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Publications and Conferences

Smith, C. (2017). Orwellian Nationalism as the Liberal Democratic Convention. Critique, (4):31-39. [Available online]

This paper, written during my time in Hong Kong under the guidance of Professor Jiwei Ci, was presented at Durham University Philosophical Society’s Conference 2017 in June, before being published in the special proceedings of Critique.

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N.B. I’m in the process of adding more to this section.

View all of my online philosophical posts here, or peruse the most recent entries below:

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is a notoriously hard subject to delineate. It has previously encompassed areas as diverse as science, medicine and astronomy – which have since become discrete disciplines.

I think of Philosophy as the process of conceptual engineering. By that I mean that a philosopher is that person who designs and combines beliefs and ideas, then tests the integrity of the resulting structures. When you’re doing Philosophy – an active task – you are building a system or a model in your head, in words or on paper.

Then comes the fun bit: battering your masterpiece like a piñata until it collapses. 

Once you’ve smashed your excellent first idea into a heap, you can pick up the pieces and start again, learning from your mistakes. Hopefully, making the new creation even better than the last.

This process is one that has been going on for thousands of years. Each subsequent philosopher, great or small, joins the process, breaking down someone else’s creation and reassembling their own version, for better or for worse. 

Sometimes, detours are taken that result in dead ends. Other times, we seem to make meaningful progress only to realise that it was a step in the wrong direction. Occasionally, someone comes along and upends the whole proceeding and finds a novel new dimension that no one had seen before. 

Even if all you achieve is fixing one small problem, contributing nothing but a few nuts and bolts to the grand structure that someone else has erected, you’ve been part of something. You’ve been part of progress and contributed to the ever-changing edifice of philosophical knowledge. That’s quite astonishing. In fact, what legal pastime could possibly be more fun than that?

That’s how I think about it, at any rate. If you disagree, feel free to embrace your inner conceptual engineer too, apply pressure to the cracks in what I’ve said and build something better!