Entries by Colin McGinn

Butterflies and Philosophy

I went to Butterfly World in Ft Lauderdale the other day–which includes several large enclosures where butterflies fly freely around the human visitors. The latter were all entranced; the former generally gracious. Why can deny the magic of lepidoptera? But what does it derive from? It is often remarked that the wings are gorgeous but […]

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Knitting and the Meme

My interview about Prehension was broadcast yesterday from Michigan on NPR’s To the Best of Our Knowledge. My section of the hourlong show (called “Handwork”) was preceded by a section on the therapeutic value of knitting and followed by discussions of the delights of drawing and the manual typewriter. This was all good manual propaganda–spreading the hand […]

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The Vital Question

I’m reading Nick Lane’s book of that title: it’s all cells and biochemistry and proton gradients. The book is quite philosophical in a hard-nosed science kind of way, because it is about explaining early life from first principles. He dares to suggest that we don’t know the answer to fundamental questions of biology. There is […]

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NPR

I was recording a couple of interviews for NPR the other day, one on the hand and evolution, the other on mysterianism, and they asked me to do a short piece on an “outrageous idea”. I chose to speak about my opposition to laughter: I propose that it be banned. It is like the shrieking […]

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Jeopardy

Every weekday night I watch Jeopardy, which I think is a beacon of civilization in a corrupt world. Tonight was the final of the tournament of champions, won by Alex Jacob against two very strong contestants. The final question was about the the death of a a nineteenth century philosopher, which I did not get […]

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Oliver Sacks

I just spent the weekend in New York, mainly to attend the memorial service for Oliver Sacks at the New York Academy of Medicine. There were hundreds of guests, with music, speeches, and film of Oliver. I have been to quite a few memorial services but this one was particularly memorable. He was so unusual, […]

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Getting On

I was watching the season premier of “Getting On”, an excellent tragicomedy on HBO about dying old ladies in a hospital. It featured a professor explaining medical ethics: he said he was about to discuss “utilitarianism versus consequentialism”. It’s nice to see philosophical ethics being mentioned, but is it really necessary to make an elementary […]

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A Theory of Everything?

A Theory of Everything     Can there be a theory of everything? A typical theory is a theory of some things and not others, even when it is very general. The theory of evolution is a theory of living things; it is not a theory of non-living things. Some things evolve and some do […]

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