A return To The Start

A month ago Natasha and I were going to book a holiday in Torquay, just to get away, see the coast. Around the time the weather was really cold up here and all I really wanted to do was go back down south to live, full stop. With the pandemic it seems like Harrogate had become, for me, similar to being in Australia, cut away from the rest of the work, but with nicer people and much colder weather. I told Tish we should go to Guildford as its 20 years since we started out there together. She did say we
should go down there for our 20th anniversary in 2024. The next day she came back to me and said we should go down this year. I agreed. Hopefully in 2024 it will be common to go further afield again. For now we could go back down there, see some old favourites, in term of places and friends. After all, we have some catching up to do.

This does raise the question of how much one should look back. During the pandemic, London seemed so far away. We went back down in January and the February, just for a night, but that was enough. It really was just a train ride away (something I continually told myself when we were relocating up here). During our travels, I have often looked back to the period of our living there together between 2002 and 2005 as the happiest time of my life. Do I want to recapture that? If I am, does that mean I am unhappy right now? I know I prefer living in a bigger house up here than being cooked up in a dingy flat down there. I like the people here more also. Will it be like visiting London again. Just by doing it, the place will lose its unobtainability (which it did seem like during some of the time when we lived in Australia, which is a lot better on paper than the real thing).

Strangely the cameras I will be using are very like the ones I had when we lived there. Some hobbies seem to have come full circle. Again is that a bad thing? Can I do that better now. If not, so what? If I just enjoy it, is that not enough? In meditating we learn to enjoy that moment of presence. Can we not also return briefly to the past? In continually rushing to the future, are we not just trying to avoid the mistakes of the past? Lama Jampa told me it’s good to have regrets, because this helps you re-assess how you have lived. It urges you to strive for improvement. Not to ruminate, just appreciate the bad and try to improve on it. How much should we reflect on the good also though? Or it all the same?

Coming back to Writing

I am one of those people who forget about subscriptions and gets notified after the payment has gone through. My subscription to WordPress and this blog is testimony to that and the fact that I did not write anything in 2021 is proof. Rather than continue with the emphasis on philosophy (which is not my main interest these days), the blog will have more astronomy and photography related articles.

We bought a house in Harrogate in Summer 2020 and were renovating till late 2021. Still work to do, but the main DIY is done. I consider myself lucky that we had the money and opportunity to do it during this time, and the Summer of 2020 will always be good with us despite the pandemic. Only last year, rummaging through a lot of the stuff we’d had in storage, or not immediately available, did I have the opportunity to get out some of my old cameras. Initially I resolved to give them a go again, and decide if they were still for me.

One is a Rolleiflex-T


The other is a Contax ii


Walking around Harrogate and its environs I had forgotten how nice it is having to visualise what your picture is going to be and manually set and compose the camera. I wondered why I had lost interest I enjoyed using them so much. In retrospect its not that difficult. Since leaving Australia in 2015, we had lived in 6 houses. When you move that much some stuff just gets left on the shelf. I’d had some Fujifilm digital cameras, which were great, but all had different batteries and chargers. I could not just use them as grab and go cameras. I saold them all and bought some new Panasonic kit, a FZ1000ii and an LX10 which charge by usb. In some way the Panasonic Monochrome D option for black and white they had inspired me to try black and white film again. After Covid I do not think we will ever take nature for granted again. Some of us may forget the endless walks, but for me, who had to work through it, its reminded to get my camera. With film I can take a couple of shots and not have to review them. That way I do not get lost in trying to get a good photo. I still enjoy the view. That why I think I will write a bit more about photography and these old cameras. May be there still is a good bit of of the philosopher in me.

UCLAN Astronomy

I got frustrated just doing philosophy essays last year. I think the Philosophy of language and Wittgenstein really finished me off. Around the same time I did a course on Kants Groundwork , which was interesting, but finished early as the lecturer was depressed, justifiably about the death of his mother. I felt I was getting nowhere and needed a more defined line of study. Since watching and reading Brian Greene I have wanted to study Physics again, but thought it may clash too much with my job.

