Today the normblog profile series begins its fourth year. To mark the occasion I've invited Eve Garrard, well known to readers of this blog, to be the subject of the profile.
Eve Garrard is a moral philosopher who currently teaches in the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele University. She was born and grew up in Glasgow. She came south to England to go to university, and has remained here ever since. Her research interests are in moral theory, bioethics, and issues arising out of the Holocaust, in particular issues to do with evil. She is married to the historian John Garrard, and has a grown-up son who is an architectural conservationist. Eve guestblogs (mainly) here at normblog, and occasionally also at Blacktriangle.
Why do you blog? > To try to make a difference, however small.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Socrates; Kant; John Stuart Mill.
What are you reading at the moment? > I usually have several books on the go at once: right now it's Amartya Sen's Identity and Violence, Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home and John Armstrong's The Intimate Philosophy of Art.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Shelley; George Eliot; C.S. Lewis.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I don't read many novels, and the ones I do read are usually genre novels - The Lord of the Rings is one I re-read regularly.
What is your favourite poem? > There can't be just one, and they change frequently anyway. Tennyson's 'In Memoriam', Wallace Stevens' 'Sea Surface Full of Clouds' and Derek Walcott's 'Ruins of a Great House' are currently tops.
What is your favourite song? > 'Hearts and Bones' by Paul Simon.
Who is your favourite composer? > Benjamin Britten.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > There are loads of them. I used to think that the United Nations was a serious source of moral legitimacy in the political domain. I don't now think that, although I hope that some day it, or some better successor of it, may become so.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That we can't do without notions of truth and objectivity in human thought.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The view that moral relativism is the only way to take account of the importance of context in morality, or the only way to justify tolerance of moral differences. This view has been zapped several times by various philosophers, but it continues to be very widely held.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Karl Popper's Conjectures and Refutations was the first serious piece of analytic philosophy I read. The revelation it provided about the possibility of thinking systematically on intellectual issues was far more important than any of his specific conclusions.
Who are your political heroes? > Nadezhda Mandelstam; Vaclav Havel; Primo Levi.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'The best is the enemy of the good.'
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The assault on Enlightenment values, both in the East and in the West.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > A readiness to think that you might be mistaken.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Cold-heartedness.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I loathe spiders. I'm not too keen on any other insects, either.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > If anything? Don't be ridiculous, I worry about everything. One, but only one, thing is the resurgence of anti-Semitism.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd be a lot tidier, right from the start.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > On the coast in the far north of Scotland.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Several months spent on the coast in the far north of Scotland.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Arguing about literature and politics, preferably while gazing at the sea and the mountains.
What talent would you most like to have? > A really good singing voice.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I'd love to be a perfumer, developing new and beautiful scents. Alternatively if I had the ability (which I don't) it would be terrific fun to be a pure mathematician.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > When Bernard Levin was at the height of his powers, he made me laugh more than anyone else I've ever read.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > Peace in the Middle East. More realistically, I wish I could find the perfect rose-pink lipstick.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Conor Cruise O'Brien, Stephen Jay Gould and Clive James.
What animal would you most like to be? > An otter.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]