Humans of Brighton – Benji the Thinker

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I’m Benji,

How would you describe yourself? Attractive, tall, dark, handsome haha, I’m joking. I’m a student, just a regular student studying in my third year at Sussex.

What are you studying? English and Philosophy.

Who’s your favourite writer and philosopher? I don’t have a favourite philosopher because I pretty much hate philosophy. And writer? Err, I don’t know, I like poetry – Sylvia Plath and darker stuff, more moody and interesting things.

I’ve read quite a lot of her, what work do you like from Plath? I like her novel – The Bell Jar, that’s good.

If you’re not into philosophy, why are you studying it? No, I mean I’m into thinking about stuff. I like thinking, I like thinking in different ways about certain things, but it’s just the study of it that can be really restricting.

Does it take the joy out of it? Yeah, exactly. Then you kind of realise that you should be able to think that you can go and say whatever you like in philosophy, but actually, only certain views are really appreciated – it just depends on the tutor you have.

That must be quite frustrating. Yeah, definitely, I’ve found that I’ll write essays that I know that are going to be marked up because I’ve just written what the tutor thinks. Do you know what I mean? Whereas philosophy shouldn’t really be about that, it should be about what I think, but it’s really not.

I heard that Zizek guy says about forty percent of what philosophers write now has to be incomprehensible in order to be published as something profound. Yeah, and obviously it’s got to relate to the canon, and has to have been accepted as a view, and all that bullshit. I mean, I guess I personally want to go in and be like ‘I think this,’ but I guess they can’t mark that can they.

So you’re up against the conventions of philosophy? I feel like everything kind of goes back to Plato, Descartes and Wittgenstein, and I feel like I’ll get marked down if I talk about contemporary philosophers – they do encourage that, but you always need to relate it back, so it’s that kind of thing that I don’t see the point of sometimes.

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What’s your favourite place around Brighton? My first thought was the beach but then everyone would say that, so now I’m not sureI said The Level, but I hate that answer – can I scratch that? Because it’s full of drug dealers and needles.

Maybe Kemp Town, maybe – it’s a lot bigger than you think and it has a lot of culture. I’m going to go with Kemp Town, I think that’s a better answer, haha.

And how long have you been living in Brighton? Coming up to three years, about two-and-a-half years.

What attracted you to  Brighton? Well, I’m from London, so I would always come down during the summer to enjoy the beach and stuff like that, so you see it as a kind of holiday place, and it’s really free and liberal, and everyone can do what they like. It’s a cool place.

So what’s really unique about Brighton to you? People think a lot more about stuff here, definitely. The pace is a little slower, definitely – I can take the time to actually consider everyone’s point of view which can be annoying sometimes because it goes so slowly when you want things to get done.

But at the same time, especially when it comes to studying, it’s nice to be where people actually aren’t… Like a lot of university campuses elsewhere are very conformist to one kind of identity, so I feel like people are free to a certain extent to do what they like more in Brighton. That’s the way I like it. It’s accepting.

Interview by Marc Kis

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