Entries by Colin McGinn

Is Natural Selection Physical?

  Is Natural Selection Physical?   Is Darwin’s theory of evolution a physical theory? Does anything mental enter into its explanatory apparatus? There are two main components to the theory: mutation and natural selection. It might well seem that these are both entirely physical phenomena, because mutation is just chance genetic change (change in the […]

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Aesthetic and Moral Syllogisms

Aesthetic and Moral Syllogisms     Consider the proposition “x is aesthetically better than y”: does this entail the proposition “I should engage with xin preference to y”? One might suppose so, but in fact it doesn’t, unless we add something like “other things being equal”. If x is more intellectual demanding than y and […]

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How Mysterious is Evolution?

How Mysterious is Evolution?     The basic mechanism of evolution is not mysterious at all. Random variation combined with natural selection is a fully intelligible means of biological change, perspicuously accounting for speciation. The abstract idea has a mathematical simplicity to it: (a) a process for generating outcomes at random, and (b) a method […]

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Woody Allen’s Memoir

I had the pleasure of reading A Propos of Nothing recently and greatly enjoyed it. If you are interested in Woody’s personal history and his many films, this book will sate your appetite: funny, impressive, and endearing. As to the allegations made against him, he convincingly refutes them, thereby demonstrating the absurdity and corruption of the […]

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Predator Blues

    Predator Blues     We humans have a tendency to admire, even envy, what we are pleased to call apex predators: big cats, eagles, sharks, polar bears, and the like. We thrill to their powerful jaws, vice-like talons, speed, agility, and ruthlessness. No one pushes them around, they dominate their worlds: king of […]

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The Mind Problem

  The Mind Problem     What makes body possible? What are the conditions of the possibility of material objects? Space: bodies are essentially extended things and space is the home of extended things. Without space body would be impossible; with it body slots smoothly into place. Space and body are intelligibly connected, made for […]

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Species Psychology

  Species Psychology     It is an interesting zoological fact that animals don’t sexually desire animals outside their own species (excluding pathological cases). A particular species may not strike us as sexually desirable, but within it we may suppose that sexual desire runs high; even the most beautiful species on earth will not attract […]

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The Concept of Life

  The Concept of Life     The concept of life is notoriously hard to define. The OED makes a decent stab at it with the following: “The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, functional activity, and continual change preceding death”. The first part of this is […]

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