Russell Blackford – curriculum vitae
Phone: +61 2 49518035
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org OR Russell.Blackford@newcastle.edu.au
Academic background and professional qualifications
Areas of specialisation
Legal, moral, and political philosophy, including metaethics and philosophical bioethics; philosophy of religion.
Areas of competence
Metaphysics, including philosophy of mind and philosophy of personal identity; philosophy of science; metaphilosophy; cultural representations of philosophy, science, and technology.
Book chapters and articles
Opinion pieces, etc.
Academic and other journals
I am Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology (JET), an online peer-reviewed journal published by the US-based Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. JET is the leading journal dealing with issues relating to emerging technologies and the human future. (JET was an “A” ranked journal under the old ERA journal rankings promulgated in Australia in October 2011.)
I was for many years on the editorial board of Science Fiction Studies, and have recently (August 2016) accepted an invitation to join the editorial board of the newly-launched Journal of Posthuman Studies.
I have acted as a peer reviewer for a wide range of journals, including:
In recent years I have been a frequent contributor to Free Inquiry, New Philosopher, The Philosophers’ Magazine, the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Portal, and The Conversation.
Recent and current research
One strand of my research relates closely to my doctoral dissertation in philosophy, completed at Monash University, examining regulatory policy in respect of emerging genetic technologies. The dissertation was approved in 2008, and I formally graduated in 2009. It is entitled Human Enhancement: The Challenge to Liberal Tolerance.
I subsequently completed an extensively revised version, which was published by MIT Press in 2014, under the title Humanity Enhanced: Genetic Choice and the Challenge for Liberal Democracies. I continue to work in philosophical bioethics and in related areas of legal and political philosophy, particularly examining issues to do with the legal regulation of biomedical technology.
As a legal and political philosopher, I also carry out research relating to secularism, liberalism, and freedom of speech. See, in particular, my 2012 book from Wiley-Blackwell, Freedom of Religion and the Secular State. This examines the relationship between religion and politics, arguing for a neo-Lockean model of state power. In his back-cover endorsement, A.C. Grayling says: “This is a must-read: Blackford has given us a forceful and persuasive book that will have a big impact on the debate it addresses.”
My more general interest in philosophy of religion is reflected in 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists, co-edited with Professor Udo Schüklenk of Queen’s University (Canada). This contains new essays by high-profile atheists (philosophers, creative writers, and others). It was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2009.
Professor Schüklenk and I followed up by co-authoring 50 Great Myths About Atheism, published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2013. It examines many misconceptions, as we see them, about atheism and atheists. Though presented in a format intended to be accessible to a broad educated audience, 50 Great Myths About Atheism includes searching critiques of religion and orthodox theology, culminating in an argument for the reasonableness of atheism. This book carries back-cover endorsements from Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, and Polly Toynbee.
The Mystery of Moral Authority (published by Palgrave in 2016) investigates fundamental issues in moral philosophy, including metaethics. It defends a position that understands morality as a social technology, while agreeing with moral error theorists that the nature of morality is the subject of pervasive misunderstanding. The book scrutinizes most major approaches to the nature and authority of morality, including theological approaches, relativist approaches, broadly Kantian approaches, various forms of moral naturalism, and approaches based on virtue ethics.
My latest books are: Philosophy’s Future: The Problem of Philosophical Progress, again co-edited with Damien Broderick and published by Wiley-Blackwell (see next section below); and Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics, published by Springer for its “science and fiction” series. The latter is currently available for pre-order with a publication date of September 7, 2017. It deals with issues at the intersection of moral philosophy and the science fiction literary genre.
I am currently working on a book entitled The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the Future of Liberalism. This book is under contract to Bloomsbury Academic and is at a late stage of the editorial process. It examines the phenomenon of social and political conformity from a standpoint in political philosophy.
