Entries by Colin McGinn

Externalism Re-Formulated

  Externalism Re-Formulated     There is quite a deal of debate about whether externalism is true but not much about what it means. We know the thought experiments (Twin Earth etc.) but how should we formulate their conclusion? Putnam puts it by saying that meanings are not “in the head”—and by extension mental content […]

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Behaviorism Re-Refuted

    Behaviorism Re-Refuted     Behaviorism is a bit like a zombie: just when you think you’ve killed it the thing comes lumbering back into the room. So it may be worth reminding ourselves quite how bad the reasoning was that led to it. The doctrine may be defined thus: mental states are dispositions […]

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Communication and Language

    Communication and Language     It is commonly supposed that the use of language in communication is its primary use. There is either nothing else that is language or anything else is an internalized version of outer speech. But in fact communication itself presupposes that language exists in another form and is not […]

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Is Logic Arbitrary?

Is Logic Arbitrary?     Propositional logic is the logic of truth functions: negation takes us from true to false and false to true; conjunction takes us from double true to true and otherwise to false; disjunction takes us from single true or double true to true and otherwise to false. But are these the […]

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The Certainty Principle

    The Certainty Principle     The Uncertainty Principle in physics comes as no surprise to a skeptic. We can’t know the position and velocity of a subatomic particle—so what? We can’t know a lot of things, including the position and velocity of an elephant. We think we can know that—or we think it […]

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Internal Language and Consciousness

    Internal Language and Consciousness   Do the words of inner speech consist of mental images of outer speech? If I say to myself “It’s raining” do I entertain mental images of my saying out loud “It’s raining”? Are inward utterances strings of such images? If so, that would indicate that inner speech is […]

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A Theory of Language

  A Theory of Language   In A Theory of Justice Rawls suggests a thought experiment designed to rid us of biases in our thinking about justice, labeled the Original Position. We find ourselves occupying a certain position in society, perhaps an unfairly privileged one, and we need a way to prescind from this contingency, […]

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Academic Freedom

Yesterday I had the pleasure of conductng my first seminar in eight years. We discussed two papers of mine from this blog. We used Zoom. The students were excellent, the discussion scintillating; it was just what a philosophy seminar should be. You ask what institution organized this seminar–is it perhaps indicative of a thaw? Perhaps […]

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