New Blog: Morbid Symptoms

My new blog — Morbid Symptoms — is now up and running.

The plan is to write about philosophy, politics and psychiatry in a way that develops some of the discussions that will be familiar to old readers of this blog but which also brings in lots of new topics and concepts too. There’s an introduction here and the first proper post on ‘Paternalism and Anti-Authoritarian Authority’ is here.

Division Day

The blog has been quiet for a few months while I’ve been finishing my thesis and settling in to my postdoc here at Essex. I submitted in August and passed my viva a fortnight ago, and so with marginally more time to myself, I’ve been wondering whether to start posting here again. But after considering it for a while, I’ve decided to mothball the blog.

On the whole, it has been brilliant to interact with so many people interested in similar philosophical issues, and then even to meet some of you (like Nicole, James and Pete). Thanks to everyone who has been reading, commenting and linking here over the years. I’ve been greatful for it all.

Originally, what I’d intended to do here was to chart the progress of my thesis. As it happened, I didn’t end up doing much of this, but nevertheless the end of my PhD seems like an appropriate occasion to stop, or to at least take an extended break. There’s a few reasons for wanting to do so.

Although I was never that frequent a blogger, I feel like I need to take some time for the kind of issues I’ve been discussing here to percolate without disturbance for a while. In short, I want to do some rethinking and reformulation in relative silence. As Deleuze puts it: “What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying.” Secondly, whilst I’ve been amazed at the response the blog has gotten, it has also made me a little uncomfortable (especially if the number of hits is remotely near the 45000 that the WordPress counter claims). What I’ve posted here have essentially been rough notes — some of which are several years old now. Of course, people can appreciate that I’ve changed my mind in that time, but nevertheless I feel a bit too tied to this history, especially when I meet someone who has stumbled across this place before. Though I don’t intend to delete the blog, bringing it to a close might help to create a little bit of psychological distance from the things I’ve written here.

Hopefully, I’ll make a fresh start blogging elsewhere at some point. There’ll be another post here if and when that happens. In the meantime, I’ll continue to be active on Twitter, where you can follow me here. Thanks again to everyone who has been reading!

Workshop on Autonomous Judgement

Details of the inaugural workshop for the Essex Autonomy Project (on which I am the postdoctoral research officer) below.

The Essex Autonomy Project is pleased to announce the opening event in its three-year research initiative, ‘Deciding for Oneself: Autonomous Judgement in History, Theory and Practice’. The aim of the research is to advance theoretical understanding of the capacity for autonomous judgement and to provide orientation to those who must navigate its complexities in social, medical and legal practice.

Challenges and Strategies

The Essex Autonomy Project
Inaugural Workshop (21-22 May, 2010)

Participation is free but seating is limited; advanced registration is required. To register, send an email to . Full details of the event can be found at:


Day One : Friday, 21 May, 2010
Location: Senate Room (4.722, off Square 1), University of Essex Campus

11:00-11:30: Welcome and Overview of the Research Project Prof. Wayne Martin (Principal Investigator; Dept. of Philosophy, University of Essex)

11:30-13:00: Philosophical Models of Autonomy: An Overview Dr. Joel Anderson (Dept. of Philosophy, Utrecht University)

13:00-14:30: Lunch. Network Centre Foyer, 1N1.3.3.

14:30 – 15:45: The Mental Capacity Act and the Mental Health Act Prof. Genevra Richardson (School of Law, King’s College London)

15:45-17:00: The Law of Consent
Dr. Sabine Michalowski (School of Law, Essex University)

17:00-17:15: Coffee

17:15 – 18:30: The Clinical Assessment of Capacity.
Prof. Matthew Hotopf (Maudsley Institute of Psychiatry)

Day Two : Saturday, 22 May, 2010
Location: Wivenhoe Sailing Club

9:30-10:00 Coffee

10:00 – 11:15: Assessment of Capacity in Social Welfare Contexts Graham Sharp (Welfare Rights Officer, Suffolk County Council)

11:15-12:30: What Can We Learn About Autonomy From the Case of Anorexia Nervosa?
Dr. Jacinta Tan (Centre for Philosophy, Law and Humanities in Health Care, Swansea University)

12:30-14:00 Lunch

Letter to Middlesex University

I am sure you have already heard about the planned cuts at Middlesex University. Much more info is available over at Infinite Thought. Here is my letter to the University management:

Dear Professor Driscoll, Professor Ahmad, Professor House and Professor Esche,

I am hugely dismayed to hear of the decision to close the philosophy department at Middlesex University. The quality of the teaching and research which the department undertakes is excellent — something its recent RAE results make plain. So too, its contribution is a distinctive one, acting as a vitally important hub for the study of European philosophy, and which sees it punch far above its weight on both the national and international level. It has achieved these results with very good value for money, both in terms of its relatively modest budget and its success in attracting external funding for fellowships and AHRC projects. On any reasonable measure, the department is highly successful. In light of all this, the planned closure appears nothing short of absurd.

The outcry against the decision has been massive and will doubtless continue to grow, reflecting the esteem in which the department is held in the humanities across the world. I am sure you are keenly aware of the damage already caused to the reputation of the University. If the planned closure is not reversed, this will only escalate. It should become increasingly clear to you that there will be no tame acceptance of this decision. Even at this early stage, it is readily apparent that opposition to these plans will be intense, organised, and extremely prolonged.

I strongly urge you to rethink the proposed closure.

Tom O’Shea

Senior Postdoctoral Research Officer
Department of Philosophy
University of Essex

Please write to the University management:

The full set of emails is;;;

The co-ordinators of the campaign against the closures request that if you send an email, you also blind copy (BCC) it to the campaign email,

Kierkegaard Graduate Conference

The 13th International Graduate Conference in Philosophy is being held next month on the 15th May here at the University of Essex. It’s called: ‘Become who you are: Kierkegaard, literature, and the philosophy of religion.’ The keynote speakers are Stephen Mulhall and Michael McGhee. There’s also a philosophical film festival which takes place on the 12-14th May, with film showings and talks, including a screening of ‘The Conformist.’ More details about both events can be found here.


I’ve started using my Twitter account and will be posting regular philosophy links, as well as the occasional tidbit on music and literature. If you’re a regular reader here, I’d reckon there’s a fair chance you’ll stumble over something interesting there now and then. Either way, I’ll try to keep the noise-to-signal ratio as healthy as possible. My user name is bombthepast — alternatively, just follow this link.

3 Quarks Daily Nomination

Some kind soul has nominated my post Philosophy as Bildung for the 3 Quarks Daily philosophy prize. Due to an error it has only just been added to the voting round though. You can see a list of nominations and cast your votes here. Much like Levi, I think there is less than a snowball’s chance in hell of being highly placed, but it is nice to be nominated regardless.