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, 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…

Can ISIS conquer the world?17 Nov 2015

Back during the 1980s, when I was a teenager, I used to lie in bed at night worrying about whether a totalitarian regime, such as the Soviet Union, a resurgent Nazism, or a totalitarian Christian state arising from the ashes of the America of Reagan and Falwell, might someday permanently conquer the world. Could a vision of the future truly be a jackboot stamping on a human face, forever?

Thoughout the happy and peaceful ’90s that seemed a bad dream. But now in retrospect it is the 90s that was the odd decade out - a brief interlude between two clashes of civilisations. Is it possible that liberal democracy could be on the way out, that the future belongs to the fanatics of Islamic State (IS)?

Birthday playlist13 Sep 2015

For my 42nd birthday I compiled a playlist consisting of a song that I like published each year I have been alive up to 2012 (I will try to fill in 2013-2015 as I find songs). There were some difficult choices. Here is the complete annotated list. I will try to keep it up to date.

The symbol ★ indicates particularly good music videos.

Why I support the Red Peak Flag08 Sep 2015

15 years ago I embarked on a peculiar project - to give a letter grade to each of the flags of the world’s countries. This raised a number of difficult questions: what exactly is a country? Is Wales a country? Is Western Sahara a country? (In 2000 I went by the entities whose flags were listed in the Times Atlas of the World) Also, can anyone remember which Congo is which? What exactly are the names of the the countries that most people (outside Greece and China respectively) refer to as Macedonia and Taiwan? What should a flag do? Should it try to represent the history, geography, or presumed values of a country? Or it be neutral, abstract, and recognisable, like a brand logo?

Despite not learning what a country is, I learned at least three things: 1) A lot of countries have pretty terrible flags; 2) The citizens of many countries are willing to send large volumes of hate mail (large, here, means large enough to bring down a university’s email server, twice, at two different universities) to anyone who disrespects their flags, no matter how awful that flag is; 3) It’s actually quite hard to design a flag that is iconic, instantly recognisable, genuinely represents a country, and doesn’t have either a sheep or an AK47 on it; the “Red Peak” flag, surprisingly, manages to do so.

Film review: Take Shelter (2011)17 Aug 2015

Curtis fears that he may be becoming mentally ill. He can’t sleep, and when he does, he has terrible nightmares of a thunderstorm, dying birds, and of his family turning against him. He starts to experience these dreams while awake as hallucinations; or perhaps he is just falling asleep and dreaming during the day? Or perhaps, as he comes to suspect, his visions are literal premonitions of a terrible apocalyse that only he can prevent?

How to win arguments and look good in seminars16 Jun 2015

I have a slightly jokey collection of what I called “dirty tricks for seminars” (including some to use liberally, and others to beware of) that I am apt to dispense to graduate students and colleagues after a couple of drinks. Since people have been looking increasing bored when I do this (and the collection has been getting larger and more elaborate) I thought that I would put it on my website.

This is mostly relevant to philosophy (and has a couple of philosophy jokes in it) but some of it could be adapted to other disciplines I imagine.

Here they are…

  1. Point-scoring and how to avoid it
  2. The Get-out-of-jail-free Card
  3. Trapping
  4. Reverse trapping
  5. The Matador Technique
  6. Reverse point-scoring (or how to have the last word)
  7. The Tour-guide Technique (or how to get people on your side)

About me

I am a Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy at Corpus Christi College and an Associate Professor in the Oxford Philosophy Faculty. I work on metaphysics, philosophy of language, logic, meta-ethics, ethics, and other bits of philosophy.

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