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Cooling it

Colin McGinn, 19 August 1993

Donald Davidson 
by Simon Evnine.
Polity, 198 pp., £9.95, January 1992, 0 7456 0612 1
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Donald Davidson’s Philosophy of Language: An Introduction 
by Bjorn Ramberg.
Blackwell, 153 pp., £12.95, July 1989, 0 631 16458 8
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... Donald Davidson is perhaps the most distinguished philosopher in history never to have written a book. Indeed, he did not get round to writing articles until he was into his forties (he is now 76). Yet those articles – short, intense, allusive, hard – have changed the shape of contemporary analytical philosophy. They were in mid spate when I was a graduate student at Oxford in the early Seventies, and they acted as a kind of philosophical IQ test for the young philosophers of my generation ...

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 ...

Putnam’s Change of Mind

Ian Hacking, 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 ...

An End to Anxiety

Barry Stroud, 18 July 1985

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 ...

Too hard for our kind of mind?

Jerry Fodor, 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 ...


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 ...


Christopher Peacocke, 18 December 1986

Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson 
edited by Ernest LePore.
Blackwell, 520 pp., £29.50, April 1986, 0 631 14811 6
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... aims to be explicit about these equations when experience is not on the list. In his lucid paper, Colin McGinn also urges that experience be considered explicitly in an interpretation procedure. But I doubt that it is possible to incorporate it in the way McGinn envisages. McGinn’s ...

I am not a computer

Owen Flanagan, 7 September 1995

Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness 
by Roger Penrose.
Vintage, 457 pp., £17.99, September 1995, 0 09 958211 2
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... forget that it is a metaphor, and take the claim literally, so that the mind/brain is a computer. Colin McGinn calls this view ‘pan-computationalism’. In its most extreme version the universe becomes a computer, whose parts run their own particular programs or sub-routines. Penrose defines computation as the action of a Turing machine, a perfectly ...

Representing Grandma

Steven Rose, 7 July 1994

The Astounding Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul 
by Francis Crick.
Simon and Schuster, 317 pp., £16.99, May 1994, 9780671711580
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... biology’s stock-in-trade. Indeed, any resemblance this text bears to what readers of Searle, Colin McGinn or Dennett might expect to find in a book about consciousness is almost entirely coincidental, with the exception of a short postscript in which – I hope tongue-in-cheek – Crick solves the problem of Free Will by locating it in the anterior ...


Hilary Putnam, 21 April 1988

Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary 
by W.V. Quine.
Harvard, 249 pp., £15.95, November 1987, 0 674 74351 2
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by Christopher Hookway.
Polity, 227 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 07 456175 8
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... of the author on the jacket of the book; I cannot end with a more fitting tribute than the one Colin McGinn paid to Quine in the Journal of Philosophy (also quoted on the jacket of the book): ‘Quine pursues philosophical vision with an uncompromising consistency of purpose that makes his doctrines impossible to ignore. You either go with him or ...


Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... Raine, James Fenton, Alan Jenkins, Clive Wilmer), the academics (Nicholas Jenkins, Terry Castle, Colin McGinn, Deborah Cameron, Deborah Bowman, William Pritchard, Eric Homberger, Michael O’Neill, Rachel Buxton) and the memoirists (Karl Miller, Anthony Thwaite, Robert Conquest), though several of them can lay claim to more than one of these ...

Blunder around for a while

Richard Rorty, 21 November 1991

Consciousness Explained 
by Daniel Dennett.
Little, Brown, 514 pp., $27.95, October 1991, 0 316 18065 3
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... incarnate self-evident truths. As regular readers of these pages know, philosophers like Colin McGinn, Thomas Nagel and John Searle have no use for Dennett. All of them would agree that he has failed to respect ‘the brute facts of immediate conscious experience’. All of them would sympathise with Roger Penrose’s conviction, as put forward ...

The Egocentric Predicament

Thomas Nagel, 18 May 1989

The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein’s Philosophy, Vol. II 
by David Pears.
Oxford, 355 pp., £29.50, November 1988, 0 19 824487 8
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... of the term in question. In emphasising the importance of standard objects, Pears agrees with Colin McGinn. The possibility that this basis for correction might be sufficient for the existence of a rule suggests that a language which was private in the sense that it was invented and used entirely by a solitary being would not be logically ...

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