Theo Todman's Web Page
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The following is Section 9 (Supplementary Information / Personal Statement) from my application form for admission to Heythrop College to study an MA in Philosophy and Religion. I’m due to be interviewed on Thursday 29th July 2010 by the Principal (Dr. John McDade – see Link - Defunct and Link - Defunct), so we’ll see whether or not these thoughts get me into hot water. Note last updated: 18/12/2010 12:00:00
- It is difficult to know where to start and stop on this topic, and I dislike having to use the first person singular pronoun so often. To keep things brief, I've made several references to my website (Link (http://www.theotodman.com/)), thought the links don’t really need to be followed up.
- I have a first class degree in philosophy, and questions of religion, with or without commitment, have been amongst the major preoccupation of my adult life. However, I have not formally studied philosophy of religion (in the sense of attending a course), and have unresolved issues that I think the MA course would help me to address.
- Some background: two years after leaving Cambridge – a bruising experience intellectually, following an unsuitable choice of Tripos – I made a trial with the Carthusians but while a postulant I experienced what I took to be an evangelical conversion. I consequently left Parkminster and joined a small protestant fundamentalist group, becoming in due course a founding trustee of a (much less exclusive) splinter group – the Open Bible Trust (OBT). I continued with them for about 10 years, writing a couple of booklets (see this link), and latterly attempting with some difficulty to integrate with more mainstream evangelical churches while somewhat more successfully raising a family and working in Banking IT. But there were tensions in what I believed, or felt I had to believe, and I came to the view that the more mystical extremes of Christianity were intellectually vacuous, while the more fundamentalist forms were contentful though many of their fundamental assumptions were false.
- At the time I was influenced by Ayer’s “Language Truth and Logic”, and James Barr’s “Escaping from Fundamentalism”. It was a positive review of this book (see this link) that led to my having to resign from the OBT. I then decided to think things through a bit and wrote a treatise modelled in style on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (follow the link for a hyperlinked version of the original). I sent this to various notables (Paul Helm, John Polkinghorne and John Habgood); I got some detailed, though not really useful, feedback from Paul Helm and the advice to consider the poetic from John Polkinghorne.
- I then joined Mensa and ran their Philosophy Special Interest Group for a few years (see Link (http://www.theotodman.com/commensal.htm)), before discovering Birkbeck and deciding to get some formal philosophical training. At Birkbeck I was president of the Philosophy Society for my middle two undergraduate years (see this link) and was awarded the C.E.M. Joad prize.
- Since the conclusion of my degree course, I’ve made a couple of attempts as a research student at Birkbeck, both part time. The first, where I was registered for the MPhil Stud commencing in October 2005 (my primary supervisor being Prof. Jen Hornsby - see Jen Hornsby (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/philosophy/our-staff/academic_staff/hornsby), had to be terminated when my wife was involved in a car accident and I had to take time out to look after her until she recovered. The second attempt was for the MPhil/PhD, commencing October 2007, my thesis topic being Personal Identity (in overview, an arbitration between Eric Olson’s animalism and Lynne Rudder Baker’s “constitution view”), again under the supervision of Prof. Jen Hornsby. This was a bit more promising, but again I left the course after a couple of terms. This was for two reasons: firstly because it was more difficult to fit around my work commitments – graduate work even at Birkbeck isn’t focussed on mature students; secondly, because I had an obsession about using web-technology in the aid of philosophy, and I was trying to develop the software at the same time as conducting my research.
- In retrospect, I doubt this intermission was the right decision – being supervised by Jen was something of a privilege and not an opportunity I should have thrown away, whatever the difficulties. I’m still pursuing my research (and web-development) on my own, and intend to re-apply to Birkbeck in a couple of years.
- In the interim, I’d like to obtain some formal training in the philosophy of religion, to reconsider my earlier faith-decisions, and get back in the ways of disciplined study. I also have a proposed chapter in my thesis on the metaphysical impossibility of resurrection following corporeal destruction. It would be useful to spend time in an intellectual environment where such an idea isn’t taken as obvious. I also want to think again about Ethics, which I rather skated over in my BA course, finding the whole subject rather unsatisfying (adapting Bradley’s complaint about metaphysics that “(ethics) is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct”), and intend to take the “Ethics Pathway” in the optional side of the MA course. Finally, I also hope to be liberated by my employer (HSBC) at the end of September, which will free me up for my research and study interests.
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Timestamp: 12/10/2018 10:23:20. Comments to email@example.com.