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…

Symptoms of depression given letter grades (now with co-morbid anxiety)09 May 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.
Donald and me20 Mar 2016

If you are sick of hearing about Donald Trump, now is the time to stop reading. Indeed by the time you are reading this, it may be that Trump has disappeared from history, returned to the world of reality TV, or led a fascist overthrow of American democracy. But at the time I’m writing, he’s still contending for the Republican nomination for US president.

The career move that dare not speak its name15 Mar 2016

“As we all know, the only sensible reason to be an academic is because you like doing it. So the only sensible thing to do if your job becomes a cross that you must bear, rather than a vocation, is to ditch it. That is showing commitment to academia—as opposed to a misguided fetish for academic employment.”

My guest post on why it should be OK to resign an academic job is up on daily nous.

John Schwenkler has also written a piece on a similar theme, which mentions me in the same paragraph as Martha Nussbaum. I am flattered!

Cass, by Rita Angus28 Dec 2015

My contribution to “100 Philosophers 100 Artworks 100 Words” is online at Aesthetics for Birds. I chose “Cass”, by Rita Angus, 1936.

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)?

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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