About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Friday, January 01, 2016

So that was my 2015

The year just passed was not an easy one, partly because of ongoing family concerns (many baby boomers will immediately sympathise; so many people in my age group currently have serious worries over how their elderly parents are faring).

It also turned out to be an extraordinarily busy year in terms of the sheer number of hours I found myself putting in per day and per week.

That is partly to do with the intensity of the work needed to complete my new book from Palgrave Pivot, The Mystery of Moral Authority, and get it through the whole process of acceptance and publication. Although it's only a short monograph (about 45,000 words), and I thought I knew what I wanted to say, I found myself going increasingly deeply into the issues, researching aspects to an extent that I wouldn't have thought necessary when I started. It is much stronger for this, but the experience reaffirmed an old lesson about the way a large piece of writing, such as a book, can change once the arguments must be hashed out in actual words on the page and with full rigour. Often, new issues have to be explored to solve the intellectual and literary problems that arise.

I delivered the full manuscript in late June, it received an acceptance in September, and it then moved quickly through the publication pipeline (with all that involves!) to publication in December.

(In fact, The Mystery of Moral Authority carries a formal copyright date of 2016, which is a good thing as it keeps the book looking current. I'm not actually sure whether copies of the hardback are yet available, but people have been able to get the Kindle version for the past two or three weeks.)

Another large part of my time has been devoted to editing The Journal of Evolution and Technology. In my role as editor-in-chief, I am the main person involved from day to day, and we've found ourselves somewhat overwhelmed in the past 12 months. There have been many submissions, and many of those have been lengthy, complex, and (for one reason or other) challenging to assess and/or edit. This is rapidly becoming pretty much a half-time workload for me in itself - and though I give every submission much care and attention, I have to work around other projects (I edit JET on a purely honorary basis, so it's not something I can treat as a day job).

The JET workload became sufficiently overwhelming in the second half of the year that we actually closed to submissions for the last four months of 2015, enabling us to take steps try to catch up with the backlog.

Unfortunately, there is still a backlog to deal with, but the situation is far closer to being under control than it was back in August. We've been able to complete two strong issues in 2015, adding up pretty much to the equivalent of a full-length edited book on topics related to emerging technologies and the human future. There will continue to be challenges for JET in 2016, but it's obvious from the material I'm currently working on that we will be able to complete another strong issue in the next few months.

I continue to write for The Philosophers' Magazine, Free Inquiry, and New Philosopher. I also took up an invitation to join the new Cogito philosophy, hosted by The Conversation.

As we go into a new year, I am working with my friend and sometime mentor, Damien Broderick, in editing Philosophy's Future: The Problem of Philosophical Progress. This book is under contract to Wiley-Blackwell, and we have a formidable cast of contributors. I expect the intense period of editing submissions to keep me (and Damien) busy until late March.

I am also contracted to write a book for Springer (Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination) and another for Bloomsbury Academic (The Tyranny of Opinion). I've been actively planning and researching these, and I'm looking forward to the actual writing process. These are exciting projects.

Looking back, the highlight of 2015 from a career point of view was, of course, the completion, acceptance, and publication of The Mystery of Moral Authority.

There have, however, been many smaller highlights. Cogito has given me a new (and substantial) audience, and I'm very pleased with some of my posts there. See, for example, my comments on the kerfuffle over bioethics generated by Steven Pinker, my statement on "Why I still support Charlie Hebdo", and my firm position on how we can support the people we don't want to stand with (such as fanatical anti-abortion campaigner Troy Newman). I was especially pleased when the "Charlie Hebdo" piece was picked up by The Conversation's annual selection of contributions - this year's "yearbook" volume entitled Politics, Policy & the Chance of Change.

There have been many other small highlights for me. A recent one was the publication of an op-ed for Policy Forum on CRISPR-Cas9 and gene editing. This is a very important emerging issue, and I expect to have much more to say about it in the future. It relates closely to the subject matter of my Ph.D dissertation and to my book based on it, Humanity Enhanced.

There's much more that happened at my end in 2015, including other publications, conferences where I spoke, and on and on. That, however, is enough to give the flavour of a busy year. I expect that I'll need to write a separate post to reflect on 2015 itself, as opposed to what it demanded of me.

Meanwhile, have a happy 2016 - may it be successful and productive for us all, with a good mix of fun and love!

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