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Posted 11 Oct 2012

A Day In The Life: John Turner

Courvoisier UK asked CVTF500 member, and host of June’s The Future Series networking session, John Turner, to share a typical day in his life.

Typically my day begins with the shock realisation that consciousness has returned once again from where ever it goes at night, followed by the dull aching awareness of the material shackles we wear during normal waking life. Then I have some tea and mellow out a bit. I like to start the day with an hour of yoga and three mile run – that’s what I like to do, but usually I fall out of bed, make my kids some breakfast and gaze blinking into the morning for a while.

As a freelance philosopher my working port-folio is quite broad and my days can appear to be bit unsystematic  -  but I stand by the assertion that there is a greater plan.

Today for example I am writing a ‘day in the life’ profile for online publication. This is a new experience for me and as such I like to analyse the experience for coherence with existing cognitive models, and for potential practical differences it might make to experiences in the future. After years of practice my brain is wired-up to automatically question stuff that’s going on – actually it’s quite hard to stop.

My philosophical life divides roughly into three parts -  there are days devoted to research and teaching , there are days of corporate consultancy and training, and then there’s time spent  in the pursuit of the public understanding of philosophy. But all of these projects are based on the same underlying principles and methods. My brand of experimental philosophy is largely about goading people into talking to each other about stuff that matters to them, and I spend quite a lot of time engineering environments where this kind of thing can happen. Sometimes that’s in a seminar room in a university, sometimes it’s in a hotel conference suite or a company’s meeting room, and  sometimes it’s in the street.

Right now my research work is around experiential learning and teaching methods, particularly in entrepreneurship and enterprise, and specifically around the question –  how do people develop enterprising traits? Elements of this research are integrated into MBA modules I deliver and my commercial training programmes.

In corporate life I am currently working with a strategic partner, DVL Smith, delivering training to organisations in how to use story-frameworks to communicate important stuff. Stories are the primary mechanism for transmitting organisational and cultural values. As a technology it’s had thousands of years of user-testing, its hard-wired into everybody, and its powered by words. Handy.

In public engagement my mission is to get the public agenda back on the public agenda. To normalise the idea that coming together for the express purpose of thinking and talking about stuff that matters is not only important for the sake of cultural cohesion, shared understanding and world peace, it’s also fun. Sometimes it’s even better that TV.

Currently I’m working on ‘popular metaphysics’, which takes the form of stopping people in the street, asking them what they think the nature of reality is, and then filming their reaction. From the raw footage of this experiment I’m constructing a narrative about how reality is perceived in popular culture – and how people react to being confronted with it –  (it turns out most people have an answer, but they have never been asked).  This is way beyond Big Society  -  this is Big Reality.

My day is pretty much filled with this kind of dynamic tension between abstract conceptual musing and the practical mechanics of delivering functional enlightening experiences.  There’s also quite a lot of admin.

Typically my day ends in the small hours of the morning when the esoteric mechanics of consciousness can no longer maintain a grip on the physical husk, and however much I try to cling on to the last slippery fronds of awareness they still slink away into what is probably only a temporary oblivion, but oblivion none-the-less.  And deep down in my secret heart of hearts I still suspect that all of this analysis, all of these differentiations of stuffs into categories and compartments and concepts are really just arbitrary distinctions and convenient fictions made by a seemingly coherent mind trying to keep it together in a world that doesn’t really make classical sense.

One key function of philosophy is to help us to be ok with that.


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