Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Conference Report: British Personalist Forum International Conference 2015; Episode 96

Once again, we apologise to readers for being unable to bring you parts 16 to 95 of our new 112 part series, The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference, A Report.  This is due to the excess of obscene language and peculiarly lurid description contained therein.  Instead, we bring you Episode 96.

Episode 96: Philosophy of Action, Metaphysics of Description, and a Fried Slice
Breakfast the next morning was hearty and fulfilling, involving as it did liberal portions of pig in sundry styles and prepared with considerable élan.  Which is to say, fried, with a serving of mushrooms and a friend egg on top.  Across the long dining table, Raymond Tallis saw fit to make plain his medical credentials before curious onlookers, conference-goers, and a handful of tourists.  This he did by partaking of two breakfasts: both the porridge, which received much praise on all sides, and the full English, which knocked the previous evening’s culinary abuses into a cocked baked bean tin.  Starting the day with two breakfasts is, my best beloved, assures me, a sure sign of a medically trained soul.  From my personal experience of medical professionals, I can only suppose that this is necessary to fortify those Florence and Freddie Nightingales against the copious amount of alcohol that will likely be consumed at the first possible opportunity.
     Recruited by breakfast, we bid the tourists adieu and lurched windily off to the conference rooms.  For us, it was back to the Basil Mitchell Tomb, deep within the labyrinth of Oriel, there to witness Karl Simms and Charles “King Kong” Conti fling themselves headlong into the mysteries of “personhood”.
     We were fortunate to be joined that morning by Margaret Yee of St. Cross College, organiser of the aforementioned Dawkins/Williams debate (see episode 15, above).  Margaret is an old friend of Charles’ and another Farrerian scholar.  I had invited her to come and listen to us, which she kindly did.  I suspect, however, that the debate, particularly appending my session later that morning, was somewhat more vigorous than she, or anyone else for that matter, expected.

     That, however, is for later; another presentation, another room.  Back in the BMT, where Margaret sat with quiet dignity, the rest of us slumped eggily in our chairs.  David Treanor deftly took the reins and steered Karl Simms to the starting blocks.  With cries of “Tally ho!”, “Yoiks!”, and “Better out than in!” we were off.

    Drawing primarily on Hampshire’s early work, Spinoza, as well as his magnum opus, Thought and Action, Karl offered an masterly analysis of Hampshire’s philosophy of action.  A vital move, this, in the redintegration of mind and body or, more properly, of the realigning intending mind and the bodily acts it intends.  It constitutes what one might term a “philosophical nut-shot” for Cartesianism and all subsequent forms of rationalism-cum-realism which wantonly reify and deify the rational mind contra bodily act.  A devastating blow, perfectly aimed and timed, reminding any sheer or mere thinkers of their undeniable physicality.  Driving the point forcefully home, Karl leapt athletically to his feet, thereby demonstrating the full force of Hampshire’s psychophysical unity or mind-body holism.  “Disconnected from a context of intentional behaviour,” he growled as a steely glint lit his eye, “our actions are merely random, irrational.”  Testify brother, testify.
     Intentionality is not, as Karl showed, simply a movement of the mind; not even a movement of the mind towards the world.  It is an integral element of the active, e.g. psychophysical, involvement of persons in a physical and personal environment.  Intentions inform and in-form actions, so locate us in a world of others and objects.  In such interactive locations and orientations, lies the key to personal identity. For it is only in so far as we can distinguish ourselves as an ‘centre of action’, an intentional agent, that we can distinguish ourselves as anything at all. To put it another way, the difference between what I do and what happens to me, as Karl and Hampshire know well, makes all the difference.

