How it all began for me.
I unknowingly started doing some rudimentary version of philosophy at junior school, thanks to Mr Needs, our music teacher, who used to delight in telling us things that we were far too young possibly to understand. He told us one day when I was 7 or 8 or 9 about someone who had attempted to produce a mathematical proof of the existence of God. (I still don’t know whom he meant.) Enthralled, I decided to give it a go myself. We had a fabulous attic, full of old radio sets from the Second World War, a darkroom, bits of half built loudspeakers, and other such paraphernalia, and I sat up there, hour after hour, trying to get absolute proof of the existence of the Almighty. We had just been doing arithmetical series in maths, and the obvious thought struck me, that if I could find the correct mathematical series, as it progressed nearer and nearer to infinity, and as God himself was infinite, then I might reach the stage where the next number in the series was in fact ….. God! I tried over and over, starting with the most simple … 2, 4, 6, 8 … and on and on. I can recall to this day the childish feeling that what came out of the end of my pencil was set, not by the movements of my hand and my own free will, but the inexorability of the mathematical series itself. In my mind’s eye, I can still see myself staring in expectation at the end of the pencil to discover what the answer would be. Excited readers will too be wondering if I succeeded. Let us just say that I have not managed this yet. I did however gravitate to trying out all sorts of different tricks with numbers while I was up there alone in the attic, working out a lot of quick ways of adding and subtracting. As a result of this, I became extremely good at mental arithmetic and was even awarded a special prize. Perhaps we can put this beneficence down to the workings of an infinitely mysterious creator.
I also had an early interest in metaphysics, producing at age 5 an argument for the non-existence of Father Christmas with eerie parallels to certain arguments in the philosophy of religion. Father Christmas knows where every child in the world lives, and knows what every child in the world wants for Christmas. He has the power to provide children with these presents (unlike mere parents, who may not be able to afford them). He is meant to be a Good Bloke – he is always jolly and laughing. He is meant to distribute presents according to whether or not you’ve been good.
It is palably obvious that Father Christmas gives more presents to the rich kids than he does to the poor kids. I noticed this first thing back in infant school after the Christmas holidays that first chilly, brutal January.
If Father Christmas DOES exist, he must be a right old miseryguts. Any true Father Christmas would be good, however. Father Christmas Does Not Exist. Q.E.D.
My pursuit of goodness, truth and fairness continues apace in my exploration of philosophy.
I am currently towards the end of a book in which I explore happiness through the works and the lives of John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham.