Memorial's Norwegian connection

Memorial's Norwegian connection

By David Sorensen

Like many visitors, Dr. Tore Nordenstam was impressed by the welcoming nature of Newfoundlanders.

But the visiting philosophy professor from the University of Bergen in Norway was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the university's facilities, specifically a library that is much better stocked than the one at the similarly-sized University of Bergen.

"Memorial is not older than the University of Bergen but (the QE II Library) has a surprising stock of older material in philosophy," he said.

Dr. Nordenstam arrived from Norway Oct. 1 and was scheduled to leave Nov. 27.

He said the city, the university and the Philosophy Department welcomed him with open arms.

"Because it's so active socially, it's wonderful place to go," he said of St. John's and Memorial. "It's a marked contrast to a typical northern European university."

His favorite gathering was at the Jockey Club, an impromptu philosophy discussion held every Friday at Chucky's Fish and Chips in downtown St. John's where two of his papers were discussed.

"This was one of the things I really enjoyed about the place," he said. "A group of students and philosophers gather in a cafe to discuss philosophy. It's really extraordinary."

Compared to Germany or Scandinavia, people here are well trained in oral debate, he said. This is as an extension of the tradition of philosophizing in the English-speaking world and something that Scandinavians could really learn from Newfoundlanders, he added.

With only a brief visit to Montreal to mark his passport, Dr. Nordenstam said he knew virtually nothing about Newfoundland before this exchange.

Since Dr. Nordenstam has been teaching a philosophy of the humanities course for the past 15 years, he delivered 12 lectures on his own themes within Jim Bradley's philosophy of the humanities course at Memorial.

And while he delivered some open lectures, as well, it was as useful for him as for anyone attending the talks. The qualified audience helped him with ideas he is working on.

And taking advantage of the library to do research on the humanities, he's preparing for what he hopes will be a book in English on the philosophy of the humanities.

The University of Bergen was planned before, but not built until after, the Second World War. It serves the town of Bergen, on Norway's southwest coast, which has a metropolitan population not much larger than St. John's.

He's heading back to correct exams at a university where philosophy is obligatory. That means 10,000 exam papers to help mark.

The Memorial/Bergen exchange program for faculty and students has been around for 15 years, but Dr. Nordenstam is the first Norwegian philosopher to participate.

And a small budget directed to exchange program participants was offset by a welcoming Memorial and Newfoundland community, said Dr. Nordenstam.

"I had a feeling that this place might be good for my purposes," he said. "That feeling turned out to be right."

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