     Within moments of Karl and Hampshire replanting our feet on the ground and our posteriors back in our seats, Conti Kong lit the blue touch-paper with a Strawson Vesta and carried us high above the crowds and clouds.  His aim in doing so was not, of course, to disconnect or denigrate our association with terra firma, but to get a better view of what it means to talk about having a world to live in.  Dancing on a tightrope, finely woven from descriptive metaphysics, personal -- in the fullest, philosophical sense -- reminiscence, and dirty jokes enough to keep the, frankly, fairly lowbrow crowd interested, Charles reminded us that all our descriptions come saturated with values or, as he put it elsewhere, ‘layers thick with predilection’.  In so doing, he blurred the lines most efficaciously, between descriptive, constructive, and revisionary metaphysics; a risky tactic for someone on a high-wire, but he trod the line deftly as always.  In essence, this picks up where Hampshire, and, indeed, Strawson himself, left off: with a metaphysical vision conditioned and commissioned by others; or, as Charles might say, ‘finished off with a flourish of common humanity’.  Extending, or elevating, this with a profound sensitivity to the subtlest of spiritual connections, we were offered a glimpse into the mysteries of personhood: i.e. modes of self-conception which defy definition and even refuse tightly fitting descriptions, but finds itself instead in refractive images so relies on the richness of the language used to express, or even extend, it. 
     In this, the irony and aptness of his recollections became particularly clear; not least as he was speaking in a room named for his own D.Phil. Supervisor, a man whose grasp of the simplicities and subtleties of personal relation seems to have been somewhat shaky at best.
     Fearing, I suppose, more for the quality of his presentation than the attention of old ghosts, Charles wanted it known that he was stepping in at the eleventh hour, after Robert Garcia had, sadly, been forced to bow out, owing to ill-health.  In this case “the eleventh hour” had been barely a week; not long, I’m sure you’ll agree, to prepare for an Oxford conference.  This did not, in the end, effect the quality of the work -- no one who knows him really supposed it would -- but it may have contributed to the marginally slower pace of its presentation, especially compared to last year.  Charles was, no doubt, exhausted after his efforts to do himself, Strawson, and his audience justice.  As a result, the pace dropped well below the breakneck speed for which he is well known. No bad thing, I think; for the Oxford Rozzers were surely on duty that day.

     With the conclusion of Charles’ paper, a much-needed coffee break was called.  And there we shall leave our merry band for another episode.

     In conclusion, I feel it my duty to inform you all that I have received a complaint.  Yes, just one.  It appears that there are those among you who tire easily and, though complimentary in every way, find all this dry and dusty philosophical discourse somewhat heavy weather.  Could I not, the inquirer asks, leaven the bread of deep thought with the yeast of humour?  Just an occasional sprinkling of wit to lighten the reader’s load.  Swine.
      Half is not enough, apparently. 
     Far be it from me to seek to deny my cherished readers anything; the pursuit of your happiness and enjoyment is my confirmed habit and settled policy.  I offer, therefore, the following titbit, for your amusement and edification. 
     There were these two nuns in the bath....

     Once again, we are sorry to report that we must end this episode a few lines early.  The rectitude of our correspondent’s alleged “wit” cannot be vouchsafed by this broadcaster.  Indeed, when asked his views concerning sex on the television, he merely saw fit to observe that it seemed rather dangerous, given the considerable risk of falling off.  Fortunately, all such vulgar nonsense will have been thoroughly expunged when you tune in again for the next episode of The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference, A Report.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Conference Report: British Personalist Forum International Conference 2015; Episode 15

The UK Elections are now over and vote-aggedon has apparently averted.  While we wait to see whether the Scottish Lion actually intends to eat the British Bulldog, dipped in chocolate and deep-fried, let us return to our new 96 part series, The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference, A Report. 

     We regret to inform our readers that we are presently unable to bring you parts 3 to 14 of the series owing to the libellous and obscene nature of many of the comments made by our correspondent concerning his fellow conference-goers.  We bring you now, therefore:

Episode 15: Two Curious Afflictions and a Diagnosis
Such a cornucopia of clever ideas; do you not agree?  A veritable garden of philosophical delights, both earthly and unearthly.  And yet this was not all there was to see.  For we come now to the large (stolen) Indian jewel in the middle of the shiny gold hat which was our conference: namely, our keynote speaker, Professor Raymond Tallis.  Professor Tallis kindly took time off from saving the NHS in order to come and mediate between the brainy and the beastly.  Using his considerable skills as a medical practitioner, he diagnosed two of the great ills which afflict modern thought. These, he dubbed “Neuromania” and “Darwinitis”.   
     “Neuromania”, as you might guess, is the morbid tendency to identify persons with their brains.   Thanks to developments in the neurosciences, this has become quite fashionable these days.  There have been all sorts of exciting experiments in recent years, such as those by Benjamin Libet.  These experiments generally claim to demonstrate that freewill and other important aspects of consciousness are, in fact, predetermined in or by (I’m never quite sure which) the electro-chemical fizzing between our ears.  They prove nothing of the sort, of course, as Ray clearly showed.  

