Chris Young grew up on the mean streets of an Ottawa suburb, where he learned the hard way that just because the teacher likes you, doesn't mean the rest of the class will. He is now a graduate student emeritus in philosophy at an undisclosed upstate New York university, struggling to finish a dissertation on Aristotelian ethics. He spends all the time he can in New York City with his wife and his beagle. Chris used to blog at See Why?. He is now the Scallywag-in-Chief at his group blog Explananda.
Why do you blog? > To remedy nagging esprit d'escalier; to procrastinate, persuade and amuse; because I can't afford a therapist.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Anonymity and/or civility (preferably 'and'; but 'or' if you absolutely must).
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Aristotle is at the top of the list, in spite of some extremely stupid views (on women and slaves, for a start), not all of which are excusable by pointing to the period in which he lived.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Very hard to say. Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is certainly one of my favourites.
What is your favourite poem? > Anything by Robert Browning will do.
What is your favourite song? > At this very moment? 'Life in a Glass House', by Radiohead.
Who is your favourite composer? > Shostakovich (on the strength of the Preludes and Fugues. Other than that I'm a bit lost with classical music, which I assume is what you're after).
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I think I actually have deeply conservative instincts. But over the last decade I've been forced ever leftward by the relentless pressure that brute facts have when combined with questions like 'how would you like it if...?' So I've moved (and am still moving) on most issues: capital punishment, taxation, trade, foreign policy.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > It's not a philosophical thesis, but I really wish people were clearer about the doctrine of double effect. No one has to settle anything here. We all just have to pick one position and stick with it long enough to finish whatever argument we're having.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > It's more often an assumption than a thesis, though it is that occasionally too: the assumption that there's a single, unproblematic notion of self-interest (or national interest) to which we can appeal when trying to figure out what to do. In fact, there are lots of different notions, and slip-sliding unawares between them causes a lot of mischief in everything from books on philosophy or evolutionary psychology to the way people think about the foreign policy of their country.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > The default setting on every government computer is to archive each and every document to the internet, where it is freely accessible. Exceptions have to be justified to an independent commission, and only on the basis of privacy concerns or national security, both very strictly construed. Don't tell me it would be too expensive or impractical! The benefits would far outweigh the costs.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > Brad DeLong, since I am disqualified. I would take the position of Prime Minister of Canada for myself - not sure how well I'd do, but there's nothing like trying, is there?
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The Republican party, as currently constituted. Not because it has the worst intentions - not by a long shot. But because when it follows its instincts it often does things which tend to thwart the best chances humanity has of making its escape from the prison of history.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I struggle with my inner Whig over this all the time. I'm hopeful - less so lately, but still hopeful.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > The apparent conflict between self-interest (understood most plausibly) and morality is either mostly illusory, or completely illusory, depending on the circumstances. See above.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > In a very weak sense I am now, since my wife is fairly apolitical. She seems broadly sympathetic to the left, I guess - unless she's just humouring me. I suppose I might have loved a libertarian. Not a cultural conservative, though.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Honesty.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Dishonesty.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching sports (sorry Norm); games of any sort. By the way, I recognize that this makes me defective as a human being. Luckily, it's the sort of defect that doubles as a prophylactic against regret, since it ensures that I haven't the faintest idea what I'm missing.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > A nuclear war on the subcontinent; having to leave the US.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Oh yes, absolutely. [Stage directions: He falls silent and looks around awkwardly.]
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > New York really is the centre of the universe. But if I were exiled back to my native country, Toronto.
What would your ideal holiday be? > I wouldn't mind loafing around on some Greek island.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Anyone who observes how much I blog will know the answer to that.
What is your most treasured possession? > My laptop.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Journalist.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of previous profiles, and the links to them, can be found here.]