I found an interesting course on


and did the Intro to Astronomy Module. For a 20 point course (120 is equivalent to a year in uni), I found it quite comprehensive in comparison to the 60 point OU courses I have done in the past. This year I am studying 2 other modules, Intro to Cosmology and Intro to Astrobiology. I will write summaries of all the modules here. They are not cheap, but seem to offer good value for money. The overall goal (if this year works out) is to do 3 more modules next year and get the Cert HE in Astronomy. I may resume Geoffrey Klempers course and go and do a UOL distance Philosophy course at that stage. I like the idea of doing Physics and Philosophy together. I do not blame Physicists for having a sceptical view of philosophers from some stuff I have read about the influence of quantum mechanics on free will. Astronomy is like applied physics, especially in the earlier stages of study and for that reason, it suits me now.

Ancient Philosophy Pathways Course Review

Ancient Philosophy – The First Philosophers
When I was starting this course I had a lot more problems trying to gather the correct background material and overview of the subject matter. I missed some lecture course like Grim’s Philosophy of Mind from the Great Courses. I find also that the Pathways course will assume you have the pre-requisite background and GK asks a lot of questions in each unit, which is to prompt discussion of the relevant subject. One must have a good background of the subject being discussed of course, and it took me a while to get my head around the full story and spirit of the Pre-Socratic philosophers. For this course I decided to just stick with GK’s brief reviews of my essays, as I was, at this stage, happy with their general structure. I got Martinich’s book on Philosophical Essay writing and have read some of it, and plan to come back to it again.

I read in fivebooks.com about Angie Hobbs best five books on the Pre-Socratics. Apart from KRS, which is quite extensive, I do not think they may be apt for this level, especially Kerford. KRS is good though. I got Barnes Ancient Philosophy also, which is a dumbed down version of KRS. In this respect I would read the chapter in Barnes first, then KRS. I found the intro in KRS quite intimidating, as it referenced the old myths as a background to the first philosophers. As a result I looked at the first 4 Yale lectures on the Introduction to Greek History by Donal Kagen. I got the text book on Greek history by Pomeroy also. These were quite accessible and I plan to come back to them as I find this whole subject in itself quite involving. Additionally since then I have listened to Homers Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod’s Cosmogeny, all on Audible.com (a useful way to get through books that you are not used to reading). I also read some background chapters on the Greeks from Russell’s History of Philosophy together with Peter Adams first chapters in the History of Philosophy without any gaps. Only then I got a grasp of how to engage with the ancient philosophers and attempt to look at the world through their eyes.

For my first essay I discussed the theories of how the world stays stable, from the Ionian point of view. KRS, in this instance, proves to be indispensable, as the fragments (the bits of information, mostly incomplete left behind by the Pre-Socratics) can be ambiguous and at times can appear contradictory when read from different sources. My second essay related to Heraclitus’ treatment of the world as flux and his statement that “you can never step into the same river twice”. Again KRS came to the rescue. I also found the questions in Ask a Philosopher were useful and I think that such queries about the exact nature of discussion in philosophy are quite common. It is at this stage one can get quite frustrated with the lack of fragments as one feels there  were more there (as there was) , but one is just left to guess about it all, rather than interpret what was said or written (as most of it is gone). GK like the first two and I was quite please with them also.
We moved from Portsmouth up to Harrogate in October and my third essay, which began in September was not finished til January. It is important not to have much change in ones life when doing study as any changes in lifestyle can really interrupt ones thought process. I discussed Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox in the third essay. I bought a book Space and Time by Barry Dainton, which dedicated two chapters to Zeno. I think this was overkill as I did not use much of it in the essay and I think, for a 1000 word essay, one should not go into this much background reading. I am sure it will be useful in the future. Through writing about Zeno and his defence of Parmenides’ theories, I began to realise how significant Parmenides is in ancient philosophy, and until Plato comes along World of Appearance and World of Truth are by far the yard stick by which other theories are measured. I was not that please with this essay.

