Josh Parsons' website / oxford

About this site

Welcome to my website. A selection of new material of all kinds is listed below.

You may be interested in my online papers, reading lists, Academic CV, General CV, my PhD thesis, my polemic against the gratuitous use of LaTeX, or my advice on how to win arguments and look good in seminars.

My more whimsical web creations include my birthday playlist, flags of the world given letter grades, symptoms of depression also given letter grades, and my shrine to Bud Christman.

And there is a partial list of software I have written.

What’s new…

Jill Stein, be careful what you wish for.17 Nov 2016

Jill Stein, the Green candidate in the recent US presidential elections, is right to reject accusations of “spoiling” the election in favour of Donald Trump but should be more careful in her enthusiasm for “ranked choice” voting (also known as “alternative vote”, “preferential voting”, and “instant run-off”).

Philosophical logic reading list16 Sep 2016

This is a reading list for the Oxford finals “Logic and Language” paper, oriented more around philosophical logic than my other reading list for this paper. Students may wish to also consult the philosophy faculty’s reading list available through WebLearn.

Particularly significant readings are starred (*).

Symptoms of depression given letter grades (now with co-morbid anxiety)16 Sep 2016

I have suffered from depression on and off since 2012 and probably a lot longer. In 2012 I came under a lot of stress, had a meltdown worse than any I’d had before, at a time when I couldn’t afford to just take time off to deal with it myself, and went to see my doctor, then a psychiatrist, then a therapist, and ended up taking sick leave from my job, a course of anti-depressants and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

A standard thing people try to do to help deal with depression is “taming the black dog”. The idea is that you get comfy with the idea that whatever you feel, however nasty, is part of you. You own it, it doesn’t own you. Another thing, part of CBT, is teaching yourself that even the worst thing that might realistically happen is not the end of the world (once you have your head around that, you can stop believing that it will happen). This page is an attempt to do both of those.

A few years ago now I gave humourous letter grades to the world’s flags. The last time I came back up from a bout of depression, it suddenly seemed like a stroke of genius to do the same to my symptoms (see Hypomania below). I have not attempted to review every possible symptom. Mostly, depression is no barrel of laughs. But in retrospect some symptoms are quite funny. So I have just chosen a few choice picks.

Before I begin, some caveats:

  • Trigger warning: some people with depression are upset by reading descriptions of depression. If that’s you, read no further (I will laugh extra hard at the jokes on your behalf).
  • I know lots of people who have had mental illnesses of various kinds and I have not had as bad illnesses as most of them. I don’t presume to speak on behalf of anyone but myself. There is no mental illness clubhouse, any more than there is a physical illness clubhouse. We all have mental health; when your mental health is impaired, then you have a mental illness.
  • There’s a lot of debate about “medicalising” depression / about whether anti-depressants are over-prescribed / about whether depression is a disease, a disability, or just what happens to anyone who is not a narcissist when they are placed under too much stress. Whatever the outcome of those debates, one thing I am sure of is that if you can’t work or enjoy yourself for days at a time, for whatever reason, then that is an illness, and there are professionals who can help. Also, laughing never hurt anyone.
The plot of every John Wyndham novel ever08 Aug 2016

I am a big fan of visionary English science fiction writer John Wyndham. I here present a rough plotline of every single one of his novels.

  1. Oh no! Aliens / sea creatures / plants / fungi are invading the Earth!

  2. Humans are too stupid to resist them, because we will not embrace nuclear disarmament, Fabian socialism, and free love.

  3. Society has collapsed, let’s go looting! Looting is fun, and it’s OK when middle class people do it.

  4. Ugh… got sick from eating looted baked beans… maybe living off looted food was a bad idea…

  5. I know, let’s establish a utopian farming community. We can fight off the aliens / sea creatures whatever, ban nuclear weapons and have free love!

  6. Some people don’t seem so keen on the whole free love thing. Why not? I think it is a great idea, and so does my girlfriend… darling?

  7. Oh no! The utopian farming community turned out to be a distopian farming community and they are oppressing and killing everyone who wants to practice free love.

  8. Let’s fight back! Oh, and I just discovered I am telepathic. What, you too? Awesome!

  9. Now we’re oppressing and killing everyone who isn’t telepathic. But it is OK because we are middle class.

  10. We all get killed / we kill all the non-telepaths, and live in a utopian community on the other side of the world / the English channel.

  11. It turns out that the aliens were really sea creatures / the sea creatures were really aliens / the plants were really fungi / all of them were a metaphor for corrupt human nature.

The end.

Understanding the psychology of Brexit20 Jun 2016

They’re crazy, or at least that’s how it seems to anyone who isn’t English. What would they want to go and do that for? The government and the opposition are united against it. The World Bank and the trade unions are united against it. The US and the EU are united against it. The pro-Brexit politicians are a grab bag of political opportunists (IDS, Boris, the Labour Brexiteers), chronically counter-suggestible ideologues (Gove), crypto-fascists, or in some cases, all three (Farage). But somehow 40% of Britons are convinced.

About me

Until September 2016 I am a Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy at Corpus Christi College and an Associate Professor in the Oxford Philosophy Faculty. From then on, I'll be a Senior Adviser at the New Zealand Ministry of Transport.

My intellectual interests are mainly in metaphysics, philosophy of language, and ethics, and of course transport policy.

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