Kris-Stella Trump was born in Estonia where she witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union as a pre-schooler. Her family then moved to Sweden where she grew up eating meatballs at Ikea restaurants (really). On turning 18, she escaped to England where she attended Cambridge and Oxford universities, fell seriously in love with London, and even more so with political science. As of this autumn Kris-Stella lives in America, studying for a PhD in political science at Harvard University. She blogs at Coffee Shop Philosophy.
Why do you blog? > I started so that I could (one day) look back on how my ideas have developed. Now I also do it because it forces me to articulate my thoughts. And because it's fun.
What has been your best blogging experience? > About one month into blogging, I got linked to by Ben Goldacre. It was a huge compliment and left me over-excited (and compulsively checking pageload statistics) for at least a week.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Coming to terms with the fact that I am a blogger who doesn't reply to all comments (few as they are).
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Having a regular (in my case, weekly) feature is a great way to get regularity into your other posting habits too.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > A lot of what I believe falls into this category. A prominent one is patriotism/nationalism: I used to believe in it fervently, now I think of it as a curiosity of modern life.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That a scientific approach to the world is not mutually incompatible with amazement, awe and appreciation of life. (Is this a philosophical thesis? I will put it down anyway.)
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That there are people who are fundamentally different from you.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > This is not a book, but I haven't been the same since reading my way through every entry in the perception and logic section of The Skeptic's Dictionary in one day. It made me question a lot of things that had seemed obvious until then.
Who are your political heroes? > Former Eastern European dissidents. People who hide others in times of genocide. Female school teachers in Afghanistan. Etc.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Neighbourhood joins some, and religion others. But there is only one thing which gathers people into seditious commotions, and that is oppression.' (John Locke, A Letter on Toleration)
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > A good friend of mine, Jonathan Chapman. He'd be very reluctant to accept, which makes him an even better pick.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The point at which the world (at long last) realizes how massively unfair the current global distribution of wealth is – and starts doing something about it – has the potential to be very destabilizing.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I think we (the human race) are capable of eradicating starvation and extreme poverty. Being an optimist, I also believe we will eventually do it. Ergo, the best is yet to come.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > I feel too young and too lucky to say this, but I believe that what makes you happy is the frequent appreciation of little things.
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? > No. Some disagreement makes for great discussions, but for that to happen we need to agree on some baseline concepts first.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Possessing the level of self-confidence required to be genuine in interactions with others.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Certainty regarding one's own point of view, combined with the tendency to dismiss and ridicule those one cannot relate to.
What is your favourite proverb? > An allegedly Swedish proverb I never heard while living in Sweden: 'Fear less, hope more. Whine less, breathe more. Hate less, love more. Talk less, say more. And all good things will be yours.'
What, if anything, do you worry about? > How my little sister is doing – we live too many time zones apart by any reasonable standard.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd follow more impulses to help a stranger on the street – with carrying heavy bags, giving them directions, or just a nod and a smile to someone grumpy.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Ooh, the chance for a vanity trip... Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > London, with New York a strong runner-up.
What would your ideal holiday be? > One month, one big city in a warm country, one local friend to show me all the places a tourist can't find on their own, one dictionary for the local language and more than one novel.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Reading, preferably in cosy cafés.
What talent would you most like to have? > Lately, I've been wishing I could understand economics. But in spite of trying I never have and I doubt I ever will.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > In another life, I would love to be a dancer.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would pay off my student loan, buy a home, visit my friends more often and donate to worthwhile causes. Oh, and I would get a dog.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > People whose intelligence has made my jaw drop: Michelle Obama, Christopher Achen, Gareth Stedman Jones.
What animal would you most like to be? > A black cat.
[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.]