I’m a PhD student in mental capacity law at the University of Manchester. I was a nurse before that.

The title of the blog is a comment by Aristotle. Human life is complicated, so he says that in moral and political matters we must be content with saying what is true only ‘roughly and in outline’. He’s probably right, at least roughly and in outline. The phrase is a handy reminder to keep legal, social, and ethical theories in their place.

Theories oversimplify what is going on, but we all tend to treat these oversimple theories as though they were precise and revealing. This is as true of the common-sense theories of practising lawyers and nurses as it is of the abstract rubbish that people like me come up with. The oversimple and pretending-to-be-precise theories of lawyers, healthcare professionals, and scholars quietly affect the lives of millions of peoples: not always badly, but not always well.

When, inevitably, the overconfident use of an oversimple theory causes a mess so big that people question it, then there is always someone new standing by with a theory that explains what went wrong. Some people call this ‘progress’. I am not so optimistic.

Of course, this story about theories is only true roughly and in outline.

This blog will be especially rough and in outline. It’s a place for me to point out interesting things and kick around ideas. I like classical Chinese philosophy, so there’s quite a lot of that.