Entries by Colin McGinn

Two Concepts of Freedom

    Two Concepts of Freedom   It is hard not to feel the pull of both of the standard positions on free will. On the one hand, it seems right to say that a free action is one that is in accordance with the agent’s desires, as opposed to one that is forced on […]

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Truth and Meaning

    Truth and Meaning   What have truth and meaning got to do with each other? A dominant view has it that the two are deeply connected—specifically, meanings are truth conditions.[1] The view comes in several varieties, but the central thought is that the meaning of a sentence consists of the state of affairs […]

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The Selfless Machine

    The Selfless Machine   In a striking passage from The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins writes as follows: “Other replicators perhaps discovered how to protect themselves, either chemically, or by building a physical wall of protein around themselves. This may have been how the first living cells appeared. Replicators began not merely to exist, […]

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Criteria of Meaningfulness

  Criteria of Meaningfulness   The positivists created a question that had not existed before, viz. what is the criterion for whether a string of words is meaningful? Their proposal was that such a string is meaningful if and only if it is empirically verifiable (with due allowance made for analytic sentences). The intention was […]

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Action and Acting

    Action and Acting   Jack gets up, goes to the kitchen, opens the fridge, takes out a beer, pops the cap, and drinks it. Why did he do that? Because he wanted a beer and thought there was one in the fridge. The philosopher says that Jack’s action is explained by his having […]

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Manners and Morals

    Manners and Morals   The topic of manners, good or bad, is neglected in philosophy, receiving scant attention in moral philosophy.[1]Perhaps it is felt to be trivial compared to the weighty matters of morality. But I think the topic is not without philosophical interest and I propose to explore it programmatically. First, what […]

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Rigidity Revisited

    Rigidity Revisited   A rigid designator is one that designates the same object in every possible world. Thus “Plato” designates Plato in every world; in no world does it designate anyone else. We must hasten to add that names are only rigid with respect to a language, i.e. under a particular assignment of […]

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Problems of Philosophy

  Problems of Philosophy     Russell called his “shilling shocker” The Problems of Philosophy, and there is a reason for that title: philosophy consists of a set of problems. The same is not true of other subjects: physics, chemistry, geology, biology, psychology, history, economics, English literature, etc. In these subjects a certain sector of […]

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