Hilzoy is a professor of moral philosophy. She blogs at Obsidian Wings.
Why do you blog? > Mostly because it's fun: a lot more fun than just reading the newspaper and muttering to myself. I love the community that exists on my blogs. I also love the fact that when it seems to me that some story is not being covered enough, I can try to do something about that.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Hmm - possibly the morning when I woke up, a few days after the Terri Schiavo debate had started, and suddenly thought: wait, I can try to explain this! (I am a bioethicist. Most of philosophy is not obviously relevant to political events. It was a novel experience.)
What has been your worst blogging experience? > When my co-blogger and good friend Andy Olmsted was killed in Iraq last year, and I had to put up a post he had given me to publish in the event of his death.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Blogging, like any form of writing for an audience, comes with responsibilities. Always, always check your sources. There is too much misinformation out there without us adding to it. Also, when some story erupts, ask yourself how much you really know about what happened, and whether there might be another side to it. Never get ahead of what you know.
What are you reading at the moment? > Baboon Metaphysics, by Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Middlemarch, by George Eliot.
What is your favourite song? > Richard Thompson's 'Now Be Thankful'.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Most of them. The truth of Christianity, the compatibility of free will and determinism, the nature of moral objectivity – you name it. I was never politically conservative, though.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That it is possible to hold that moral truths are objective without making strange, spooky assumptions.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That it is not possible to hold that moral truths are objective without making strange, spooky assumptions.
Who are your political heroes? > Martin Luther King. Not just because of what he did for civil rights and for our country, but for having the imagination and the grace to see that it was possible to accomplish great things without giving up your soul; that you can fully acknowledge the importance of your goals without thinking that they justify immoral means; and that recognizing the importance of the means you choose can help, not hurt, your efforts to achieve your goals.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > I'm quite happy with Barack Obama.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I have no idea. I've always thought that trying to answer questions like this is pointless; the thing is to try to make whatever tiny part of the future we can affect as good as possible.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Basic decency and kindness.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Gambling. I have proposed to several of my friends that they simply give me money, and every so often, at random unpredictable intervals, I will give some of it back to them. They do not think this is the same. I honestly don't see why not.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Innumerable things, most of which I'd rather not discuss.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Birdwatching, playing guitar, reading.
What talent would you most like to have? > A really good singing voice.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > Almost not at all. I suppose I'd pay off my mortgage. Otherwise, I'd probably give most of it away.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Two answers: first, if I got to talk at all to any person past or present, I'd have to choose Immanuel Kant: there are a lot of things I want to ask him about. But if I got to talk to him separately and then have a dinner party, I'd ask Socrates, Montesquieu, and David Hume, who might be more fun.
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