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Avoiding Colin

Frank Kermode

6 August 1992
Moral Literacy: Or how to do the right thing 
by Colin McGinn.
Duckworth, 110 pp., £6.99, July 1992, 0 7156 2417 2
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The Space Trap 
by Colin McGinn.
Duckworth, 187 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 7156 2415 6
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... of philosophy to have special wisdom qualifications, would think it presumptuous to write them. Colin McGinn does concede that specialist skills in philosophy don’t in themselves constitute a licence to preach or judge (‘morality isn’t the kind of thing in which you can have a special expertise’), but he seems confident all the same that a ...

The Bed Reptile

Colin McGinn

18 April 1985
... He had been asleep for seven and a half hours. He had lain in a dark room, wedged into a cotton envelope, breathing and twitching, his eyes periodically making saccadic movements under their lids. The time had passed slowly. He had done very little during those quiet hours. Once or twice the monotony had been broken by the languid swelling of his male part ...
9 May 1991
Mind and Cognition: A Reader 
edited by William Lycan.
Blackwell, 683 pp., £14.95, April 1990, 0 631 16763 3
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Acts of Meaning 
by Jerome Bruner.
Harvard, 179 pp., £15.95, December 1990, 0 674 00360 8
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Modelling the mind 
edited by K.A. Mohyeldin Said.
Oxford, 216 pp., £25, August 1990, 9780198249733
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... The more philosophically interesting a science, the less secure or transparent are apt to be its theoretical foundations, given that philosophy thrives on perplexity. It is some time since chemistry produced much of a reaction in philosophers, but biology can still get their juices flowing, though not so freely as in the days of the Bergsonian élan vital ...
27 June 1991
The Problem of Consciousness 
by Colin McGinn.
Blackwell, 216 pp., £30, December 1990, 0 631 17698 5
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... Whatever, you may be wondering, became of the mind-body problem? This new collection of Colin McGinn’s philosophical papers is as good a place to find out as any I know of. Published over a period of more than a decade, and drawn together from the usual motley of largely inaccessible academic journals, these essays provide a vivid introduction to current views in the philosophy of mind and to their immediate precursors ...
10 September 1992
A History of the Mind 
by Nicholas Humphrey.
Chatto, 230 pp., £16.99, May 1992, 0 7011 3995 1
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... problem and the inadequacy of our current modes of thought, and he issues this challenge: ‘If McGinn still wants to deny that it’ – Humphrey’s theory – ‘is the wine of consciousness, let hirn taste it and say what is missing.’ Well, I found the taste elusive at first, though finally it revealed itself as the usual old plonk. What was ...
4 May 1989
Representation and Reality 
by Hilary Putnam.
MIT, 136 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 262 16108 7
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Mental Content 
by Colin McGinn.
Blackwell, 218 pp., £25, January 1989, 0 631 16369 7
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... in the head but are ‘international’, than need find the argument absolutely compelling. Colin McGinn is one philosopher who does wholeheartedly accept the argument for water. He begins the book with it, and Earth’s twin planet is never far away. But he is more cautious or perhaps just more detailed than Putnam in seeing how far the argument ...

Persons

Brian O’Shaughnessy

1 April 1983
The Character of Mind 
by Colin McGinn.
Oxford, 132 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 19 219171 3
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... occupied between 1930 and 1960 – also, it may be, under the influence of Wittgenstein!). Colin McGinn’s admirable book manages to give a comprehensive picture of the state of play in the subject at the present time. In a compressed and well-written work, and without any loss of subtlety, he contrives to lead the reader on a guided tour of the ...
18 July 1985
Wittgenstein 
by A.J. Ayer.
Weidenfeld, 155 pp., £14.95, May 1985, 0 297 78612 1
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The Legacy of Wittgenstein 
by Anthony Kenny.
Blackwell, 150 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 9780631137054
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Wittgenstein on Meaning 
by Colin McGinn.
Blackwell, 202 pp., £12.50, December 1984, 0 631 13764 5
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Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of ‘Philosophical Investigations’ 
by J.M.F. Hunter.
Edinburgh, 248 pp., £20, March 1985, 0 85224 497 5
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... almost nobody agrees with – either as views of Wittgenstein’s or as truths about meaning. Colin McGinn attacks Kripke on both counts. His Wittgenstein on Meaning is a response to Kripke’s brilliant Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language (1982). McGinn confesses he always found Wittgenstein’s own ...

