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…

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)
Symptoms of depression given letter grades23 May 2015

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.

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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