Entries by Colin McGinn

American S***hole

I think I can finally say what I have tried to avoid saying for quite a while: I wish I had never moved to America. I came from the “shithole” of Oxford in 1990, a hopeful immigrant. I have had my doubts about the place over the years, both from personal experience and the political […]


No doubt it is a good thing that questions of sexual harassment are being aired, but I found Daphne Merkin’s op-ed piece in the NY Times today salutary. It ends thus: “These are scary times, for women as well as men. There is an inquisitorial whiff in the air, and my particular fear is that […]

Nabokov and America

      The Murder of Quilty     The enthralled and stricken reader of Lolita reaches chapter 35 of the book, the penultimate chapter, in a tragic state of mind, weeping hot tears. This is the chapter in which Clare Quilty is brutally murdered by a drunk and deranged Humbert Humbert. Yet the chapter […]

Irreligious Belief

Why I am an Atheist (2010) What is the state of belief of an atheist? An atheist is often defined as someone who does not believe in God. It is quite true that an atheist does not believe in God, but that is insufficient to define the state of belief of an atheist. A tree […]


When I wrote Moral Literacy I named kindness as the most important virtue. Now I would amend this slightly: what we need is EXTREME KINDNESS–really going out of your way to be nice to people. Not love, which is impossible, but acts of kindness. If cruelty is the worst thing, kindness is the best thing–to […]


The bad thing about happiness is that it gives you an opportunity to be really unhappy. The good thing about unhappiness is that it gives you an idea of what it would be to be happy.

Jerry Fodor

A brilliant, and brilliantly funny, man, but also very human, if otherworldly. A big influence on me (though not in all respects). We used to share bus rides between Manhattan and New Brunswick. Not only did he have a very original mind, he also had a very original personality. It is hard to convey what […]