Seething

Colin McGinn

21 March 1996
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Cambridge Letters 
edited by Brian McGuinness and Georg Henrik von Wright.
Blackwell, 349 pp., £45, November 1995, 0 631 19015 5
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... Wittgenstein to John Maynard Keynes: When I saw you last I was confirmed in a view which had arisen in me last term already: you then made it very clear to me that you were tired of my conversation etc. Now please don’t think that I mind that! Why shouldn’t you be tired of me, I don’t believe for a moment that I can be entertaining or interesting to you ...

Good Things

Colin McGinn

5 September 1996
Virtues and Reasons: Philippa Foot and Moral Theory 
edited by Rosalind Hursthouse, Gavin Lawrence and Warren Quinn.
Oxford, 350 pp., £35, July 1996, 0 19 824046 5
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... Suppose I perform an action certified by morality as good – say, giving money to charity. I then do something good because it is good. We might say that this action had the moral property goodness and that in acknowledging this to be so I had a reason to perform it. Anyone else has an equal reason to perform the same action, which is good no matter who performs it ...

Outpouchings

Colin McGinn

23 January 1986
The man who mistook his wife for a hat 
by Oliver Sacks.
Duckworth, 233 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 7156 2067 3
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... It could be said that Oliver Sacks put neuropathology on the literary map. His first book Awakenings, about the stunning effects of the drug L-Dopa on patients afflicted with a form of Parkinsonism, attracted considerable critical acclaim from the literary world, and ‘inspired’ Harold Pinter’s rather ponderous play A Kind of Alaska. Sack’s second book A Leg to Stand On was similarly well-received ...

Weak Wills

Colin McGinn

5 September 1985
Essays on Davidson: Actions and Events 
edited by Bruce Vermazen and Merrill Hintikka.
Oxford, 257 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 19 824749 4
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... Donald Davidson has this year been George Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford: only the second philosopher to hold the august position (the first being W.V. Quine, a teacher of Davidson’s at Harvard and his greatest philosophical influence). This honour reflects his present stature in the academic world. Last year he was the subject of a massive conference held in New Jersey, organised by the indefatigable Ernie Lepore ...

Diary

Colin McGinn: A Philosopher in LA

4 September 1986
... I have recently been to two valedictory parties for Oxford philosophers on the brink of emigrating to America. I spoke to another philosopher who is actively considering a munificent offer from a Californian university. Reliable rumour has it that a number of other leading British philosophers are contemplating taking their talents to the Land of the Free ...
19 November 1992
Bertrand Russell: A Life 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 596 pp., £20, September 1992, 9781856191807
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... Bertrand Russell’s first and formative love affair was with symbolic logic. But the relationship, though fertile, was troubled. Beginning in rapture, as he moulded and extended the new concepts and techniques, sweeping away the barren detritus of two millennia, the affair eventually foundered on a stinging paradox, unexpected and intractable, which abruptly took the shine off the whole thing ...
16 August 1990
Essays in political Philosophy 
by R.G. Collingwood, edited by David Boucher.
Oxford, 237 pp., £25, November 1989, 0 19 824823 7
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The Social and Political Thought of R.G. Collingwood 
by David Boucher.
Cambridge, 300 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 521 36384 5
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... Robin Collingwood (1889-1943) was born 17 years after Bertrand Russell and died 27 years before him. Given the style and content of Collingwood’s philosophical work, this fact ought to seem surprising. For there is no apparent mark of Russell’s influence, nor of those who influenced him, upon Collingwood’s own philosophical corpus. For better or worse, he stands apart – even aloof – from the British analytical tradition exemplified by Russell ...

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