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“I named a teddy bear after him”

“I named a teddy bear after him”

Arie van der Lugt inspired by Louk Fleischhacker

The syllabus 'Philosophy of Mathematical Thought and Information Technology' is on his desk. “That was the teaching material that was used for one of the subjects that I took with Louk Fleischhacker. I found it when I was clearing out my parents’ house”, Arie van der Lugt (1968) explains.

Van der Lugt, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences, studied Information Science at the University of Twente at the end of the nineteen-eighties. “I thought that as a graduate in this subject, I would get rich quickly and I was good in mathematics. It turned out to be a bitter disappointment because the content didn’t captivate me. I have a philosophical predisposition; I tend to think about thought. That is why I chose the post-graduate programme of the Philosophy of Science, Engineering and Society after the foundation course. This was a programme offered to engineers in training who lacked academic reflection.”

It was because of the philosopher and mathematician Fleischhacker, with whom he took three subjects, that he completed his study of Information Science after all. Van der Lugt: “He was capable of making dry material come to life. One of the ways in which he did so, was by using everyday examples and by reciting poetry with a bombastic voice during his lectures. Louk was an extremely clever and wonderful philosopher. An oral exam with him was an adventure in itself. You joined a great thinker in the boxing ring. At the time he smoked a pipe, which was still possible in those days. I can still see him standing in front of me with his pipe in his right hand, a short beard and that beautiful, deep voice.”

In addition to inspiration, Fleischhacker also incited fear of failing. Van der Lugt: “I constantly felt like I was pushing myself to the limit. My thinking reached the limits of what I myself could comprehend. ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,’ said the philosopher Wittgenstein. Well, that idea. For fear of disappointing him and myself, I chose a different lecturer as a supervisor for my graduation research.”

They stayed in touch. “I sent him an e-mail every now and again, for example when he won the education award. And when I started to teach the Critical Thinking subject at this faculty - a direct result of his lectures - I contacted him. I asked him if I could use parts of his teaching materials and let him know then that it was his lectures that had enlightened me. That it was because of him that I knew why I was at university.”

Fleischhacker died in 2006. “I heard the news from a fellow-student who had read it in the newspaper.” Van der Lugt gets up and sits at his computer so he can search for the obituary notice. He comes across his opening lecture for the subject he teaches and opens the second slide entitled ‘in memoriam’. A photograph of Fleischhacker in the top left-hand corner, in the centre his name and the years 1937 – 2006 with below them the words ‘als wij zijn, is de dood niet; als de dood is, zijn wij niet’ (if we are, then death is not; if we are dead, then we are not).

“I always dedicate my introductory lecture to him. I even named a teddy bear after him. I found that bear by the side of the motorway, during my time as a student, returning home from Prague. Dirty, old and worn, but I just had to take it with me. For a long time it was on top of a cupboard in my living room. It now sits in the garage and every time I go in there, I look at it and say: ‘Hey, Louk.’”  

Ingrid Candel

 

This is a series in which researchers talk about the person who inspired them most

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