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John Brandon

Pathways Mentors: John Brandon

I came to philosophy by way of 'the Heavens'. In hindsight I owe a great deal to my mother's deeply religious persuasions; she insisted that, along with my two brothers and sister, I attended two and sometimes three services each Sunday at the local Methodist Chapel. However, it was in the Sunday school where my eyes were opened. As well as being a learned Bible scholar, the superintendent was a very well read amateur astronomer, and his pupils quickly learned the skill of diverting his Bible lectures into discussions on astronomy. Very soon, and at the instigation of his pupils, a small group of budding astronomers could be seen wandering about the village on dark clear nights along with their mentor, staring up into the heavens, pointing out the constellations and planets.

What has this to do with philosophy? Well, would it not prompt the question: Where did it all come from? This is where my mentor and I went our separate ways, his religious persuasions tied him to a creationist point of view. Influenced by my mother and my mentor I was initially guided into the same path, until one day someone bluntly told me that my views were too restricted, and he loaned me his copy of Plato's Republic. That was the end of my creationist phase , and the beginning of my mystic and metaphysical interests. Of the British empiricists Berkeley became my choice, and my more learned friends began to call me an Idealist.

However, all this was on the periphery of my academic pursuits. I was involved in studying geology and mineralogy. Before becoming involved with a study of the cosmos I thought that I should have a greater knowledge of the planet on which I lived. My studies were interrupted by the war. Education became a secondary consideration as we fully expected a Nazi invasion at any time. I was eventual dragged off into the army of occupation in Germany, where reading science and philosophy was out of the question; though being head of a statistics branch provided useful exercise for the mind, eventually standing me in good stead in my future studies in logic.

On completion of my military duties I resumed my studies in geology and mineralogy eventually, though belatedly being awarded a Diploma in both subjects. I successfully completed a course in logic through the Trade Unions and was offered a place at Ruskin College, Oxford, but by then we had a young family and I had to turn down the offer. I taught evening classes for the L E A in geology, ecology and logic, gaining a wide experience in education. Eventually the Open University offered me a way through. After gaining BA Hons. I obtained a Post Grad Cert Ed (Collegiate) Commended from Leeds University. My qualifications were accepted by the Institute of Biology, I was awarded Membership and certified as a Chartered Biologist.

I was eventually appointed as a lecturer in physiology at South Manchester College. By then I had become involved with working to stimulate interest in promoting A-level philosophy and logic in schools, working for some time with the authors of the logic course at Cardiff University. I was given time to study for and gain a BA Hons. in philosophy at London University and allowed to attend seminars at Cambridge. My college invited me to organise some courses in philosophy and logic, and the local L E A invited me to organise evening classes in philosophy, including A-level courses for those interested in pursuing their studies to a higher level. I eventually retired and promptly ran headlong into Geoffrey Klempner who proceeded to convince me that retirement was out of the question and I still had something to offer.

My main interests in philosophy are epistemology, metaphysics and philosophy of mind. My scientific background gives me some interest in the philosophy of science. I have written essays on the philosophy of evolution. I have also produced introductory material for courses in logic. I do have an ambition to complete a doctoral thesis on epistemology. I failed to grasp opportunities when they were there and have since paid the penalty. My essay on the philosophy of evolution was accepted by Leeds but as it meant giving up my job at South Manchester as external degrees were not available, this was a risk I could not take. I shall continue to read and write and hope for the best, in fact I am considering using the theory of evolution as a central theme to a thesis in knowledge and belief.