     Interested readers might also like to have a look at the debate between Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams on ‘The Nature of Human Beings and the Question of their Ultimate Origin’.  Organised by Sophia Europa, specifically by Margaret Yee of St. Cross College, the debate was held at the Sheldonian Theatre in 2012.  A You Tube video of the event can be found here:

     This is a subject particularly close to James Beauregard’s heart, for he too is on a mission to point out that persons are much more than electrochemical fizzing.  This, as James has pointed out on more than one occasion, is a Very Important Issue; not least because of the development of neuro-ethics, a new field in which neurological data is regarded as the vital clue to understanding moral decisions.  In abstraction, this would be worrying enough, in the courtroom, as I am told happens in the US, it is quite terrifying.  
     If I am honest, I also find it very annoying that there are people out there confidently writing books on ethics and the deep and difficult questions of our nature with little or no philosophical training.  A background in neuroscience is, it seems all one needs; and, after all, it is not as though one needs to have studied ethics or philosophy to understand the subtle issues involved.

     Back to the Prof.. “Darwinitis”, it turns out, is a peculiar condition in which biological evolution is believed to hold the key to human nature.  Symptoms may also include spots and personal itching, though Ray didnt actually say so.
     The difficulties with such a claim are many and various.  Evolution itself, when understood as a random process of “natural”, selection is ill-equipped to explain the emergence of complex patterns of existence, such as human consciousness, for example.  More simply, human beings are not merely biological organisms.  They are social and cultural ones too.  But the “rules” of biology don’t apply to cultural institutions or agents; and when they are mistakenly applied the results always turn out to be counter-intuitive, alarming, and flatly contrary to most sensible moral intuitions.  One can;t help wondering whether we havent had enough of Social Darwinism already.
     It is worth pointing out that not all evolutionary biologists buy into this absurdly reductive conception of persons and their development. Julian Huxley, for one, seems to have been possessed of a far richer understanding of human existence.  He, at least, was unafraid to talk about the cultural and social nature of persons, not to mention transcendence and spirituality.  True, Huxley thought that the development of personal consciousness in its intellectual and spiritual forms was really a matter of evolutionary processes extending themselves into a new dimension.  But it seems obvious that, in saying so, evolution itself became, for him, a very different kind of metaphor.  

     Biological reductivism isn’t just a kind of category error, however; that is, one where terms belonging to one field -- or, as Wittgensteinians might say, language-game -- are dropped from on high into another, quite different, one.  Worse than that, it also punches dirty great holes in the plot of human history and conscious development.
     What, for instance, is the point of mythologising behaviours which are already conditioned and, in some sense, “underwritten” by evolution?  In the matter of ethical behaviour, for example, the idea seems to be that there is some evolutionary advantage to moral or altruistic behaviour.  Then, in order to make it palatable, we dress these supposedly utilitarian activities up in moral and religious raiment.  The question is, ‘why bother?’ If evolution is doing its (alleged) job properly, then we shouldn’t need to persuade people to do something which they are already doing and which will stop them dying out.  Evolutionary processes have already made such behaviour-patterns rewarding in some way, why bother with all the fancy duds of goodness and rightness too?   
     And it’s not just ethics, is it.
                                         Consider sex.

       That’s enough of that!  I’m sorry but we really must get on.
     The point is, we can’t just get down to doing the deed of darkness without mythologising it in some way.  But what’s the point of that?  Sex, like soup, is nice; but unlike soup it is, by and large, reasonably effective at reproducing the species: there’s your ‘survival value’ right there.  So what, pray tell, is the point in mythologising it the way we do?  If it’s all about evolutionary advantage, that should be enough for anyone; there’s no need to bang on about love and romance and monogamy just so we can bang one another.  Surely something like “phwaor!” would be sufficient preliminaries to dipping your bread.  But of course, it isn’t sufficient for most people, not remotely.  Hearts and flowers and love poetry and so on may be evolutionary overkill but they do seem quite important to the continuation of our species, not to mention our sense of who we are.  
     Besides, if the evolutionary biologists were right, then it would severely cut down on my opportunities to use my very favourite collection of words in the English language; for I am a chap not in search of procreative activities nor simple mating behaviours neither.   I am (with considerable gratitude to H. P. Lovecraft) a chap in search of “that nighted penguin fringed abyss”.
     Romance dead? Not a bit of it.  
       And even if it were, as that dark and crafty, long-faced lover said,
                                         That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may
End up with carpet burns.

