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Ramon Alcoberro, course instructor in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities

"It is much easier to talk to students and respond to their doubts online than in an office"

19   June   2017

Ramon Alcoberro:

Ramon Alcoberro: "In life there are philosophers for specific moments"

He defines himself as addicted to work ‒ “if the work is entertaining" ‒ and honorary member of the Catalan Federation of Brilliant Yet Wasted Curricula (FCCBPD). Ramon Alcoberro has written over 20 books of philosophy and essay but he is also a course instructor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

By Marian Antón

In addition to your prolific work, you are a "neurotic-compulsive" book buyer. If you had to recommend three books for those of us who want an introduction to philosophy they would be…

In life there are philosophers for specific moments. In other words, in every period of life you can find a philosopher who makes you think or whispers in your ear. Provisionally, I would recommend Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus, The Discords on the Method by Descartes and On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. I do not include any Plato on the list (notwithstanding The Symposium) or Aristotle because they are authors that must be read with prior knowledge. In contrast, anyone can understand these three.

“Philosophers suffer from the professional disease of pedantry and you must be very careful because it is contagious"

If you could choose a philosopher from the whole of history with whom you would like to spend a day, who would it be and where would you take him?

Philosophers suffer from the professional disease of pedantry. And you must be very careful because it is contagious. I don't know if I could bear to spend a day with Plato because he would overwhelm me. Mill was pathologically shy so I wouldn't be comfortable with him either. In contrast, Hume and Diderot were fun guys. They were good talkers. Maybe I would choose Diderot and take him to the Barcelona Design Museum. It would be great to talk about his article “Beautiful” in the Encyclopédie. Industrial design would amaze him. In fact, he invented it.

Why did you decide to create your website on philosophy?

www.alcoberro.info is my good fortune and misfortune. Thanks to the website lots of people know me; but no one reads me when I publish on paper because they think it's all been said on the Net. It was launched at Christmas 2000 when even Google did not exist. Can anyone imagine a world without Google? Well that's how it was! At that time I was working with Josep Maria Esquirol at the Institute of Technoethics and there was very little philosophical material on the internet. I just got in first – as Guardiola recommends – and the material was well received.

How did you come into contact with the UOC?

It was recommended to me by two pioneers and friends: Gonçal Mayos and the medievalist Agustí Boadas. Francesc Nuñez interviewed me and here I am, even though my computer knowledge is almost sub-cultural.

“The UOC is probably the most diverse university in the world in terms of age, residence, life experience, ethnicity..."

What would you highlight about this University's method?

Close relationships and debate. It is much easier to talk to students and respond to their doubts online than in an office, which is far more formal. Moreover, the typical UOC student is older, better read and has more life experience than those in on-site universities. I have seen very high-level debates in my classrooms. I would say that if you are lucky to live in a small town or you suffer the timetable of a stressed urbanite, don't hesitate: the UOC is your university.

And what do you like most about being a course instructor?

I like people, especially if they have an original point. That is why I am so happy at the UOC, which is probably the most diverse university in the world in terms of age, residence, life experience and ethnicity. The UOC's diversity is invaluable. This creates an endless community of debate, to cite Habermas. The people at the UOC are highly appreciative and when I make some kind of computer mistake they are very indulgent.

And what do you find most difficult?

Sometimes the most difficult thing is the assessment because people make a great effort and I find it really hard to award the top marks.

Any experience or anecdote you would like to mention?

I love provoking debates among the students on the Ethics course about the difference between moral relativism and cultural relativism. Sometimes there have been memorable debates on this and other subjects. I will always remember one with people participating from a farm in the area of Les Terres de l’Ebre, a tourism resort in Thailand and the European Parliament's Secretariat in Brussels. They explained their experiences while lots of people constantly joined and left the discussion. At the end they agreed. Very often online debates lead to strong human relations.

Finally, you were a victim of Franco's repression and even spent time in prison. What do think of the current involvement of citizens in the political situation?

I have always liked getting involved in group projects and you always know that you have to pay a price. So far I have been able to pay it, fortunately. There are two verses, two secular ejaculatory prayers, which are like a mantra for me. One is by the poet Joan Brossa and goes: "Shoes are the pedestal". The other, much longer, is by Vicent Andrés Estellés: “What matters is the realization that we are nothing if we are not a people". I don't consider myself an ancien combattant because there is still a lot to do. We find ourselves in a difficult moment because there are very well trained youths in a humiliatingly precarious situation. In Catalonia hope is on the horizon.

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