Portrait of Jim Baxter

Jim Baxter

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I work at the University as a Professional Ethics Consultancy Manager.  It’s an unusual role – I do a small amount of teaching but the vast majority of my role is providing consultancy services to business, professional bodies and public bodies.  This is typically either commissioned research pieces or CPD training for professionals. I did my first degree in Philosophy at Sheffield, graduating in 1999.  I did an MA part-time at Leeds after being employed here, and then went straight on to do a PhD, also part-time.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

It made sense to study here given that I work here too, but I am aware that the Philosophy department here is a strong one. I am very happy to have studied here.  I had a good relationship with my dissertation supervisor during my MA and was very happy that she was able to supervise my PhD too.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Philosophers like to grapple with difficult questions, and the question of whether psychopaths are morally responsible for their actions is certainly a difficult one. But it’s also one with important real-world implications, for the legal and medical establishments, but also for our everyday interactions. Most of us will come into contact with a psychopath at some point (they make up something like 1% of the overall population) and they are influential in society in various ways – generally not very positive ways. So questions about of how we should think about the actions of psychopaths, and how we should treat them, are important to everyone, both as citizens and as human beings. I believe that philosophy can, and should, cast light on questions like these.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

I enjoyed being able to dedicate such a large amount of time to thinking deeply about a single question. Doing a PhD is pretty much the only way you can do that and it’s a real privilege. I also think there’s a lot to be said for doing a PhD part-time. It takes a long time, but it’s great to have something separate from work that you can dedicate time and attention to like that. 

What do you plan to do when you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

I’m going to carry on working here as a consultant. I am definitely a better philosopher than I was at the beginning of my PhD, and the skills and understanding I’ve developed will help with all aspects of my job. I am also currently revising my thesis with a view to publishing it as a book.