     In the end, you may be pleased to know, Ray generously concluded that persons are much more than just a pretty brain-pattern.  What’s more, he was prepared to go so far as to conclude that neither are we merely beasts; this, as I pointed out, despite having just sat down to dinner with us all.

     Considering how flat that, rather good, joke fell on the night, however, I am not so sure.  

     All this was, to some degree, preaching to the choir, of course; and a very good sermon it was too.  If there was any slight issue with his presentation it was that his slide of an MRI brain scan was the wrong way round, as my best beloved -- herself an MRI radiographer -- pointed out.  Shame on you, Professor T., shame on you.  

     At the conclusion of this excellent keynote speech and the exciting discussion which followed it, we did what philosophers off the leash will do: headed to the pub around the corner for a pint or two of large.  Then we went on rampage around Oxford before returning to our gloomy digs.  

     And so, to bed.

     We regret that we have been forced, once again, to end this report at this point.  Given the notoriously lurid imagination of our correspondent, not to mention his excessively “colourful” vocabulary, we trust the reasons for doing so are obvious.  We hope you will return again soon for episode 16 in our new 112 part series: The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference, A Report.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Conference Report: British Personalist Forum International Conference 2015; Episode 2

We return now to our new 72 part series: The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference, A Report.

Part 2: First Philosophy, then Booze
     To return to the presentations: besides the choice selection already mentioned, there were, of course, many other fine speakers.  Our chairman, Alan Ford – he of the rippling deltoids and Betty Marsden eyes – took time out from his own wine-tasting adventures to explore the logical and metaphysical foundations of modernity on our behalf.
     I was fortunate enough to see Alan do something similar at the 2009 International Conference on Persons in Nottingham, also organised by Richard.  That presentation, however, was on a far grander scale.  Much like the buffalo of the old West, Alan had ranged freely: not across the plains but through every form of artistic and literary expression known to our species.  Sad to say, he was, on that occasion, cut tragically short after only several hours. A number of those attending had, so they said, to return the United States; apparently their visas had expired.  Feeble excuse.  It was a truly epic performance we saw that morning; we can only hope that one day it turns up on BBC 2 of a Thursday evening.
     This time, however, our son of a coal miner (and not, as I had assumed, a sea cook) chose to focus on the tendency of modern thought to mystify some of the most vital aspects of human experience: namely, our values and, in particular, the ethical.  Without these, one might say, we are barely human at all.  The consequences of that “surreptitious slippage” to philosophy are well known; the consequences to what we might loosely term “the real world” are insidious and becoming increasingly, and depressingly, obvious.
     Citing Wittgenstein, specifically in the Tractatus, as a key culprit would not escape Charles Conti’s attention; for Charles himself is working on a new analysis of Wittgenstein which seems almost entirely to oppose Alan’s view.
     The challenge was made, the gauntlet thrown down.  Two men eyed one another in steely fashion.  In a flash, coal miner’s son and stonemason’s son were stripped to the waist and fully oiled up.  The assembled crowd began to take bets on who would emerge the victor from this titanic struggle.  Like caged animals they circled each other.  And then, with a mighty roar, they clashed.  Like King Kong and Godzilla, they duked it out in the Basil Mitchell Room.
     Long before these titans had finished battering one another over Wittgenstein, an armistice -- however temporary -- had to be negotiated.  There was one last speaker that blood-spattered afternoon.  In the end, hands were shook, backs were slapped, and teeth swept into the corner of the room.
     Thus did Jan Nilsson bravely take the floor and offer up a discussion of Rowan Williams on Dostoyevsky (or is that Dostoevsky?).  In so doing, he too plunged us into the mystery of “personhood”, brought us face to face with the “unfathomable being” that, through Dostoyevsky, Williams sees us to be.  This “unfathomableness” stems, we were told, from that characteristically human freedom which orients us towards what Friedrich Waismann might forgive us for calling an “open horizon” of possibilities. There is, in Jan’s talk of “unfinished dialogue” something quite close to Waismann’s conception of the “open texture” of language; a vitally important application, perhaps, of his reminder that we cannot foreclose on the language of description.  Nor, perhaps, can we foreclose on the extemporised enactment of our own existence.
     The upshot of this, Jan has dubbed a kind of “apophatic anthropology”; a striking phrase, given the vital importance such a via negativa have for any attempt to make sense of “God-talk”.  It is grounded in a significantly richer conception of our finite nature; not in ontological deficits, as necessitarian thinkers would have it, but rather a kind of personal plenitude which carries personhood far beyond the limits of description and definition.  From now on, I, for one, will gladly temper my over-confident talk of the “infinity” of “personhood” in future, while continuing to press for something a little less strident, something more like “indefinity” or “unfinalisability”, as Jan (borrowing from Mikhail Bakhtin) put it.  The point is clear: those who would limit consciousness or “personhood”, either physically or metaphysically, are on the wrong track.  Any limitations we may have are self-imposed not inherent, the consequence of separation and isolation from those others among whom we may fulfil our potential, our selves.

