My engagement with philosophy is that of a layperson who never thought that one day he would work professionally in this area – until a colleague who was versed in both andragogy and counselling explained to him that he was in fact a philosopher by nature – given the ferocity of his commitment to linguistic clarity and heuristic coherence.
At that point, several things fell into place.
However, my engagement with philosophy goes back to the research that I undertook for my second Masters degree in the anthropology of music (ethnomusicology) at SOAS. I had originally planned to write a dissertation on the general area of music psychology and bring theoretical narratives from ethnomusicology into constructive dialogue with certain questions relating to cognition and creativity. However, I ended up questioning the entire process of theorising music in language and despite having read extensively in music psychology, I turned my back abruptly on this project and began to read aesthetics, specifically relating to music.
However, although Roger Scruton and Peter Kivy were the immediate ‘go-to’ names in the philosophy of music at that time, I began with the Australian philosopher Stephen Davies, whose work on musical ontology actually drove me to outright fury. I then worked my way through other music/philosophy persons and quickly realised that a) aesthetics itself was not for me; b) metaphysics is anything but dead, but how we engage with the reality of thought and the reality of world is what matters; c) epistemology is huge and matters to everything – not just philosophy.
We will never know what would have happened if I had taken up David Efird’s offer to read for the MA in Philosophy at York in 2006, but there are many reasons why it may have been for the best that I not undertake what would have been a much faster track to philosophy at that time. It opened the door to doctoral work in theology, during which time it became extremely clear that philosophical theology is where I belong.
Since then, I have been very grateful to meet and exchange ideas with a number of philosophical thinkers – one of the most important being Johannes Hoff, who has inspired me in the sense that his work at the intersection of both philosophy and theology showed me what is possible and where I too would like to go. Since late 2012, I have become very clear about my interests in philosophy.
I will retain an interest in both Continental and (so-called) analytic philosophy. I am very interested in Nietzsche – unusually for a conservative Christian, and I believe that some of his anti-Christian polemic may in fact point to some much starker realities for both Christians and non-Christians than many would suspect. Kierkegaard is busily being ‘re-thought’ by Christians and non-Christians alike, but his work is also of increasing importance to me and I suspect that some of the scholarship in this area will sink without trace and Kierkegaard will remain. Phenomenology is going to be an area in which I operate because I know that the biggest philosophical investigation of my life is going to be the question of the ontology of worship, but I’m working through a few things before I settle down to Husserl and Heidegger.
Kant has also become increasingly important. Descartes less so, although I’m not entirely sure I’m with Damasio on his take on Descartes’s so-called error. Contemporary epistemology has much to say – and much to answer for, but I’m closer to MacDowell than Rorty (although I find Rorty easier to read). And ethics is increasingly on my radar, along with philosophy of mind. British twentieth-century philosophy is now as interesting to me as British twentieth-century theology: Wittgenstein, G.E. Moore, D.Z. Phillips, R.G. Collingwood, Mary Midgeley, R.M. Hare…
Spinoza’s ‘theology’ is deeply suspect in many ways but he has challenged my conceptions of theological verities in some crucial ways and I am very grateful to him. And while I am slowly endeavouring to get up to speed with the Pre-Socratics and classical philosophy in general, I am learning Greek and hope to get to grips with some of this literature in the original as time passes.
I very much hope to work with Tim Thornton and Peter Lucas at UCLan in the medium term – see the page on Mental Health for more details.