. But it gradually dawned on me that they knew full well that what I told them never happened, yet they seemed to enjoy listening to what I had to say.

And so I found out about another type of thinking: the story-telling thought.

Or: imagination.

Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics

I Blog, therefore I Am

This month NBM will start announcing my comic ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’, and I am very happy and excited about it! This book appeared originally in Dutch in 2010, and I am very pleased with the American title NBM came up with. (the original is ‘Philosophy in the Picture’).

Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics

 

Because it IS a Discovery in Comics – as much for me as for the reader, I hope. I have no formal education in philosophy and I think you don’t need one to be a philosopher. Philosophy is literally: love of knowledge, so all you need to enjoy my book is an interest in Thinking, and Thinking about Thinking. And I throw in the occasional cartoony joke as well, so a sense of humor is also a pre-requisite.

If you want to know more about the book, check it out on my website: www.senoeni.net

On this blog I will post more about myself and how the book came about in the coming months, see keep an eye on this spot.

Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics

Next episode: WHO AM I and WHEN DID I START THINKING?