BA & MA in Philosophy from Durham University, off to do a PhD in September! I write accessible Philosophy pieces for those who’ve never studied it.

An introduction to the philosophical concept of nothing

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Just yesterday, my partner left for work in the early morning. He brewed a coffee and drank it hastily, but I could still smell the dregs in the bottom of the cup. He spritzed Old Spice, and left. I sniffed the lingering scent mixing with the coffee on his crumpled pillow, and I remembered this quote by the Kapist artist Józef Czapski, when ‘asked why his work featured ‘lonely people, deserted café tables, faces half-concealed in the metro, minute daily events glimpsed in passing’:

‘Each time, it is almost nothing. But that “almost nothing” signifies everything’.

I first heard of Czapski when I was reading the extensive letters from Vladimir Nabokov to his wife. Nabokov mentions his younger brother Sergey, who has a love affair with Czapski (they remained life-long friends). I stumbled across a New Statesman article by John Gray, which talks of the terror Czapski experienced in a Soviet prison camp. …


Consent education only goes so far

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Recently, the onus has been on education around consent, which is a great thing. We could all do with learning a little more about it. There’s a long-held assumption by some segments of society that sex education is only for minors. But I don’t think that is the case. We can all benefit from speaking honestly and openly about consent.

This has been demonized in the press, with widespread ridicule at the creation of contracts around sex. But some articles have been a little more forward-thinking, praising this kind of safe and legal sex. An app has even been created for the latter; LegalFling. Founded by a law firm, it involves creating a legally-binding document for consensual sex. …


Lessons from Raimond Gaita’s “The Philosopher’s Dog.”

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History speaks of the documented relationship between the writer and his cat; Charles Bukowski had a one-eared cat called Butch Van Gogh Artaud Bukowski. Georges Perec shared his domicile with an affectionate feline friend, Duchat.

Alexandre Dumas was famously disparaging about dogs, holding his cats Mysouff I, Mysouff II, and Le Docteur in higher esteem. Dumas said, ‘the cat, an aristocrat, merits our esteem, while the dog is only a scurvy type who got his position by low flatteries’. But our relationship with our dogs could teach us more than you might think.

Perceptual Knowledge

The postmodern era has seen the rejection of belief in a tabula rasa. Humans, supposedly conditioned from before birth, prove that the blank slate is theory is nothing more than a fever dream. Coupled with this is our newfound widespread skepticism of other minds. Films like The Matrix tap into our primal fear that only we exist. …


Introducing Vladimir Nabokov’s Bend Sinister

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Vladimir Nabokov’s most famous novel is undoubtedly Lolita. It propelled him into the limelight and brought international fame. But before it he had only a modicum of fame; he was known as a bright spark in select groups, like among other Soviet émigrés and defectors who now lived across Europe.

He made a whistle-stop tour around England that was hurried and forced, as he did not embrace the promotional side of writing and publishing work. It was during trips like these that he tried to promote Bend Sinister.

Bend Sinister?

Bend Sinister is the tale of Adam Krug, a philosophy lecturer who lives with his wife and child in the fictional town of Padukgrad, named after its totalitarian dictator and former classmate of Krug, Paduk. The novel begins with the death of Krug’s wife, and his descent into a deep depression marked by anhedonia. Paduk’s “Party of the Average Man” wreaks havoc by discouraging even minute differences between people and enforcing a regime of uniformity. …


And that’s okay

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I have always struggled with my mental health. According to my mother, as a young child, I used to be terrified of everything. She couldn’t leave my brother for more than a few minutes because he would end up permanently injuring himself in some way.

She once put a bowl of hot porridge and a spoon in front of him and told him not to touch it. He then proceeded to fling his arms around in the air, catapulting a spoonful of his piping hot breakfast onto his forehead and resulting in a burn that lasted for weeks. He would also do things like walking across the road with his eyes closed to see what would happen. …


A list of ten things I’ll probably never do

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  1. You must strive to choose love, always. Your own perceptions of others are intrinsically limited to how you see them, rather than how they really are.
  2. You must read more, starting with Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Then, more stuff by Jean-Paul Sartre; Modern Times, Words, Nausea. More by Georges Perec; A Void, W or the Memory of Childhood, and An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. Again, concerning the latter; you enjoyed A Species of Spaces and Other Pieces so much that you now want to read more on the subject. Read Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. You have an impulse to enjoy something so much, to devour a book so voraciously, that you then want to read everything else that author has written, or every book of a similar genre in quick succession. That is all very well, but it tends to be followed by an impulse to never read again, a kind of melancholy that you can never read every book that’s ever been written, or even every book that you wanted to read. …


Possible solutions to the age-old problem.

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I’m so used to being unhappy that its polar opposite takes me by surprise. A little while ago, I gasped when I found myself joyful for the first time in ages. Misery had been a permanent state for so long. I realized I was happy almost by accident.

After thinking about, I realized I had been chasing happiness. I had fallen foul of the paradox of hedonism — also known as the pleasure paradox, a theory about how we experience joy. I had made pleasure the end goal of my activities, rather than the means. …


Maybe they’ll help you, too

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Recently reading about the benefits of a weighted blanket, I started to look into technologies that might help me. I quickly spiraled down a rabbit hole, Alice-in-Wonderland style. I am now utilizing three technologies daily to help me deal with my mental and physical health conditions.

I have been diagnosed with PDD (Persistent Depressive Disorder), Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Recently, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and an Eating Disorder (OSFED).

Woebot

The weighted blanket was not the first technology I adopted in helping my mental health. …


Can we discriminate against an animal?

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What exactly is discrimination? There may be certain factors or characteristics which never ought to play a part in moral decision-making. An intuitive case would be race or sexuality; there does not appear to be a single instance whereby someone ought to prohibit an individual from accessing something because they are black or gay.

However, there might be cases where age is a relevant factor in moral decision-making; in deciding who can vote, children will be unlikely to have fully developed the ability to make rational choices.

Theories of Discrimination

So, how do we decide what is fair discrimination and what’s not? …


Reading into the context

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Moral particularism is a controversial and radical contemporary theory in ethics. It’s somewhat hard to describe, and alike Virtue Ethics, it’s important to emphasize the debate before moral particularism came to the fore.

The IEP (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) has this to say on the theory:

Moral particularism is the view that the moral status of an action is not in any way determined by moral principles; rather, it depends on the configuration of the morally relevant features of the action in a particular context. …

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