Rhodes Scholar: Stuurman’s education

How does one compete for the Rhodes Scholarship?

Stuurman: “Well, it’s the same thing still. First, you earn the right by competitive examinations to to represent your college. Then you go to state . . . And then you go to the district – a collection of six states – two from each state go to the finals. And then from the twelve, four are chosen. Now, if it hadn’t been for Rebec’s learning and my having sat in his classes so wide-eyed, I wouldn’t have it so easy, because my first question at the district was . . . There were five men, five professors. And one of them said . . . “Everything matters except everything.” Who said that? And what did he mean?

“. . . now literary philosophy teaches you how to handle stuff like that; straight philosophy doesn’t.”

– He thought he stumped you on it.

  • Yeah. And that I quickly said, it could only be Chesterton. And the next question was, “Eugene O’Neill’s recent play, Mourning Becomes Electra – what would you say in just response to that bit of information?” Well again, having been brought up with literary philosophy, there was no problem. Glow with the Greeks. It is modeled on Greek tragedy, so my Greek studies made that a natural. He (Rebeck) had given me a vocabulary with which to talk about things like that. Now religion would never have helped me with that, because religion is, again, the way a secretary is to conventional language. It means exactly what it means in their minds. In literature, you’ve got the exact opposite. No word means exactly what it means. It’s like a symbol. It can include opposites. It can do all sorts of things, and it has a sort of radiant quality, as opposed to this grim two-dimension stuff.
  • – Going back to Oxford. You passed your examination. You’re selected to go to Oxford (as a Rhodes scholar). This is during the thirties?
  • During the depression. We all met in New York. There were thirty-two of us from from forty-eights states. . . . The Rhodes stipend was very handsome in those days. It was the biggest scholarship available, and especially during the depression. . . . we took a Dutch boat, all of us together. And we landed at Plymouth and then went to Stonehenge. It’s a miracle when you are young, you know, everything looks glamorous. And then, on top of it we were the glamour boys.
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Douwe Stuurman College Lecture Draws Anxious Turn-Away Crowd; Topic: Anxiety


The weekly All-College Lecture series, held Tuesday at the Classroom Building auditorium, featured Prof. Douwe Stuurman lecturing on “Philosophy in an Age of Anxiety.”


Before a crowd that filled not only every seat in the auditorium but also all available seating area on the stage and in the aisles, the popular Prof. Stuurman talked somberly on the “anxieties” with which Twentieth Century man has been presented and the philosopher’s role in this situation.


Stuurman opened the lecture with quotations from T. S. Eliot, defining the tense feelings presented to modern man. Investigation of modern poetic and psychiatric terminology, he stated, defined the feelings of the individual—emptiness and loneliness, isolation and hallowness being the key words. Philosophy, said Stuurman, was largely responsible in creating these feelings. In philosophy lies the answer to the modern meaning of “anxiety.”


“Bertrand Russell,” said Stuurman, “spoke of the philosopher as living-in a world not his own. Somewhere the philosopher lost touch with the meaning of ‘making full’.” (Russell on happiness.)


He then went on to some of the more basic philosophical concepts, their histories, and how
radically some of the basic ideas in them had changed throughout the history of philosophy. Such things as the role of individualism as a cloak for incompetence, Descartes’ philosophy of the separation of mind and body, Stuurman feels, were all contributing factors in defining modern philosophy.


• “Modern philosophy could emphasize will or it could emphasize the rational. Modern interpretations,” said Stuurman, “by modern philosophers defined the irrational as a source of power and satisfaction. Philosophy was hard to distinguish from science and logic.”


Stuurman further feels that our new philosophy is thought to be an answer, a relief from anxiety.
The Existentialists’ feelings toward suffering is viewed by Stuurman as the reasoning behind many modern philosophers, and that the mind is a minor reflecting objective reality.


Philosophy has taught that love of wisdom must be stronger than the love of knowledge, even stronger than love of life..


To end his lecture Stuurman concluded: “’Philosophy has provided an answer to the problem of anxiety.”

  • from “El Gaucho” October 18, 1957; University of California – Santa Barbara College.

Aldous Huxley visits UCSB. : Who knows why the people came? The talks were made possible by UCSB Proust professor Douwe Stuurman – a khaki-clad, ascot-wearing character about town-who had attended Oxford’s Balliol College with Huxley and Isherwood. But it wasn’t just Anglophilia that made Huxley a hot ticket. His talks fit the agenda of a once-sleepy tourist town that suddenly had a UC campus, appealing to both academics and the greater community. First, Huxley made an impassioned plea for remarrying the increasingly specialized branches of Academia. He wanted people to see the world as a combination of “atomic physics” on one hand and “an immediate experience of value, love, and emotion” on the other. “The building of this fundamental bridge is an urgent, urgent problem in our world,” he said.

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