About this site
The site has two major parts,
- The blog, which I occasionally update with current topics that I want to comment on
- The philosophy workbook, which is an experiment in developing something that I’m not quite sure what it is, possibly a book, possibly just an attempt at organizing my philosophical thinking.
The blog contains my ramblings on various topics that do not fit into my other blog which consists of photographic essays about my garden and nature both around my rural home and from my various travels, but which is sadly out of date.
It covers things like
- Politics (in favour of democracy, with evidence-based policy for collaborative human happiness and against racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination).
- Philosophy – general tools for thinking and explorations in topics that have not (yet) been adequately addressed by science, such as ethics.
- Information Technology (I have 30 years experience, in programming and IT architecture, having designed many large-scale computing systems and provided technical leadership in building them).
A brief biography:
I was born and raised in Lancashire, England, from a family who worked in mining and the cotton industry, both industries now defunct.
I didn’t go to school much until I was 9 years old, as I spent a lot of time in hospital. This gave me an excellent science education as I had little to do but read when in the hospital and could take time to wander out of my industrial neighbourhood to the fields and streams when I was not. Between home and countryside, there were some fairly rough neighbourhoods. I got beaten up a lot and learned to dislike bullies.
This good fortune continued. The head teacher at my primary school turned me loose in the library instead of forcing me to struggle with classes I had mostly missed and gave me a good recommendation to go to a church secondary school, Canon Slade Grammar School. I’m not a fan of the grammar school system as it extends privilege to a few at the expense of the many, but I didn’t know that then and so I got an absolutely wonderful education, at the top of the non-fee-paying system in terms of the resources available for learning and with teachers who were enthusiastic about their subjects and how to teach.
I went on to study Mathematics and Physics at university, though in my final year I wandered off the straight and narrow and took a year of Philosophy. That turned out to be a good move, though that’s a longer story. Next, I moved to Canada to do graduate studies in philosophy. That was a less good move academically, but the intended year in Canada turned into 47 so far. I also went back to University a few years later to study Computer Science for a year.
Although I still think I’m going to be a philosopher when I grow up, I have tried a few jobs in between.
- Wire rope manufacture – needed to make some money, so I twisted wires into ropes (with the help of a 100-foot long machine spinning at 1200 rpm and a team of labourers).
- Social work – needed to learn more about the world than physics and philosophy had provided to date. I had a mixed, rural caseload of social assistance, child welfare and juvenile probation. I was also the regional union steward and Provincial Board member.
- Grain elevator manager – buying grain from farmers and selling them supplies. Yes, I can still tell the difference between a #1 red spring wheat and a #2.
- Part time, unpaid, chair of political party constituency association and campaign manager for provincial and federal elections
- Information Technology: worked my way up from programmer to architect. This was really about ten more careers as I spent a few years on each, learning what people did so I could design and build systems to help them. I was Open Group certified as a Distinguished Chief Architect. Now retired. That involved a lot of travel and also gave me some more research and teaching experience as I took time out (paid) to do those.
In my spare time, I grow plants and learn stuff. I read scientific journal articles and books and try to do the equivalent of a university course per semester at a level above whatever I already know, in anything and everything, mostly in sciences, history, philosophy, literature or whatever takes my fancy. I’ve done that whenever not in formal full-time school, about 40 years so far, so I’ve learned a lot and forgotten a lot too.
I once knew enough French to work in that language. After 20 years, that has faded as far as speaking it goes, for lack of practice, though I still read it fairly fluently.
Politically, I come from a traditionally working-class conservative family; that peculiar set who think that by voting for the upper class, they improve their chances of joining them. I was also under the inherited delusion that because women had the vote and were now allowed to work outside the home and attend the same schools as I did, that equality had been achieved.
Fortunately, friends at school took me in hand when I was about 17 and explained the error of my ways. So by the time I reached voting age I was a committed socialist and feminist and ready to start marching for a series of causes that have continued to this day.
I knew nothing at all about racism until about the same age. Although it was taken for granted that native English people were superior, nobody in my family or social circles had even met anyone who was not white so it didn’t amount to much until the mid-60s when there was a large wave of immigration from the Indian sub-continent. At that point, hatred of “pakis” (which indiscriminately included those from Pakistan and India) became strong, as unemployment was also an issue and immigrants were blamed. Fortunately, my father worked with and became friends with several Indian people, so that didn’t penetrate our family much, though his mother picked up some ideas from the Daily Mail that had to be gently corrected. However, I didn’t pay much attention to the issue until I moved to Canada at which point I became involved with the anti-apartheid movement and also met some Indigenous people who began my education about the way First Nations people had been treated (and are still being treated).
Class was very pervasive throughout my early life. It was strongly marked by accent, so I learned to speak both Lancashire and an imitation of more “standard” English. I’m afraid I still have something of a prejudice against speakers of “Queen’s English” as they do of those who speak “lower class English” of any dialect. It was a relief to move to Canada, where nobody know what my accent meant in terms of class. Because of that, it took me a while to realize how privileged I had been. It is all to easy to think that becoming a first generation university student from a working class background is due to innate talent and not to a series of accidents and a lot of help from others. I probably have a ways to go yet.
That’s enough for now. Ask me anything; no guarantees of answers but I’ll be polite about any refusals. Use the comments or Twitter, @eric0lawton.