Research Interests & Areas of Specialisation

Moral Philosophy; Conceptions of Human Individuality; The Role of Art in Education; Philosophy of Natural History; The Role of Aspect Seeing in Moral Revelation (current project).

Areas of Competence

Epistemology; Metaphysics; Philosophy of Language; Philosophy of Mind

Philosophers of Particular Interest

Plato; Rene Descartes; David Hume; Immanuel Kant; Soren Kierkegaard; Ludwig Wittgenstein; Rush Rhees; Peter Winch; Peter Hacker; Lars Hertzberg; Raimond Gaita.

Favourite Philosophical Texts

Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes; Good & Evil: An Absolute Conception by Raimond Gaita; The Philosopher's Dog by Raimond Gaita; Either/Or by Soren Kierkegaard; Fear & Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard; Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant; Gorgias by Plato; Republic by Plato; Without Answers by Rush Rhees; Ethics and Action by Peter Winch; On Certainty by Ludwig Wittgenstein; Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein; Zettel by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Undergraduate Courses Taught (Heythrop College, University of London)

First Year

  • Introduction to The History of Philosophy

  • Knowledge & Reality (Epistemology and Metaphysics)

  • Introduction to Value (Moral Philosophy)

Second Year

  • Contemporary Moral Issues

Third Year

  • Naming, Necessity and Natural Kinds (Frege, Russell, Kripke)

  • Wittgenstein

  • Metaphysics (Eells, Lewis, Williams)

A Selection of Abstracts

Rights and the Individual Abstract: Taking a Wittgensteinian approach, this paper explores the relationship between rights and individuality. I argue that a conception of individuality based on celebration of difference is necessary, but insufficient, in terms of establishing adequate grounds for a system of rights. I contrast that with a conception of individuality which transcends celebration of difference and is established in how others reveal themselves to us as intelligible objects of pity and love. In conclusion, I claim that it is this latter conception which nourishes our understanding of inalienable rights. However, this is qualified by the suggestion that relying on rights alone as our moral compass dangerously estranges us from the resources we need to give them moral substance. ('The Human Person' Research Conference, Heythrop College 2009)

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Attitude is All Important - Some Thoughts about the Role of Attitude in our Epistemic Apparatus. Abstract: Through an example in James Joyce's short story 'The Dead', I argue that there comes a point where impersonal reasoned problem-resolution argument ceases to be effective, and our individual attitudes take over as the predominant component of our epistemic apparatus. (King's College London, postgraduate research seminar 2007)

 

Mourning Abstract: In this paper I examine what it means to mourn, and try to articulate the differences between feelings of grief, the expressions of grief, and awareness of such expressions within a social context of norms of appropriate grievous behaviour. I examine what mourning can reveal to us about the nature of the relationship beforehand, and consider how sometimes, aspects of a relationship are only revealed to the mourner in grief, and often to his own surprise. I also focus on, and describe, false semblances of mourning and how genuine mourning can change into sentimental mawkishness. I suggest that there is a powerful inevitability and essentialness to authentic mourning that can make it impossible for the mourner not to mourn (even if he mourns something dreadful that he wishes he did not). Thus, I argue, mourning is fundamentally a personal expression of loss and a form (or continuation) of one's dedication to another, which is subject to individual attitudes necessarily formed through our loves and friendships. While such attitudes often provide us with the things that function as reasons in our lives, there is also an element of non-deliberation that is internal to the full meaning of certain concepts, such as love. Finally, I claim that mourning is, in a sense, a loss of part of the mourner and that, as such, sincere forms of it can never be avoided - in this way exists its necessity. I shall centre my discussion on two examples taken from Petronius's Satyricon and James Joyce's short story 'The Dead' respectively - the former I employ to show up hollow mourning, the latter to demonstrate authentic mourning.

 

"Oh come on! Be Rational!" - Some Thoughts on the Role of Trust in Rational Argument. Abstract: In this paper I look at the role that trust plays in rational argument. I argue that trust is a necessary aspect of rationality and examine the differences between rationality and insanity - the latter, I maintain, can manifest itself through excessive formalism. Obviously not all rationality requires trust - indeed some demands formalism, and I consider whether it is possible to formulaically identify how much (or little, or any) trust is required in particular situations i.e. whether a requirement of trust can be externally justified and, if not, what can be said about it. I continue by looking at questions such as: why does rationality sometimes demand trust? What marks out rationality from insanity? How do we understand something to be rational - what are we appealing to in our understanding? Within this, I consider what it means to exercise our cognitive capacities appropriately reflecting on examples of rationality within ethics, small talk, love and probability. In the final part of the paper, I examine how we are sometimes bewitched into applying formalism incorrectly - perhaps as a result of fear of error or, relating to this, a belief that external justification is necessary in order for something to be rational (possibly as a result of considering thought to be based on a cognitive / non-cognitive model that has cognitive as wholly impersonal (and thus allowing objectivity) and non-cognitive as personal and (thus) subjective). What happens if we do not trust enough and rely on formalism too much? How do we overcome error without formalism? - are there any guarantees that we can? Is rationality a kind of wisdom? (University of Hertfordshire philosophy research seminar 2006) 

© 2019 Adrian Brockless

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