Russell Blackford was born in Sydney, Australia, and grew up near Newcastle, 100 miles north. He will be returning to Newcastle at the end of 2009, after 30 years in Melbourne. He is a philosopher, literary critic, and (sometimes) creative writer. His books include Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction (1999, co-written with Van Ikin and Sean McMullen); 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists (2009, co-edited with Udo Schuklenk), and several novels. Russell is editor-in-chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology. He blogs at Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
Why do you blog? > A mixture of keeping in touch with friends and loved ones, trying out ideas (my blog is my sandpit) and, of course, shameless self-promotion.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Epicurus, Galileo Galilei, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell.
What are you reading at the moment? > I've just finished The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, by Richard Dawkins.
What is your favourite poem? > Almost anything by W.B. Yeats. He was a nut, but he could sure use the English language. If I must name just one, I'll go for 'A Dialogue of Self and Soul'. But it would be nice to throw in 'News for the Delphic Oracle'.
What is your favourite movie? > Blade Runner.
What is your favourite song? > Anything by Kate Bush.
Who is your favourite composer? > Bach.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I've changed my mind on many such issues. E.g., once I was a utilitarian, but I'm now a moral pluralist (of a kind). Once I was an evangelical Christian, but now I'm an atheist.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Morality exists to serve us; we don't exist to serve it.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Political power should be used to serve Providence, or History, or God's Plan.
Who are your political heroes? > Bob Hawke, Bill Clinton.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Take individual liberty seriously. Repealing prohibitions on all the well-known recreational drugs would be a good place to start.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > The best is yet to come. It's not going to be easy, but enough with all the defeatism and gloom.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Don't let your life slip away.
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.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Kindness.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Cruelty.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.'
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd do my PhD in philosophy the first time round. It's nice having two doctorates, really it is, but one would have been enough.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Jake Busey.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > The south of France.
What would your ideal holiday be? > It would involve a warm, tropical ocean, a group of much-loved friends, and (temporary) freedom from cares.
What is your most treasured possession? > My photo albums.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Julian, as in the Apostate.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Barrister. I was headed that way at one point, and I'd have made a reasonable fist of it.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > It'd be Bill Maher, except for his kooky ideas about scientific medicine.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Muhammad Ali, Allan Border, Marat Safin.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I honestly wouldn't change very much, apart from giving large amounts of the money to causes that I support. Beyond that, it would be nice getting to fly better than cattle class.
What animal would you most like to be? > Some kind of big cat. Maybe a lion or a leopard. Or maybe just a big, pampered house cat.
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