Delft University of Technology Section: Philosophy Faculty: Technology, Policy and Management
In memoriam: Philip suddenly passed away on the 23rd of December 2013.
I first met Philip at the Philosophers’ Rally in May 2009. His incisive and enthusiastic questioning following my talk which spilled over into a vivacious discussion during the cigarette break, led to being asked to be an outside advisor on his Masters project. I found in Philip a similar sort of thinker, and someone whose passions and excitement about big issues helped fuel my own. His Masters project was quite sophisticated and was superior to some PhD theses I’ve seen. As a philosopher, Philip was bound to make a mark. Rather than tinkering around the edges, or going the mainstream, safe route in philosophy, Philip wanted to tackle big questions, and he was fully suited to do so. He wanted to pursue his PhD with me at Delft, and we tried unsuccessfully to find him funding to do so, but he was driven and would not give up, so he funded himself. His PhD work was exemplary, his first publication just appeared and he was deservedly proud of it. It was a 10,000 word piece on the group Anonymous, and it was both incisive and bold. His general project was to explore deviance on the internet in an attempt to try to describe its ethos. He worked in great fits of energy and we had frequent gab sessions about his progress, which he always felt was too slow, though I felt he was making great progress. His situation, living apart from his spouse as he did while he pursued his PhD, added stress to his life, but he absorbed and dealt with it admirably, and built a solid circle of friends at Delft. He added life and animation to our colloquia and after over beers or food. We enjoyed talking about “hacking” in the broadest sense, and he was an expert hacker of all things, delving into how things worked, tinkering with electronics, cooking, computers, and anything that could be tinkered with. This is how he dealt with ideas, too, hacking with them and revealing to the world in his few but significant writings that the artifacts and ideas are open to those who would explore them, and dare to try to alter things. He was creative in a number of fields, including music. Part of his project was to bring his thoughts about the virtues of open culture to bear on the art of remixing. Those of us who had the good fortune to know Philip to any degree outside of the University know that he had a huge and generous spirit, and was kind and helpful to all. His dear wife Vicky was clearly the love of his life, and provided him with moral and emotional support as he worked both diligently and hard, juggling a new marriage and striving for his PhD. Throughout the university, indeed, Philip was known as he was an eager participant in the new Graduate School and its programs, as well as involved in open course development. His death leaves a hole in our department and the 3TU Ethics Centre, but more importantly, in the hearts and lives of those he touched while he was here. We were fortunate to have him among us, and we will cherish his contributions, both intellectually and emotionally, to both us and the world.