An Interview With Simon Blackburn

(Via Political Theory Daily Review) the Virtual Philosopher interviews Simon Blackburn:

Nigel: Since returning to England from the States, taking up a professorial chair in Cambridge, you have been prolific as a writer of popular philosophy books: Think, Being Good, Lust, and most recently Truth. Is there a particular reason for this apparent change of direction?

Simon: Actually Think was published a couple of years before I left the States, and Being Good was finished before I did so. So if there was a change in direction, I suppose it was while I was in the States. It is a change of emphasis, I think, more than a change of direction. I have always had a democratic streak: one of my earliest books, published in 1984, was supposed to be an introduction to the philosophy of language (Spreading The Word). But I also like to blend some of my own attempts at philosophy into supposedly introductory books, so for instance that book was quite influential in its moral theory, and to some extent in what it said about other things such as rule-following and truth. I try to keep on publishing “professional” papers while I also produce books like these.

Nigel: David Hume in his essay writing saw himself as an ambassador from the ‘dominions of learning to those of conversation’. Is that a position that you now identify with? Who are you writing for? Do you know who reads your books?

Simon: As so often, Hume puts it better than I could myself. Yes, that’s an admirable description of a position I identify with. I think professional philosophy can be very odd, very self-contained and narcissistic and quite out of touch with more general cultural currents. Its writings, as Bernard Williams memorably put it, can often resemble “scientific reports badly translated from the Martian”. I think good philosophy always has had to take some nourishment from surrounding politics, moral concerns, and science. It may be harder to identify what it returns, but in my books I try at least to exhibit something it can give back.