An appreciation of Parmenides was needed for my next essay, which dealt with Atomism. I found initially reading about this quite frustrating, but then appreciated it for the piece of elegant rational thinking that it is. My final essay also discussed Atomism and its effect on the perspectives of the use of rationalism vs empiricism in philosophical debate and whether Democritus is really advocating scepticism, in pointing out that Ato

mism shows us the limits of the senses.
Along the way I did read Thaetetus in the hope of answering a question on it. I found I wanted to deal with Atomism more, and not spread the net too wide. I have spent enough time on this course and was becoming less interested, most likely because of the move and also because of the lack of any lecture syllabus to adhere to, like I had with Grim in Philosophy of Mind.


Pls find essays below.Stephen Lumsden C1 13.8.18Stephen Lumsden C2 27.8.18Stephen Lumsden C3 10.1.19Stephen Lumsden C4 23.2.19Stephen Lumsden C5 18.3.19


Philosophy of Mind Pathways course Review


Philosophy of Mind – Searching for the Soul


When I started this course I had an external tuition source critique my essays. Not that GK
is not helpful, but Pathways as it currently stands does not give involved tuition. As a result GK will give pointers when submitting essays to the essay cabinet and also may ask for the essay to be submitted again with certain improvements. However there is no active mentoring or tuition anymore.

As a result I had my 5 previous essays from the Introduction course reviewed in more depth. Basically I was told (among other things ) to structure my essays with a definite introduction, main and conclusion. Additionally I was told not to be overly descriptive, argue for a certain point and not quote too much as I was doing this mostly “for adornment”, which did not strengthen my case.

Before starting the Pathways course I bought the Philosophy of Mind course from the Great Courses. This was about $30 (they regularly discount their courses) and was presented by Professor Patrick Grim, who was very clear. This gave me a good overview before reading the Pathways material. PFA did a lecture on Philosophical Zombies, so I picked that option for my first essay. I found this interesting as I could work in ideas from Cartesian Dualism from the Descartes Meditations book (this is quite short and easy to read). The second essay revolved specifically around Descartes sixth Meditation, so all in all I got a good introduction to Descartes. I look forward to reading his other work, Discourse on Method.

The third essay was on the change of personal identity over time. I read Introducing Persons by Peter Carruthers for this, but did not finish the whole book, as I found it hard going (though I do plan to come back to it to cover Hume’s bundle theory). Again I found Grim’s course a good reference point. I was familiar with the ideas from the Introduction to Philosophy course and also referred back to Shelly Kagen’s course on Death on the Yale courses web site. I had to refer to John Locke also, whose ideas I find practical, though he does not write so clearly as Descartes. I came back to Locke for the discussion on Qualia which served as my fourth essay. Again Grim proved a great reference point and his example of Dennett’s thought experiments were excellent.

For my last essay I read Three Dialogs by George Berkeley to investigate how subjective idealism relates to free will. GK did not like my interpretation of compatabilism so I had to amend the essay and re-submit it. All in all I liked Berkeley and this rounded off a good course. Overall I felt I learnt a good deal, but really needed to learn a lot more. Martin Jenkins from the ISFP also reviewed my essays and provided good feedback also, together with GK’s comments. Again I had some of my essays reviewed by an external tutor, but was not sure at what level his remarks were aimed at (and did not exactly agree with some of them). As a result I may come back to them if I start studying Philosophy at a higher academic level.

I found Grim’s course of lectures provided a good overview. I later found out that John Searle has Philosophy of Mind audio lectures freely available on the web, but I found the Great courses option worth the money, as it provides a guide book also which summarises the lectures and suggests further reading. I find that having a set of lectures as a reference (together with the Pathways guides) essential as the Pathway guides sometimes appear to presume previous knowledge. I think that is because they were originally presented as material which would come together with definite tuition. I have definitely missed a good course of lectures while beginning my current course on the Pre-Socratics and will buy Great courses lecture series on Ethics and MetaPhysics for Pathways E and F courses, as these form a more definite self contained curriculum than the Pathways courses currently do. They do not have any on Philosophy of Language, but I will use Searles Philosophy of Language lectures for that.

