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).

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Audiobook of Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination

An audiobook version of Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics is now available. Check it out if interested. 

The book is read by John Lescault, who is an excellent actor with a beautiful speaking voice, and he took great trouble to get everything right. In my dealings with him I was impressed by his work methods and work ethic. Thanks, John! I'm sure the end result will be great.

This version of Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination is now arguably the most definitive one, as it corrects a handful or so of small errors in the print versions.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Heading into the unknowable

My colleagues at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies have published an edited and abridged extract from At the Dawn of a Great Transition under the title "Into The Unknowable".

The book itself is slightly more "academic" than this extract adapted from its opening pages: i.e., it uses more formal notes, citations, etc., and in places it becomes more densely argued as I wrestle with the philosophical pros and cons of radical human enhancement. But I've gone to some trouble throughout to make the text as accessible, and perhaps even entertaining, as possible. With that caveat duly provided, the extract gives you a good idea of my topic, approach, and style. Check it out if interested!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

At the Dawn of a Great Transition has been published


My new book, At the Dawn of a Great Transition: The Question of Radical Enhancement, has now been published by the venerable academic publisher Schwabe Verlag, based in Basel, Switzerland. It is part of Schwabe Verlag's Posthuman Studies series. At this stage, it is available in hardcover and e-book pdf formats. I expect that a paperback version will become available at some point, and at that stage I'll advise. Most people would probably want to get their university libraries to order in the hardback, rather than buying it for themselves, but I won't be ungrateful for personal sales made to sufficiently interested individuals.

At the Dawn of a Great Transition is available directly from the publisher or in the usual ways such as through Amazon.

To pique your interest, the book's blurb states as follows:

"Radical enhancement would employ technology to extend human capacities far beyond anything yet seen or experienced. Imagine, for example, easily outrunning any Olympic athlete while being dramatically smarter than Albert Einstein. Or imagine living for hundreds or thousands of years, making today’s super-centenarians seem like mayflies. Soon – perhaps some time this century – we may have the technology for this. But if we had it, should we use it? Radical enhancement might seem like a gift, but could it become, as its critics warn, a poisoned chalice for individuals and a curse for human societies? In this fascinating book, Russell Blackford examines the pros and cons, bringing good humour, philosophical insight, and historical perspective to this most modern of modern debates."

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Interview with A.C. Grayling

I recently interviewed A.C. Grayling for the Newcastle Writers Festival's Stories to You podcast.

A little blurb that I wrote about it to pique your interest: Dr Russell Blackford, Conjoint Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Newcastle, interviews A.C. Grayling about his new book, The Frontiers of Knowledge: What We Now Know About Science, History, and the Mind. Professor Grayling is an eminent philosopher, author of many books, and Master of the New College of the Humanities, in London. They discuss fields of knowledge that have opened up with new methods and tools of inquiry – including cutting-edge physics, humanity’s very ancient history before Greece and Rome, and what we now know about the mind and the brain. Professor Grayling explains how we reached this point and the challenges for future progress in these fields. Their conversation turns to the important task of communicating knowledge to the public, and to the continued need for liberal education and the traditional humanities in a political environment that is often hostile to them.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Religion at Work in Bioethics and Biopolicy

 With my friend and collaborator Udo Schüklenk, I have a new article in the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.

The citation is Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk, "Religion at Work in Bioethics and Biopolicy: Christian Bioethicists, Secular Language, Suspicious Orthodoxy." Journal of Medicine and Philosophy  46(2) (April 2021): 165-187.    


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Freedom For the Speech We Oppose

This piece from 2015, published by The Philosophers' Magazine, is something of a blast from the past, but it still seems to me to be about right. It also gives a taste of what my book, The Tyranny of Opinion, is about. It responds to the issue at the time when an anti-abortion campaigner from the US, Troy Newman, was denied entry to Australia, with the perverse effect that his views were actually given more publicity than if he'd simply been allowed to go about his business and give his talks quietly. As it turned out, then, he was not silenced, but this was nonetheless an attempt (a very counterproductive one) to hinder his ability to present his views to Australians. I'd rather spend my time arguing against "pro-life" advocates, especially such extreme ones, than arguing for their right to express their views. Increasingly, however, many debates are shifting away from disagreements about which views are correct, or would form the best basis for public policy, and which views should be permitted at all.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

An open letter in support of free inquiry and open discussion

I am proud to have signed this open letter, arising from recent attempts to punish the "gender critical feminist" philosopher Professor Kathleen Stock. Signing the letter does not mean that I necessarily agree with all or any of Professor Stock's substantive views. That's a separate issue from whether she is entitled to express them without a large number of her colleagues in the academy mobilizing against her and trying to make her and/or her views beyond the pale of toleration. Whatever I might ultimately think about her philosophical views and/or her policy proposals, or about her more general values and attitudes, she should have every right to express them within the academy without hindrance or punishment. She only needs to conform to some very broad standards of rationality and civility - standards that she has more than met, since she's has gone out of her way to be measured and reasoned, and even conciliatory to the extent that anyone could plausibly expect.

It's very pleasing to see so many people signing the letter, including some high-profile individuals within the discipline of philosophy (e.g. Peter Singer as one  of the original signatories and Timothy Williamson as one of the many people who've signed since).

I have reservations about open letters, but they mostly apply to letters that involve numerous people ganging up on a colleague with whom they are in substantive disagreement. There's a huge difference between that and an open letter objecting to exactly that practice and offering support, in an hour of need, to an individual who its victim. In the latter case, I'm always open to signing, provided, of course that I agree with the specific detail of what I'm asked to sign up to.

Kudos to Professor Daniel Kaufman who took on the task of organizing this. Organizing academics to do anything - perhaps especially philosophers - is notoriously like herding cats, but Dan did a wonderful job and deserves recognition for it.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Another new interview - this time with Richard Marshall

This new interview is with Richard Marshall for his "End Times" series of interviews with philosophers. It's a long-form interview covering a wide range of topics from a lengthy (I hope not too rambling) autobiographical answer to the question of how I became a philosopher, to discussion of issues relating to toleration and freedom of speech, through to the emergence of China as a global superpower of the 21st century. Check it out!