James Moulder

i don't have anything your father wrote - but you've triggered memories of him and reminded me of the influence he's had on me 

i remember you from a day in october 1963 - we were enjoying a sunny day on the lawn of your home in grahamstown - you were upset that sarel kept winning the walking races the two of you were having - daantjie suggested you would have to accept that sarel walked faster than you did - with impeccable logic you wanted to know why you and he couldn't have a slow walking race 

because it's such a wonderful example of the unexpected way in which your father's mind worked, i've never forgotten the incident 

your question was absolutely in line with his reply to a bible-punching student who wanted to know how he could smoke while claiming to be a christian - very patiently, he explained that smoking helped him to stay awake and staying awake helped him to read and reading helped him to improve his mind and god wanted him to love him with all of his heart and sold and mind - so why aren't all christians smoking? 

but best of all, and still very comforting on a bad day, was a moment on the steps of the rhodes library - i was depressed because of my inability to understand heidegger - i said something about wishing i had a better mind - he asked me why i thought it was my mind that was the problem 

so, although i don't have anything your father wrote - i have memories of his greatness as a teacher and a human being - memories of having him introduce me to philosophy and setting a standard that nobody who taught me in oxford came close to matching 

according to don maclennan, daantjie believed he hadn't taught me anything - on the contrary, i tell people he's the ONLY person who taught me anything - so, for sure, he IS the person who taught james moulder - the others were simply people i enjoyed talking to 

here are some more stories about daantjie 

a trivial one - there was a day when in a tutorial with about five of us daantjie and i shared my last marlboro - i took the end with the filter - he took the more robust half 

a serious one that shaped by attitude to teaching for the whole of my career - that same tutorial situation - daantjie didn't give us lectures - we sat around a table and read the classics - we were doing locke's essay on human understanding - staple fare for second year students - until the day i'm talking about, i prepared for the classes by reading the bit we had to prepare while walking the 800 yards or so from my residence to the tutorial room - on that day, daantjie arrived a bit late - he told us susan was ill and he and ann had been up all night looking after her - he postponed the class to another time because he hadn't had time to prepare for teaching us 

he could have winged it - he had read that passage every year he taught locke - to say nothing of reading it when he was a second year philosophy student - i've never forgotten how that moment felt - in future, i prepared for the class more seriously - more importantly, that experience became the bench-mark for my attitude to my students 

one in the middle - at the beginning of that year, i asked daantjie how much of gilbert ryle's concept of mind we would be studying - he told me it depended on how the discussions went - the previous year they had gone quite quickly - over the two meetings a week for about 13 weeks they had covered about the first 60 pages 

this again was something that shaped my teaching even in situations where i was supposed to lecture - having been taught by your father, i preferred to go slowly and to put the emphasis on identifying questions rather than on pontificating with answers 

one more - daantjie discouraged us from reading secondary literature - when i asked about this he gave me an answer that's saved me from wasting a lot of time - he said that if one's going to rub one's mind against someone else's mind, one should try to see that it's a great mind - so, for sure, there isn't that much reading that needs to be done - and this too was carried over into my approach to teaching and research 

what this all means, jannie, is that i didn't leave daantjie when i left rhodes in 1961 - he went with me into my career and my life - and i know that i'm the richer for having been taught and inspired by him 

here's one that daantjie would have enjoyed - we were waiting for a symposium to begin - the one in which he said that the two greatest south africans were adam small and paul kruger and that they were both basters (afrikaans for bastards) - but to get back to the story - before the proceedings began two students in front of me were talking about daantjie - the one said, all i've heard is that he's a clever little bugger! 

it's 1959 - adam small and daantjie are discussing a point in kant's philosophy in front of uncomprehending first year philosophy students - adam objects and tells daantjie that kant never said what daantjie had said he said - daantjie doesn't lose a beat - perhaps adam - but let's pretend he did and see where it takes us - a wonderful strategy - i used it many times to hide my ignorance - including when writing essays for daantjie and stuff for my oxford tutors 

it's still 1959 - during the first half of the second semester daantjie had convinced me - and probably everyone else - that everything bertrand russell had told us in the problems of philosophy was as close to the truth as we were going to get - in the first lecture after the mid-semester break he apologised to us for creating the impression that russell was the go - he spent the rest of the semester helping us to see why russell hadn't got it - wonderful! - doing philosophy is playing a game - perhaps living is too - i never forgot the moment - it was another arrow on target - doing philosophy isn't about searching for the truth - it's about learning to listen to what a text or a person has to say to you - it's about experimenting with answers to the questions you are given - it's a process man - and it's playful 

one more on the same theme - but from 1961 - i can't remember why, but he tells us that someone said that it's wise to take a relative approach to the absolute - he also tells us that he doesn't know what it means - i decide it means that the more convinced you are about something the more playful you should be about it - why? - playing with it will give you more angles on it - more importantly, it will save you from taking yourself too seriously - it was a timely word - later that year, when the vice-chancellor asked me to come and see him and told me he would expel me if i organised another protest against apartheid, i got it and didn't 

in one of my last conversations with daantjie he told me about the trial sermon he preached in his final year at the seminary where he prepared for the ministry of the dutch reformed church - it's called a kweekskool - literally and unkindly, a cultivation school - daantjie didn't get any positive feedback either from his lecturers or from his fellow students - his sermon contained traces of all kinds of unholy isms - like communism and liberalism and existentialism and whatever - when all the bad news was in, daantjie confessed - it wasn't his own sermon - it was abraham kuyper's - and kuyper was a highly respected and respectable dutch theologian whose work had been studied in the first half of that year - he had translated it from dutch into afrikaans - he apologised for his plagiarism and left the room - so, yes - the more convinced you are about something the more playful you should be about it 

there it is jannie - i haven't tried to tidy-up these memories - that would have falsified them - but it does raise a question - have i remembered DAANTJIE? - or are these anecdotes simply my take on who he was and what he said? - being half of what a naive realist is, i've never understood this kind of question - the only daantjie that has ever stood up for me is the real daantjie - the one captured in these memories and translated into how i've lived and done philosophy - or, more better, as one says in singlish - perhaps the daantjie i've talked about isn't the real daantjie - but, as he said to adam small, let's pretend it is and see where it takes us 

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