Finished essay for perusal as below:Stephen Lumsden B1 15.1.18Stephen Lumsden B2 24.2.18Stephen Lumsden B3 22.3.18Stephen Lumsden B4 12.4.18Stephen Lumsden B5 10.6.18


Buddhism Plain and Simple

Buddhism Plain and Simple (Steve Hagen)
This blog is supposed to cover well being, health and mental health as well as philosophy and this is something I have forgotten in the last few months, with the move up north.
I have been meditating for the last 2.5 years since June 2016. I started with Southsea Sangha in Portsmouth ( a crowd who deserve a whole article in themselves, more on that in future blog posts). I miss them and since moving to Harrogate I meditate every Saturday and some Wednesdays with Dechen buddhism on Granville Road near the town centre. They do Buddhist study sessions also which are interesting, but I have so far not attended these much as I have always thought I should have a good overview on Buddhism before tackling particular issues like they do.
For this reason I read Buddhism Plain and Simple over the weekend. Its quite short at 160 pages and tries to get to the point, or essence, of what Buddhism is all about. In summary the author tells us its generally about awareness and to be awakened (Buddha means the enlightened one btw). We must centre on the world of now rather than be carried of by distractions (my interpretation anyway). In this respect it covered how Buddhism came to be. The buddha-dharma (teaching and advice) is grounded in the four Noble Truths
1. Human life is characterised by dissatisfaction (duhkha).
2. This dissatisfaction originates within us.
3. We can realise the origin of this dissatisfaction and so put an end to it.
4. There is a means to get to this point, nirvana.
In short we have to be able to see the world for what it really is and is not.
It then devotes a chapter to each of the four truths.
The duhkha is not exactly suffering as most will interpret it, but can viewed as dissatisfaction.This duhkha can be broken down into pain and change, which are explained quite well and come back to several times in the book.
The origination of duhkha within us is then summarised in the parts of sensual desire ,survival instinct and non-existence (release from annoyances of the world). Among the arguments made Hagen points out that there is duhkha through choice and more with more choice. I found that rang a bell. We are obsessed with options (the saying ‘paralysis through analysis’ comes to mind). Some may think that the quest for enlightenment may carry some moral imperative, but that is not the point or aim, as rules in themselves will lead to contradictions.
The third truth says that any duhkha which arises can also subside. The origins of duhkha (as discussed before) are them referred back to in this context, and how we have to live with them. This deals with right view and I found this part of the book more difficult to grasp. I definitely miss something about being awake.
The fourth truth is then broken up in the the eight fold path, namely right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.
The second part of the book then tells us how to go about doing these right things and explains each point in depth with good examples. This provides good indicators how how to see and behave. Morality has its own chapter, which I find quite interesting as it does not adhere to any real rules such as Christianity does, but tells us to be as aware as possible to make the best decision for each individual situation that arises. Kant, with his Moral Imperative, duty bound ethics would be appalled at the apparent leeway we are given, but I absolutely agree with the approach. As Hagen points out, there will always be exceptions to the rule (if we have them) and this creates confusion and contradictions.
The Practice chapter then re-iterates the importance of living in the now and using mindfulness and meditation to do this. The two types of knowledge : beliefs and opinions and the true knowing.
The third part of the book discusses soul (atman) and tells us it neither exists or does not exist. It then goes into issues of the the self which I found reminiscent of the philosophical issue of personal identity over time. I agreed with the authors views on the word “I” and the definite perspective here, also with the individual as ‘stream’. One can only try to be awake in the moment, as a buddha is. He then finishes by saying that we cannot objectify anything in any real sense.
The cycle of dependent arising is summarised in the appendix then with a table of how each influences the other.
All in all I found the book quite easy to read, but I cannot say all of it seemed natural. Otherwise I would be a buddha.