Philosophy Personal Statement

My study of Bertrand Russell's 'The problems of Philosophy' first allowed me to realise Philosophy's limitless boundaries. The charm of it is being able to immerse myself in any given topic with rigorous questioning. In a subject that questions what so many of us would easily accept, philosophy, for me, provides far more enthusiasm and intellectual freedom than any other subject.

I became interested in the issue of free will for my entry into The New College of Humanities essay competition asking 'Should someone be criminally liable for transmitting a disease?' for which I was shortlisted and highly commended. Through reviewing Douglas Grouthuis' 'The Resurgence of Existentialism', I explored Sartre's notion of radical freedom, developed in his 'Existentialism and Humanism', and noted that, when approaching the issue of responsibility, we should credit people with a thick notion of freedom akin to the Sartrean conception. It would prove unworkable for society to let those who intentionally transmit a disease forgo all responsibility. As Peter Strawson notes, in his 'Freedom and Resentment', such a society would be unliveable. However, when intent is not involved, the individual must remain accountable as the notion of intent remains opaque. Thus, from a practical perspective, it is imperative to assume free will.

Although my argument centred around the practical necessity for freedom, I constantly found myself intrigued by the arguments in favour of determinism. To this end, I read 'Free Will' by Sam Harris and Ted Honderich's paper 'The Consequences of Determinism'. As Harris accurately notes, "the moment we catch sight of the stream of causes that precedes their conscious decisions, reaching back into childhood and beyond, their culpability begins to disappear". It seems clear that circumstances outside one's control, such as family, genetics and society, determine patterns of human behaviour. Notably, the number of offenders with troubled backgrounds (41% having observed violence as children) suggests a strong link between environmental conditioning and behavioural influences. It therefore seems essential for society to regard one's upbringing when it comes to assigning praise or blame. In this sense, I appear sympathetic to the Aristotelian Virtue ethics approach which recognises a certain level of freedom to rational beings, as well as emphasising the correct social conditions for exercising one's liberty.

As an avid reader of literature and poetry, I am intrigued by the multiplicity of interpretations a literary text can have, hence, questioning the potential of language to carry objective meaning. Conversely, my study of Plato's Republic highlighted the possibility of concepts possessing clear and distinct boundaries; an idea challenged by the later Wittgenstein's concept of 'language games'. Through A.C. Grayling's lecture 'Language and Philosophy', I was led to Wittgenstein's 'Beetle in a Box' analogy, an argument in favour of private language. It appears accurate to suggest that people can still have meaningful discourse although the object inside each person's box rests unknown, as it is irrelevant to its shared public meaning; its meaning contingent on its use. Wittgenstein's assertion that introspection does not govern the meaning of our sensation vocabulary is accurate, as language is a rule-governed public behaviour that remains enmeshed with the world and our forms of life.

Following my study and wider reading, my passion for Philosophy has intensified. Philosophical enquiry remains an integral part of our lives, and immersing myself in theoretical ideas is an opportunity I am eager to embrace.

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Universities I applied to:
- UCL - Rejection
- King's College London - Offer
- Edinburgh - Offer
- Warwick - Offer
- Birmingham - Offer


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