     Such, then, was the first day of the British Personalist Forum International Conference.  But that was not all, for that evening promised further excitement in the shape of Professor Raymond Tallis.
     Before that, however, we ambled untidily back across the road to the main college buildings where we were to encounter the curious culinary marvels of their kitchen.  Little did we know what was in store for us, what gastronomic abomination would rise, dripping and seething and slithering monstrously, from the cyclopean gravy and utterly destroy our appetites.
     By then, Charles Conti had wisely abandoned us.

     As hinted in episode one, it was not all bad, however.  There was, for instance, a wine that was both pleasant and plentiful; freely imbibed, you may recall, entirely at James Beauregard’s arm-twisting insistence.  Thus, we conclude this episode fully clothed and with a review of that same Château Oriel by our internationally renowned neuro-gourmand, Italian-American, and fearless consumer of alliums far and wide.

Oriel College House Red (served at the conference dinner, thank God!)
A blend of Carignan Noir and Granache Noir, this is an apparently young wine, deep purple, with a dark/opaque core and light purple rim.  The nose brings red fruit aromas of strawberry and plum.  On the palate this is a medium bodied red with medium tannin, good acidity and good balance of components that reflect and extend the nose, with pleasing flavours of plum, strawberry and some hints of raspberry.  It would pair well with Modern Ontological Pizza.  The finish is of medium length.  85 points
James Beauregard Ph.D., Advanced Certificate
(Wine and Spirits Education Trust, London, England)

Look out for episode 3 of this 84 part series, The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference, A Report.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Conference Report: British Personalist Forum International Conference 2015; Episode 1a

2… 1

We bring you now the next instalment of our new 42 part series dedicated to The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference. In this episode, our intrepid reporter describes the daily life of conference-goers, with details of both feeding and mating rituals. Readers are warned that the following report may contain distressing scenes.

Episode 1a: Sing “Macmurray!” every day, that’s what my Grandma used to say
     Deep within the labyrinthine bowels of Oriel college stood we.  Shadows clung cobweb-like about our shoulders; a strange sepulchral chill had settled upon the room.  It was the first day, the first hour, the first moment of the conference.  Who knew what horrors were to come, what appalling rites would be conducted, to what Stygian depths a human soul might sink, and what ancient nightmares would be released up when it did?
     Suddenly, before a very old joke could be plagiarised in toto, Richard Allen and Alan Ford welcomed us all and opened the conference.
     The scene was set.  On with the presentations.

     You may recall from Part 1 that the philosophy of John Macmurray was well represented.  In this regard, David Treanor and James Beauregard did a fine job.
     David flew in from Tasmania for the event; just he had last year, in fact.  His arms were recovering from the ordeal and he was enjoying being the right way up for a change; so much so that he was not, I am sure, remotely put out by the chairman of his session being ten minutes late.
     Yes, of course it was me.   I managed to get lost between Lecture Room II in the aforementioned sepulchral bowels, where Richard and Alan opened the conference, and the Basil Mitchell Room about a hundred yards away.  A dedicated Ariadne, armed with her ball of yarn, would, no doubt, have made short work of it, but I was lost.  The block in which we were housed -- behind the Provost’s rooms, I think -- has two distinct alleyways, if you can imagine such a thing.  I picked the wrong one; of course I did.
     Luckily, after what seemed like hours in this benighted wilderness, I was found, tired, cold, and hungry, by a couple of other lost souls.  Pooling our mighty intellectual powers, we decided that the other alleyway was worth a try.  And it was.  Everyone was waiting for us.  David, at last, could begin.

