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Philosophy

Vasco Castela

Back at Manchester

When I applied to study at Manchester, I had wasted two years of my four-year scholarship from Portugal working on a PhD programme in the Media Studies department at Goldsmiths College. My research was going nowhere, as my interests were moving from media to philosophy, and that was something that Goldsmiths could not possibly accommodate. I contacted Peter Goldie, who was at King's College at the time, and asked him whether I could work under his supervision, and try to get a PhD in two years. Instead of laughing, he said he was on his way to Manchester, where he had just got a position as a full professor, and asked me whether I wanted to go for an interview there.

I absolutely loved working with Peter. I can sincerely say he was the best supervisor I could have hoped for. I didn’t know much about ethics when I arrived in Manchester, and he brought me up to scratch in no time. His feedback was always spot on, and he found a way to always point me towards readings that matched my goals, rather than just his. This allowed me to start writing my thesis after just a few weeks, and never feeling like I was on the wrong track. He got me started on Robert H. Frank, an economist whose research connects game theory and ethics, and after that I just had to read Hume and Aristotle. My thesis was on moral education.

My experience in Manchester was greatly enriched by the contact I had with other postgraduate students. Paula Satne and I created a journal, Praxis, and edited the first issue while finishing our theses, somehow without going insane. We also had great discussions about virtue ethics and Kant that were tremendously useful. I worked exclusively with Graham Stevens towards the end of my PhD, and couldn’t have done it without his support and optimism. I managed to finish my PhD in just under three years.

Today

I live a few metres from the beach in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, and teach a range of courses at the BC Institute of Technology. I have developed courses in philosophy of Artificial Intelligence and bioethics, and a highly interdisciplinary course that uses many ideas from my PhD thesis: "Evolution, Emotions and Ethics". My research interests continue to focus on moral education. I sometimes write for newspapers, go windsurfing when there’s 15 knots or more, and often miss the great time I had in Manchester.