I was at King’s College, Wimbledon until 2002, then did an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Theology at Worcester College, Oxford from 2002-2005, a masters degree at KCL in London from 2005-2006, and another(!) masters and a doctorate back in Oxford from 2007-2012
MA (Oxon), MA, BPhil, DPhil
Junior research fellow at New College, Oxford and a postdoctoral fellow on the Metaphysics of Entanglement project, Philosophy Faculty, Oxford
Lecturer at Magdalen College, Oxford
Magdalen College, Oxford
Favourite thing to do in science: I love solving puzzles, and I’m lucky that I get to (try to!) do this in most parts of my research.
I’m a husband and a dad, and can be found playing sport (hockey and tennis) or in the pub when I get the chance
I grew up in London and have been in Oxford, apart from a couple of years, since leaving home for university. I am married with a young family, which keeps me happy and tired!
I spend much of my free time catching up with friends and family (I’ve been to more than 50 pubs within the Oxford ring road). I play sport when I can, and the older I get the better I was. There’s lots of things I like to do but never get round to, like: watching films and plays, reading novels and learning to cook interesting food.
I teach and research in philosophy, looking at questions about the fundamental nature of things
Philosophy asks questions about a lot of different things. The parts of philosophy that I work in mean thinking about stuff like time, ordinary objects and God.
Here’s one question: what’s the difference between the past, present and the future? It seems like there’s a big difference: I can only do stuff in the present, I can make a difference to the future and I can’t do anything about the past. But how does this work? One issue is that physics seems to tell us all parts of time are the same sort of thing. So how come they seem so different to us?
Thinking about these kinds of question is what metaphysics does. It isn’t easy, and it can be hard for some people to see the point in it (though I think there is a point!). But for other people these deep questions are the most interesting ones there are.
My Typical Day
No day is the same, but lots of them involve trying to work out how to think about some philosophy questions by reading and listening to other people, talking with them, and by trying out some of my own ideas
My days and weeks vary quite a lot. But there are some things that I do quite a lot. Teaching and admin take up some time (teaching is great! Admin less so…) but my research generally involves thinking about puzzles in metaphysics and trying to find new ways to solve them.
Something people often wonder about is how to do research in philosophy. Is it just sitting in a room thinking? The short answer is, not usually. Usually, I think about things by bouncing off what other philosophers are doing. So there’s lots of reading and listening and talking with other researchers. But there’s also time to sit down and try and work out my own thoughts, and that’s where I’d go off to a library or office and write things on the computer. Lots of the writing process is revising and rewriting what I did the day before! I’m lucky to get to talk through my ideas with colleagues to help make them as best they can be.
I’m generally working from 9-5 or so, Monday-Thursday (I look after my son on Fridays), but this changes when I’m away at conferences or have big deadlines.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Having papers published is exciting and lets you send your ideas out into the world for other people to grab onto. Which is pretty cool, so probably that.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I’ve been lucky to meet lots of interesting people who are interested in philosophy, though many of them aren’t academics. If I had to blame only one of them, it’d probably be a family friend, John, who’s a great conversationalist and a Jesuit priest.
What was your favourite subject at school?
I enjoyed maths and english, but R.S. was probably the favourite
What did you want to be after you left school?
I had no idea!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
From time to time… but there’s hopefully no record anymore
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
The first Arsenal player to score a triple hat-trick on debut
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Tough one. I was a Radiohead fan growing up, and they have lasted pretty well.
What's your favourite food?
Nothing beats my mum’s sunday roast
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Seeing the gorillas in the wild on honeymoon was pretty great
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
A happy, healthy family, 8+ hours sleep a night and world peace. In that order.
Tell us a joke.
I bought my friend an elephant for her room. She said, “Thanks.” I said, “Don’t mention it.”