Entries by Colin McGinn

Biological Philosophy of Language

    Biological Philosophy of Language     Linguistics has grown accustomed to viewing human language as a biological phenomenon. This view stands opposed to two other views: supernaturalism and cultural determination. Ancient thought conceived of language as a gift from God, closely adjoined to the immaterial soul: this accounted for its origin, its seemingly […]

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Innate Blank Slates

  Innate Blank Slates     Even the most hardline nativist will agree that not everything that passes before the mind, or exists in it, is innately fixed. In particular, memory contains contents that derive from experience. Memory may be defined as the ability to learn, and animals with memory absorb information from the environment […]

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Attitudes to Reality

      Attitudes to Reality     I am interested in devising a general taxonomy of epistemic attitudes towards reality as a whole. This taxonomy can be expected to have an historical interpretation, and heuristically that is a good way to understand it. So let us consider the human attitude to reality in pre-historic […]

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Introspective Invariance

  Introspective Invariance     Our knowledge of the external world is subject to much variation in type and degree of access. We don’t always perceive accurately or clearly or with the same amount of revelation. There are illusions, occlusions, blurring, darkness, variations in appearance, constancy effects, blindness (partial or total), stimulus overload, perspectival disparities, […]

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Thinking as the Good

      The Good Life As Thinking Well     What is the good life for a human being? It is hard to think of a more pressing and important question, or an older one.[1]Two remarks on the question, as so formulated, should be made immediately. The first is that there might be several […]

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Impressions of Existence

    Impressions of Existence     You wake up in the morning and you become conscious of the world again. For a while nothing existed for you, but now existence floods back. You become aware of external objects, of space, of time, of yourself, of your mental states. I shall say that you have […]

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Pain and Unintelligent Design

  Pain and Unintelligent Design     Pain is a very widespread biological adaptation. Pain receptors are everywhere in the animal world. Evidently pain serves the purposes of the genes—it enables survival. It is not just a by-product or holdover; it is specifically functional. To a first approximation we can say that pain serves the […]

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Being Here

      Human Contingency     There are two views about the existence of humans on this planet: one view says that human existence was inevitable, a natural culmination, just a matter of time; the other view says that human existence is an accident, an unpredictable anomaly, just a matter of luck (I am […]

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