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Simon Blackburn(born 12 July 1944) is an English academic philosopher known for his work in metaethics, where he defends quasi-realism, and in the philosophy of language; more recently, he has gained a large general audience from his efforts to popularise philosophy. He has appeared in multiple episodes of the documentary series Closer to Truth. During his long career, he has taught at Oxford University, Cambridge University, and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Blackburn was born on 12 July 1944 in Chipping Sodbury, England. He attended Clifton College and went on to receive his bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1965 from Trinity College, Cambridge. He obtained his doctorate in 1969 from Churchill College, Cambridge.
He retired as the professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 2011, but remains a distinguished research professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, teaching every fall semester. He is also a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a member of the professoriate of New College of the Humanities. He was previously a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford and has also taught full-time at the University of North Carolina as an Edna J. Koury Professor. He is a former president of the Aristotelian Society, having served the 2009–2010 term. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2002 and a Foreign Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2008.
He is a former editor of the journal Mind.
In philosophy, he is best known as the proponent of quasi-realism in meta-ethics and as a defender of neo-Humean views on a variety of topics. "The quasi-realist is someone who endorses an anti-realist metaphysical stance but who seeks, through philosophical maneuvering, to earn the right for moral discourse to enjoy all the trappings of realist talk."
In 2008 The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, which was authored by Blackburn, was published.
In 2014 Blackburn published Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love, focusing on different philosophical aspects of self-love, discussing modern forms and manifestations of pride, amour-propre, integrity or self-esteem through various philosophical frameworks and ideas.
He makes occasional appearances in the British media, such as on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze.
He is a patron of Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association), and when asked to define his atheism, he said he prefers the label infidel over atheist:
Being an infidel, that is, just having no faith, I do not have to prove anything. I have no faith in the Loch Ness Monster, but do not go about trying to prove that it does not exist, although there are certainly overwhelming arguments that it does not.
He was one of 55 public figures to sign an open letter published in The Guardian in September 2010, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK, and has argued that "religionists" should have less influence in political affairs.
He was one of 240 academics to sign a letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission opposing 'radical gender orthodoxy', published in The Sunday Times.
In a televised debate, Blackburn argued against the position of the author and podcaster Sam Harris that morality can be derived straightforwardly from science.
He was a slightly younger contemporary of Edward Craig as a Philosophy undergraduate at Trinity College (Cambridge), and he obtained his first position as a professional philosopher at Churchill College in 1967 when he became a Junior Research Fellow. Simon left Churchill for Oxford two years later.