     Consider two things: first, this was a personalist conference, organised by the British Personalist Forum; second, John Macmurray is generally acknowledged to be a -- if not the -- central figure in British personalist thought.   He is, in David’s words, ‘an aberration to a homogeneous philosophical pedagogy.’  And jolly good too.   (Not only an important figure in his own right, Macmurray was also Farrer’s tutor at Balliol, making him a contributory factor in the development of one of the most important thinkers of the 20th Century.)  Given these two things, it might seem a little peculiar that David should wonder whether Macmurray was, in fact, a personalist after all.   He’s lucky he wasn’t lynched.  

     The question, it seems, arises from the practical or pragmatic emphasis of Macmurray’s philosophy: the substitution, as David put it, of doing for thinking.  This same emphasis on (as I would say) intelligent action over sheer or mere speculation, Farrer would go on to develop both metaphysically and epistemologically.
     Pragmatic personalism: excellent stuff.  What struck me as interesting was the way in which David applied, as is his wont, Macmurray’s thought to matters of crucial social import; in this case, education, health-care, and social services.  This speaks of a social consciousness, sadly lacking from much modern philosophy, but which David always does supremely well.
     This aspect of David’s paper soon gave rise to an interesting conversation about the experience of educational, health, and social-care professionals.  In his recent book, The Common Good (to which a issue of Appraisal will soon be dedicated) Jonas Mortenson cited research suggesting that health-care professionals, in particular, are frequently rather unhappy people.  This is something I can corroborate from my own experience.  Being married to one, I have long associated with such folks and they are as odd a bunch of people as you or I are ever likely to meet.  But if Macmurray et al. are right about the proper route to a fulfilling life, a fully human life, being through our thoughtful and caring participation on one another’s lives -- as I am sure they are -- then the question is, ‘why are health-care professionals so miserable, not to mention, peculiar?’  No great conclusions were reached that day, although it was mooted that much may result from the depersonalising systems within which they are forced to work; but I do not think that is all.
     This is, I suspect, a topic to which we shall have to return at some later date.

     Following David’s fine application of Macmurray’s principle ideas, James Beauregard also sought to draw some of the lessons of Macmurray’s thought.  James’ concern was twofold: one the one hand, the neuroscience’s; on the other, signalling some of the vital connections between Macmurray’s thought -- and personalism in general -- and the insights of modern psychology and psychotherapy. Such connections are not, of course, particularly surprising; but they are very exciting.  James focused primarily on Object Relations Theory, which was developed during the early part of the 20th Century (whence I have now returned).  The key players in this development, we were told, included Melanie Klein (sister of Calvin) and the famous Hollywood Swashbuckler, Ronald Fairbairn Jnr., whose seminal work, Object Relations Theory in the Clinical Setting, was, I believe, written while Fairbairn was playing Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
     It is curious that Object Relations Theory isn’t better known among personalists given the parallels with the central insights of our tradition, especially in the area of interpersonal relations.   Perhaps Shakespeare was simply wrong: a rose by any other name has a distinctly fishy pong about it.  Badly named as it is, ORT , as James ably demonstrated, offers valuable psychological support to the philosophical personalist and as a contribution to the proceedings was very welcome indeed.
     And that, children, is why the ICP should be a compulsory element of all psychology courses too. And, now I think about it, neuroscience courses.

     Taking the first, neuroscientific, hand, James’ presentation concerned the inevitable limitations of any conception of persons undertaken in such terms alone.  The attempt to eliminate deep metaphysical questions about personal consciousness, freewill, morality, and so on is not, of course, remotely scientific.   It is, as one commentator has observed, merely witchcraft with clipboards.
     Otherwise put, there is an irreducible logical gap between the MRI scans or what have you which supposedly show us the mind at work and the claim that the neurological activity depicted by the scan really is the mind and nothing else can be.  David Hume is usually blamed -- not altogether fairly -- for this kind ersatz empiricism, although I can’t help wondering what he would have made of that inferential leap.
     Fortunately, we were saved such abstract speculations as James, with Macmurray’s help, set to filling out the picture of persons.

     Then suddenly, I heard the unmistakable twang of elastic....

     This concludes Part 1a of our new 56 part series: The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference, A Report.  Unfortunately, we are, once again, unable to bring you the remainder of this episode.   It has emerged that the detailed descriptions of feeding and mating rituals among conference-goers, which we hoped to bring you, are libellous; mere fabrications of our correspondents fevered, and frankly degenerate, imagination.   We hope that readers are not too disappointed and will continue to join us for the remainder of this 69 part series.