Being at Collegium Helveticum

When I started my year at the Collegium Helveticum (CH) I was confident that the brain sciences are far more important to society's development than the humanities. The neurosciences were my scientific interest.

At CH I got introduced to the way of thinking of people with humanities background. I learned how to explain what is important to me, how I think. I learned to communicate better. I learned to admire the way others approach problems. I learned to value diversity. All the new impressions led me to think more thoroughly about what I value.

The main problem when encountering people that have different interests is how we can measure quality. Humanities as well as science have competent and incompetent people, clever as well as stupid statements are made.

In science it is typically easy to distinguish the two. Just find out how much is explained. Compare this to the number and complexity of the words used. This will tell you how helpful a comment is. In the humanities this is far more difficult. What is explained is usually hard to define and often people do not even bother to do so.

Nevertheless it helped me a lot to use Occam's razor to define to myself if I want to listen to a comment. If the comment defines what it explains builds up an argument, it is interesting to me. If it builds up a big association field without logical structure it rather annoys me.

When I came to CH I expected a wide gap between those that have a science background and those that have a humanities background. For me the divide turned out to be rather between question-answerers and fuzzy-associators. Some search for simple explanations and some build association fields. The first group acts according to Occam's razor, finding simple but pragmatic answers to questions. The second group rather talks a lot without aim or bounds.

The main thing that I learned from my stay at CH is, that I far more stand for the culture of explaining things as simple as possible. I stand for occams razor. I stand for being curious, for explaining things in an understandable way. I feel connected to people, even if they work in the humanities, that share these ideas. I feel annoyed by people that kill this culture by intentionally (e.g. for the sake of their careers) or unintentionally (e.g. for not intellectually being able to speak clearly) obscuring the questions and thus making it impossible for people to understand.

I still believe that the brain sciences are far more important to the development of society than the humanities. I however, came to realize that some researchers interested in humanities share my ideals of being curious, asking questions and communicating clear answers to these questions, making them more interesting to me than many fellow scientists.