Entries by Colin McGinn

Psychological Science?

  Is Psychology a Science?     The question is only as precise as the word “science”, which isn’t very precise. But I don’t propose to quibble about that word (I incline to a wide application of it); instead I will compare psychology to some established sciences and note various gaps in what psychology has […]

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Conceptual Skepticism

      Skepticism About the Conceptual World     I will describe a startling new form of skepticism, to be set beside more familiar forms. It lurks beneath the surface of recent work on meaning and reference. Consider “water”: it has both a meaning (sense, connotation) and a reference (denotation, extension). Suppose its meaning […]

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Epistemology as Metaphysics

      Epistemology as Metaphysics     We usually teach epistemology as a separate field from metaphysics. On the one hand, there is reality, the subject matter of metaphysics, and on the other there is knowledge of reality, the subject matter of epistemology. It is sometimes said that Descartes made epistemology the foundation of […]

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Utility and Knowledge

    A Difficulty With Utilitarianism     Utilitarianism maintains that the value of a state of affairs depends solely on its level of utility. For a state of affairs to be good (desirable, valuable) it is necessary and sufficient that it contains the best possible level of wellbeing (pleasure, happiness, preference satisfaction). So if […]

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For Metaphysics

    Metaphysics and Philosophy       In the Epilogue to my book The Character of Mind(1982), entitled “The Place of the Philosophy of Mind”, I wrote: “It would be misguided to infer from the points we have been making that the philosophy of mind is the most basic area of philosophy: probably no […]

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Types of Metaphysics

Is Descriptive Metaphysics Possible?     Strawson draws his famous distinction between two types of metaphysics in these words: “Descriptive metaphysics is content to describe the actual structure of our thought about the world, revisionary metaphysics is concerned to produce a better structure”. This formulation raises puzzling questions. One might have thought that descriptive metaphysics […]

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Good Works, Bad People

  Good Works, Bad People     What should we do about people who do bad things but produce good works of art? What about a child-molesting composer, say? Should his works be banned? The question is not simple and I shall work up to an answer by considering some thought experiments. Suppose a man, […]

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Emma

I’ve just finished re-reading Jane Austen’s Emma, which I first read while studying it for A-level in 1967. It’s a sparkling and thoroughly enjoyable novel, full of moral wisdom. But I was struck by something I have not heard commented on: Mr. Knightley confesses to Emma that he first fell in love with her when she […]

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