Avoiding Colin

Frank Kermode

  • Moral Literacy: Or how to do the right thing by Colin McGinn
    Duckworth, 110 pp, £6.99, July 1992, ISBN 0 7156 2417 2
  • The Space Trap by Colin McGinn
    Duckworth, 187 pp, £14.99, July 1992, ISBN 0 7156 2415 6

Once there were popular books with titles like Straight and Crooked Thinking, books in which professional philosophers, avoiding arcane speculation, tried to make the rest of us more sensible by sharing with us their philosophical wisdom. Nowadays such books seem to be less common, and in any case some quite important philosophers, doubting the claims 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 professional habit of straight thinking will enable him to advise lay folk whose moral thinking might be crooked, or, as he would prefer to say, stupid.

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