Jonathan Derbyshire was born in Stockport but was brought up in the south east of England. He was educated at the Universities of Sussex and Warwick and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He works as a freelance literary journalist and part-time lecturer in philosophy. Jonathan blogs at Jonathan Derbyshire.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Getting on the wrong side of a well-known group blog after I'd only been blogging for a couple of weeks.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Post more than I do.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Kant and Wittgenstein.
What are you reading at the moment? > Absent Minds by Stefan Collini, Inside by Kenneth J. Harvey, Everyman by Philip Roth, Words and Things by Ernest Gellner.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Coleridge, Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Penelope Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Robbie Robertson, Tom Verlaine.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Today, it's Nabokov's Pale Fire.
What is your favourite movie? > Pierrot le fou (Godard) or Mean Streets (Scorsese).
What is your favourite song? > Today, it's 'The Weight' by The Band (the version on The Last Waltz, with the Staples Singers).
Who is your favourite composer? > Brahms (or, in some moods, the Beethoven of the late quartets).
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I was against the first Gulf War, for reasons I'm now unable to reconstruct. (I'm now convinced there could have been no principled opposition to it.)
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That morality is rooted in human nature.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > A quasi-philosophical thesis – 'If God is dead, then everything is permitted.'
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars has transformed the way I think about the rights of states and our obligations to people in 'faraway countr[ies]... of whom we know nothing'.
Who are your political heroes? > Gramsci, Camus, Martin Luther King.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.'
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > Before he died, it would have been Bernard Williams.
What would you do with the UN? > Ensure that the new UN Human Rights Council doesn't abuse and degrade the very idea of human rights in the way its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, did – and that means not letting serial rights-abusers on to it.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Failed states, nuclear proliferation and a corrupt UN that systematically travesties the ideal of international law.
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? > I'm married to someone who votes Liberal Democrat, so I suppose the answer's yes.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To save the lives of my children.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Where the next commission is coming from.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Yes, finish a PhD.
What would you call your autobiography? > Ideally Bald (it's a phrase from Nabokov's Pnin).
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > New York City.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to meet deadlines serenely rather than frantically.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Woody Allen.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Colin Bell.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Manchester City.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Dr Johnson, Christopher Hitchens, Isaiah Berlin.
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