Entries by Colin McGinn

Names and Descriptions

Names and Descriptions It has been commonly supposed that names and definite descriptions have an affinity, a connection. Names of people and places, in particular, are associated with widely known attributes: for example, the name “Ringo Starr” is associated with the description “the drummer for the Beatles” and “London” is associated with “the capital of […]

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On Denoting and Connoting

On Denoting and Connoting There is something amiss with our standard terminology. And it covers actual confusion. I propose to straighten all this out.[1] The standard way of talking assigns a denotation and a connotation to definite descriptions (sometimes also to names and demonstratives): the denotation of a description is the object it refers to […]

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Hand-Based Psychotherapy

Hand-Based Psychotherapy The image we have of the therapeutic set-up derives from Freud’s clinical practice. It consists of a patient lying on a couch with the therapist sitting behind her unseen. There is no physical activity apart from talking. It is as if patient and therapist are focusing exclusively on the mind with the body […]

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Is Language a Practical Capacity?

Is Language a Practical Capacity It is sometimes said, with an air of obvious truth, that mastery of one’s native language is a practical capacity.[1] The suggestion sounds reasonable enough, even somewhat illuminating: we do useful things with words, perform tasks, achieve stuff; we don’t speak just to broadcast propositions into the atmosphere. This is […]

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Einstein and Wittgenstein

Einstein and Wittgenstein In Philosophical Remarks, composed in the late 1920s, Wittgenstein several times enunciates a verificationist principle, which was not present in the Tractatus. It is plausible that the Vienna Circle, with whom Wittgenstein met several times during this period, derived the verifiability theory of meaning from these interactions with him (not from the […]

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Memory and Expectation

Memory and Expectation How do memory and expectation differ? For example, I might remember going to the shops yesterday and expect to go to the shops tomorrow—how do these states of mind differ? They concern the same state of affairs, but they are evidently not the same; we never confuse one with the other (“Am […]

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Eliminating Common Sense

Eliminating Common Sense Russell said that ordinary language contains the metaphysics of the Stone Age. Wittgenstein says that philosophy leaves everything as it is. Both were wrong. Ordinary language contains no metaphysics at all, ancient or modern; and advanced philosophy does not leave primitive philosophy alone. The bore in the bar telling you “his philosophy” […]

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Common Sense and Philosophy

Common Sense and Philosophy Philosophers often assume that there is something called common sense, or commonsense belief, with which their theories may agree or disagree. This gives rise to the idea that there is such a thing as commonsense philosophy, or anti-commonsense philosophy. I think this is a mistake for a number of reasons. The […]

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