I was born, and have spent most of my adult life, in Yorkshire, but my schooldays were mainly in Kent, ending with five years at Borden Grammar School. In 1976 I went up to Lincoln College, Oxford University, originally to study Mathematics. But I soon changed subject to Mathematics and Philosophy, and then in 1979 – after a year off taking stock and reviving my finances – I changed to Philosophy and Theology, in which I graduated in 1980.
Staying at Lincoln College, I took the Philosophy B.Phil. in 1982. The next year, I got a temporary lectureship in Theology at the University of Glasgow, lecturing on Philosophy of Religion and Ethics – after a year, this became a joint post with the Department of Philosophy. Then in 1985, I was appointed to an innovative "New Blood" Lectureship at Leeds University, combining Computing and Philosophy. This was a permanent position, and I stayed at Leeds for just over 20 years (as Senior Lecturer from 1994). Pauline, whom I had married in 1983, soon came to join me, and our three children David, Katie and Jonathan were all born and brought up in Leeds, before we moved to Harrogate in 1998.
Initially in Leeds my main focus was running the Philosophy first year course while also teaching (and studying) Computing. After I had achieved a thorough grounding in Computer Science, from around 1990 I built up a number of courses on the boundary between Computing and the humanities, reshaping these after the University went modular (in 1994) and then developing the ACOM programme, which for several years was the largest and most varied set of such courses in the UK (with as many as 25 taught components, and around 1500 registrations per year). In the meantime I taught a range of more conventional courses in both Computing (e.g. Programming, Software Engineering, Logic, AI) and Philosophy (e.g. History of Philosophy, Philosophical Logic, and Philosophy of Mind). I also took my PhD in Philosophy (with a thesis on "Hume, Induction, and Probability") and an MSc by Research in Computing (with a thesis and software system on the teaching of programming).
In 2005, I was appointed as Gilbert Ryle Fellow in Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford (though for two years I was shared with Oriel College). In 2007 I was promoted to Reader in Early Modern Philosophy, and in 2010 to Professor of Philosophy. From 2005 until 2010, I was Co-Editor of the journal Hume Studies. Hume's philosophy has indeed been the main focus of my research, though I continue to work also in Epistemology, Ethics, Philosophy of Language and of Religion. My teaching at Oxford is also quite varied, including General Philosophy, Formal Logic, History of Philosophy, Epistemology and Metaphysics, Logic and Language, and Philosophy of Religion.
Music has always been one of my greatest loves, though now mostly as a listener rather than a player or singer. The theatre is also a delight, and we have been lucky to live close to three excellent venues (in Leeds, Harrogate, and York). I also love walking or cycling in the countryside, especially in the Yorkshire Dales which are so varied and beautiful. I used to play chess a lot, and still do occasionally, though I now find computer programming a more satisfying source of the creative problem-solving pleasure that chess provides. Football is my favourite sport, but only as a spectator since I stopped running my son's local team.
As a philosopher, my interests range very widely, not only within the discipline but also its links – especially to politics and society, religion, and science. Humanity has an urgent need to rethink the principles on which we live, discarding both superstitious legacies and economic fantasies that prevent us from clearly addressing the problems that we face. Recent history, however, is not encouraging. Perhaps for that reason, when reading or watching films for relaxation, I take a particular pleasure in the history of earlier times, from the ancient world to the 19th century.