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Meet the Team: Daniela's Philosophy Story

How did you get interested in philosophy?

As an introvert, I spent a lot of time in the library when I was at school. I remember going in to a book sale in the library one day, and a book with a picture of a pig on the cover caught my eye. I picked it up and flicked through it. I remember feeling goosebumps. I had found a book that asked the sorts of questions I had in my head all the time, and I couldn’t believe that there was even a name for the sort of thinking I did. I had always assumed I was just weird - now I knew I was weird, AND that there were others like me. The book I picked up was Stephen Law’s Philosophy Files and the pig in his book could speak and wanted to be eaten. He made the case that even so, we shouldn’t eat him.

I got really into philosophy after that, reading Sophie’s World soon after and taking a particular interest in the philosophical questions around psychology and the emotions, as well as politics. I am insatiably curious though, so I followed my interests in all the diverse directions they took me, including science (physics, in particular), technology, language and literature.

How did your interest in facilitating philosophy with children and the public begin?

I was in my last year of my philosophy degree with no idea about what I wanted to do next. In a fit of desperation I just googled something like ‘jobs for philosophers’ and found the Philosophy Foundation’s website (in the days where the design was black and red). I called them up and spoke to them about their training programme. That summer, just after graduating, I completed Stage 1. Not only was it incredible and enjoyable training, it also left me thinking “THIS is what school should be like for everyone”. Full of questions, exploration, and figuring things out.

I had considered becoming a teacher as I loved learning and education, but I had (have) a lot of skepticism about the education system and wasn’t keen on participating in it. I thought of as oppressive and stifling, and didn’t love the idea of becoming part of that. After a couple of years trying to find work after moving to Edinburgh, I decided to do a teaching degree to see whether it was something I could see myself doing. I became a teacher, and in my first year after qualifying, I reached out to the University of Edinburgh to collaborate on philosophy facilitation projects in my school. Since then, I have hosted a number of placements for accreditation when students have completed their training with TPF, and am now pleased to say I have become a mentor for them - although it’s difficult to dedicate much time to that alongside a teaching job!

What do you think is the most valuable aspect of engaging in philosophical dialogue?

I don’t think anything I can say will quite capture it, but I’ll try. For me, there’s something special about creating space to just think difficult things through with others. We don’t often have the opportunity to do that in our daily lives, and we’re worse off for it. For our ideas about ourselves, the world and others to really develop, we need space to properly puzzle with questions together, play with ideas, form them into various shapes like playdough and think things through. It can help us in our daily lives, but it can also help in the way we relate to people. It’s also just fun, and that’s valuable in its own right!

What direction do you want to take your facilitation in?

I’m interested now in exploring how the body, feelings, emotions (and all the things we don’t know we feel) interact with thought and reasoning. I can be quite stubborn (less so now - philosophy helped!) and outspoken with strong opinions that I don’t always like to share. I am also prone to meta cognitive thinking and I’m interested in the story behind where I got to in those positions. I feel excitement in having my ideas challenged because it helps me to expand my sense of self, to recreate myself constantly and in novel ways and to connect with others.

I also find there to be something quite exciting about swimming around in the unknown - there is a lot to learn in the space where we don’t have clear answers.

What made you interested in working with The Wisdom Collective?

Rosa and I met while she was doing her TPF accreditation at the school I was working at at the time. We stayed friends and started exploring different ways of doing philosophy with the public, expanding out from schools to businesses and the community. There was something exciting about doing philosophy that I wanted to share with others. I have also become interested in how to bridge gaps between people who disagree with each other on important issues and trying to understand those thinking and dialogue processes in ways that can be productive for both individuals and society. Starting up the Wisdom Collective was a way for us to explore public philosophy in an official capacity.

We also became quite interested in bringing the body back into philosophy (though I think it never really left, we just forgot about it - at least in our societies) so we do lots of creative activities, movement, nature walks and art as stimuli for people to reflect on. I think that a lot of our thoughts emerge and are created through interacting with the world using our bodies, and philosophy loses something crucial if it ignores that.

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