I was born in 1945 and educated by the Jesuits at Belvedere College in Dublin.
I studied mathematics and theoretical physics at University College, Dublin and, in 1969, graduated with an honours BSc. I continued my studies in mathematics in Trinity College Dublin under the supervision of Professor Trevor West, and in 1972 was awarded an MSc for a thesis entitled 'A Local Type Convexity for Metric Spaces'.
In 1972 I began my studies in law at University College, Dublin and at the King's Inns; I was awarded a BCL in 1975 and called to the bar in 1976 and practiced for a short while before returning to teaching primarily for economic reasons as I had then a young family.
Many years later (in 1996) I began my formal studies in philosophy (which had been a life long interest) in University College, Cork under the supervision of Professor Dolores Dooley and was awarded an MPhil with a first class honours for a thesis entitled 'An alternative conceptual structure for the resolution of 'end-of-life' problems involving PVS patients' (PDF 3.3MB) .
This thesis was concerned with the ethical problems that arise in relation to the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment from vegetative state patients. The term 'quality of life' is common in both legal and ethical discussions concerning such problems and the analysis undertaken in the thesis, in discussing so-called quality of life judgements, distinguished between what I called, 'incremental quality of life judgements' and 'absolute quality of life judgements'. This distinction was of considerable benefit in disentangling the deeply contentious ethical issues that often arise in relation to treatment withdrawal; an essay entitled 'A proposed distinction relating to the medical use of the term 'quality of life'' (PDF 188KB) discusses this distinction.
Having completed my MPhil, I believed that the conceptual framework that I had developed might also be of use in discussing the ethical problems that arise in relation to coercive psychiatric treatment. By coincidence I encountered an edited collection of the writings of Maurice O'Connor Drury – a psychiatrist and pupil of Wittgenstein – which had been published under the editorship of Professor John Hayes of MIC, University of Limerick.
In 2004 I began my research under the supervision of Professor Hayes and subsequently Dr. Niall Keane. I was awarded a PhD in 2012, the external examiner was Professor Joris Vandenberghe, professor of psychiatry at the University of Louvain. The PhD dissertation was entitled 'A philosophical investigation into coercive psychiatric practices'; it is in two volumes (Volume 1 (PDF 3.2MB), Volume 2 (PDF 1.1MB)). An .mp3 recording of the presentation which I gave at the start of my viva voce examination can be found here (MP3 16.2MB) [c. 16 mins.]; and details of the references used in the presentation can be found here (PDF 47KB).
Of this dissertation, Professor Thomas Szasz has commented: "An impressive piece of work ... It is clearly the product of much serious work. Congratulations and best wishes." [personal communication]
In 2013 I submitted a post doctoral research proposal to the University of Göttingen on the topic 'Religious Toleration in the Modern World: Theory and Practice'. My proposal was:
- To examine the criteria used to define anti-Semitism in so far as they relate to criticisms of Israel.
- To examine asymmetries in the criteria used in defining anti-Semitism and Islamophobia with a view to achieving a measure of concordance between them.
- As a tentative first step in conducting such an examination, the possible relationship between anti-Semitism and negative perceptions of Israel [a democratic Jewish state] might be compared and contrasted to that between Islamophobia and negative perceptions of Pakistan [a democratic Muslim state].
- In furtherance of this examination the question might be posed as to what type of criticisms of Pakistan might - from that very fact alone - be regarded as being Islamophobic.
The full text of the proposal [3,000 words] is available here (PDF 72kB).
Postscript May 2013: The proposal was unsuccessful and it is unlikely that I will pursue this area of research; to others who are working in this area, please feel free to use the proposal if it is of interest.
Over the years I have been involved in teaching both law and mathematics at various third level colleges and – what had once been simply hobbies – woodturning, sculpture and log house (and other) building became close to full time occupations. Hopefully I may soon find time to put photos of some of these projects – and of my travels in countries as diverse as China, India, Pakistan, Tibet, Ethiopia, Kenya, Syria, Iran and Turkey- on the web.
I may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org