I am a 61-year-old marine engineer. My first career was in commercial diving (mixed gas, saturation). Starting in the North Sea, out of Aberdeen in 1972; and then all over the world during the next two decades. In ’91 I decided it was time to get out of the water, or at least have some other options, so I went back to school for a degree in Ocean Engineering. I’ve been working ever since for the same old and well-established marine engineering company; in many capacities, but mainly as their field installation and service engineer.
A strange background, you may think, from which to have written a philosophy book. But then, what really is philosophy’s most important prerequisite? The obvious answer, “Academic philosophical training”, seems to fit poorly with philosophy’s history. It is certainly debatable, and perhaps inflammatory, but I would argue that the majority of our most influential philosophers have come to the forum by other paths; most notably Law, Mathematics, Economics, Science and Engineering.
I would nominate the most important prerequisite for philosophy as merely time. Long and frequent periods of secure and stress free time for reading, and then reflection. Time to follow the most interesting leads; to look up the word definitions and mine the bibliographies. Time to cross reference, return to one’s margin notes, and slowly begin to piece together some kind of coherence from one’s own life experience and the vast smorgasbord of writings accreted over our past 3000 years. Fate grants this kind of time to very few, and to even fewer in fair reward for their own efforts or planning. In my case, certainly, I just fell into it. From a childhood of seemingly endless summers at my family’s beach cottage in North Carolina, and weeks essentially abandoned in my grandfather’s excellent library in upstate New York, through the two decades of off-shift and weather downtime in saturation decompression chambers (with all of life’s standard frustrations and distractions lifted from me). And then through the past 19 years of long flights and even longer boat rides, continued weather downtime and waiting on parts to arrive, or for clients to complete their tasks before mine could start. The bottom line has been over 50 years of undeserved wealth in the precious commodity of contemplative time. I hope that I’ve used this gift well, but will have to leave that judgment to the reader. For more specifics – on what fresh insights I believe myself to have discovered, and so their potential interest to readers – I would ask you to click on ‘Keith’s Introduction’; my main intro to the Leaving Truth essay collection.