Entries by Colin McGinn

The Queen’s Speech

Say what you like about Queen Elizabeth II, she has the poshest accent in the British Isles. By far. No one comes close. Her own family sound like right gor-blimeys compared to her. No one on Downton Abbey can hold a candle to the Queen’s accent. I even venture to suggest that it is not possible […]

The British

I found myself at the British Consulate in Miami last evening, seeing in the election results. It struck me how essentially gentle, humorous, sensible, broadminded, and skeptical the British are–in contrast to the ferocity, humorlessness, gullibility, and narrow-mindedness of others I prefer not to mention. This was disturbing. We are so self-conscious about our words, […]

A Puzzle

Are there quotation marks in the language of thought? Do we have a mental equivalent of quotation? It seems clear that we can have metalinguistic thoughts, as when I think that “five” has four letters; but can thought contain mental scare-quotes? Suppose I doubt that there are inner processes: can I think that “inner processes” […]

Oliver Sacks

My review of Oliver Sacks’ On The Move has just appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It’s a marvelous book, though it might upset some people with its candor. This is the human being behind the image–and I greatly prefer the human being to the image. Here we find the passionate and intense motor-cycle rider and […]

Testing Turing

Turing Tests     The classic Turing test involves a robot that passes for a conscious human. The examiner spends time with the robot, asking questions, interacting, and the question is whether it presents a convincing appearance of intelligence and consciousness. It is like an audition for playing the part of a normal human being. […]

Ex Machina

I went to see the new film Ex Machina, about whether a female robot will pass the Turing Test. It is never quite clear whether she is conscious in a human kind of way, even when she is flirting with her examiner. But the matter is put beyond doubt when she turns on her maker […]

Stalin’s Fallacy

Stalin famously said, “Death solves all problems–no man, no problem”. He meant that murdering people solves the problem their existence poses–hence his murder of millions of Russians who threatened to be a “problem”. I suspect many people in power have thought along similar lines–and the saying has a certain cogency. But it is important to […]

Philosophy

Why does philosophy even exist? Is the world an inherently philosophical place? That seems unlikely. Is it our concepts that generate philosophical problems? But why should we have concepts that do that? Does it show there is something deeply wrong with our concepts? And why are we so confused, if conceptual confusions are the problem? […]