Philosophy’s Future: The Problem of Philosophical Progress (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017) is co-edited with Damien Broderick and contains substantial introductory chapters by each of us). This book is a major contribution to current philosophical debates on the nature and value of philosophy itself. Contributors offer their diagnoses of the state of the philosophy discipline and invite reflection and discussion of how it might evolve from this point.
The contributors are (in addition to Dr. Broderick and myself, and following the order in the table of contents): Myisha Cherry; James Ladyman; Noretta Koertge; Frank Jackson; Peter Boghossian and James A. Lindsay; Massimo Pigliucci; Jessica Wilson; Daniel Stoljar; Stuart Brock; Richard Kamber; Mark Walker; Timothy Williamson; Christopher Norris; Stefan Lorenz Sorgner; Karen Green; Benj Hellie; and Ward E. Jones.
Public and community service
Prior to undertaking a Ph.D. in philosophy at Monash University from 2004 to 2008, I had already enjoyed a distinguished career involving experience in law, management and governance, policy development, and labour relations. For this, I have an entry in Who’s Who in Australia. I had also established a profile as a professional writer, literary critic, and public intellectual.
In addition to books and formal articles, I have written many shorter pieces, including op-ed contributions in a range of forums. Among these are: Free Inquiry (for which I write a regular column; this magazine, published by the Center for Inquiry in the US, claims an international circulation of over 30,000 copies), ABC Religion and Ethics Portal, The Drum, The Guardian (Comment is Free), and Policy Forum. I am also a frequent contributor to the semi-popular philosophy periodicals New Philosopher (Australia) and The Philosophers’ Magazine (UK).
I am a frequent contributor to The Conversation, which plays a valuable role in facilitating contributions by academics to the sphere of public debate. My most recent pieces published on The Conversation’s website are:
I contribute to the work of the Center for Inquiry and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies – organisations with which I am formally affiliated – and I am a Fellow of the latter organisation.
I have been a speaker at many conferences and symposiums, and at major international conventions such as The Amazing Meeting (the annual scientific skeptic convention formerly hosted in Las Vegas by the James Randi Educational Foundation) in 2013 and the bi-annual World Humanist Congress in 2014 (held in Oxford on that occasion). I have made many media appearances, including my participation in a debate on the subject “Atheists Are Wrong” – broadcast on national television by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2011.
In February 2014, I was inducted into the International Academy of Humanism. The other inductees on that occasion were Carolyn Porco, A.C. Grayling, Susan Jacoby, Maryam Namazie, Philip Kitcher, Maryanne Garry, Wendy Kaminer, Leo Igwe, and Lawrence Krauss.
From 2010 to 2015 (inclusive, though I did not take an active part in the judging in 2012), I served as a member of the jury for the annual Norma K. Hemming Award, awarded for excellence in Australian speculative fiction that explores the themes of race, gender, sexuality, class, or disability.
In 2014, I also acted as the judge for the Moral Landscape Challenge, a competition established and funded by Sam Harris for the best essay challenging the argument of his 2010 book The Moral Landscape.
In 2017 I was awarded the AAP Media Prize. This prize, awarded annually by the Australasian Association of Philosophy, is for the best philosophical piece(s) published by a professional philosopher in the popular media during the preceding calendar year.
Locally in Newcastle, NSW, I have been active since 2010 in working with a variety of community organisations, including the Hunter Writers’ Centre (I stepped up to chair the HWC's board of directors at a difficult time for the organisation in 2012-2013) and, from 2013 to the present time, the Newcastle Writers’ Festival.
I was born in Sydney, and grew up in the Lake Macquarie area, near Newcastle, NSW. I lived in Melbourne from February 1979 until December 2009, when I returned to Newcastle.
In addition to my interests in philosophy and philosophical bioethics, I am a professionally published author, and a well-known scholar and critic, in the field of science fiction and fantasy. (My professionally published fiction notably includes a trilogy of original novels for the Terminator franchise: collectively known as Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles.) My other interests include travel and cinema.