Entries by Colin McGinn

Ethics and the Self

    Ethics and the Self   The self is perhaps the most elusive subject in philosophy. It seems impossible to say what the self is. Doubts about its existence are perfectly understandable, if exaggerated. The self seems intensely real, but its nature remains opaque. This is why all the standard theories are wide of […]

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History and Mystery

  History and Mystery     How does the history of philosophy look to a mysterian? As follows: the history of philosophy is the history of our consciousness of mystery. Philosophy consists of a set of mysteries, possibly open-ended, and philosophers, as conscious beings, are aware of these mysteries—and aware of them as mysteries (no […]

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World and Head

World and Head     When Hilary Putnam made the claim that meanings are not “in the head” he emphasized the indexical character of natural kind terms. His point was that terms like “water” have their reference fixed by demonstratives like “that liquid”, and demonstratives have their reference as a function of context not descriptions […]

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Experience and Fact

    Experience and Fact     We normally suppose that experience and fact are separate entities. Suppose I observe my cat chasing a lizard: on the one hand, there is the fact of my cat chasing a lizard; on the other, there is my experience of my cat chasing a lizard. These could exist […]

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A New Theory of Consciousness

  A New Theory of Consciousness     The other night the angel Gabriel visited me in my dreams. He came, he announced, to inform me of the true nature of consciousness. I was eager to listen. His account ran as follows (I paraphrase, but this was the gist). The most important point to grasp […]

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Comparative Morality

  Comparative Morality     It is plausible to suggest that our attributions of beauty are essentially comparative. To say that x is beautiful is to say that x is more beautiful than most things (or some such). More exactly, to say that x is a beautiful F (painting, person, motorcycle) is to say that […]

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Instantiating the Mental

    Instantiating the Mental     Objects have properties: that seems safe to say. But what is an object and what is a property and what is having? We can point to paradigms: the object that is my desk has the property of being brown. Philosophers like to paraphrase such a statement as follows: […]

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