Complete story list

Below is a list of all blog entries.

November 2013

Archived Colin McGinn blog has been archived.

October 2013

The Future I want to get back to being fully productive philosophically. To this end I have just signed a three-book contract with MIT Press.
The Silver Mirror
Slate Article Colin McGinn advises a close reading of Katie Roiphe's article.
Truth again

September 2013

Logical Positivism The most conspicuous feature of the doctrine in question is its negative attitude toward traditional metaphysics.
Department of Ontics I’m thinking it might be a good idea to form a virtual philosophy department, named as above.

August 2013

Letter to NY Times
The Origin of Ideas Colin McGinn on The Origin of Ideas.
New York Times I have requested that the New York Times issue a correction to their misleading sentence, but so far have not received a positive response.
Why Resign? Reasons for Resignation.
Disparity Despite clear and authoritative rebuttals by Ed Erwin and me, the sexual harassment story proved tenacious, for reasons I won’t explore here.
Insight and Illusion I am that man reading his paper.
Epilogue Statement by Ed Erwin concerning the Colin McGinn case.
The Truth In the light of what the university’s letter actually contains, much of what has been publicly stated about the case qualifies as libelous.
The Facts Let me make one thing very clear: the reason I have addressed accusations on this blog is NOT that the accuser made a complaint to the university.
Academic Romances The Faculty Manual at UM has a section covering romantic or amorous or sexual relationships between faculty and students.
More Irony I have long advocated aggressive recruitment policies with respect to women, at both the graduate level and when hiring faculty.
Art and Philosophy I am reading Philosophy of Art by Noel Carroll. As anyone familiar with this author will know, it is an excellent book: clear, well argued, elegantly written, and stimulating.

July 2013

An Orwellian World Dear George Orwell, Thank you for your interesting letter.
Hitch 22 I’ve just finished reading Christopher Hitchens Hitch 22, a sad but stimulating experience.
Knowing and Necessity Colin McGinn writes about Knowing and Necessity.
Cogent Rant Another Open Letter on McGinn
New Plan
A Paper What is the nature of philosophy.
Sharp and Right I thought this comment so good that I decided to give it greater prominence.
Postscript I made a public response to a public allegation that I deemed defamatory and without merit.
Reply to Letter I have read the Letter From Concerned Philosophers that has appeared on the Feminist Philosophers website.
More from Ed Erwin This is a very considered letter from Ed Erwin that deserves wider circulation.
A Plea for Calm
Fun in the Rain Americans think that language is a tool to get things done, while the British view language as a cheap entertainment with which to while away a rainy afternoon.
Advice Advice from Colin McGinn to other professors.
Respectability Regained I am reading The Hand, an Organ of the Mind: What the Manual Tells the Mental, edited by Zdravko Radman (MIT Press, 2013).
Enlightenment Colin McGinn on Enlightenment.
Suggesting and Entertaining
Reporting Response to the actual charge of failing to report a consensual relationship.
New Posting of Saarinen Letter Letter from Esa Saarinen.
Words Not to Live By Weasel words are vague and noncommittal enough that you can sound condemnatory without having to substantiate their application.
Apology? Myth spread by irresponsible people.
Andy Wins!
A Statement from Ed Erwin Here is an authoritative statement from Professor Ed Erwin which refutes nearly everything said about my case by the hordes of the ill-informed.
Letter from Ed Erwin Letter from Ed Erwin.
Ignorance and Error
Warmed by FIRE
Something Different Colin McGinn on Marriage.
Saying, Meaning, and America

June 2013

Influences I very much admire many female intellectuals and artists: Jane Austen, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe, Simone de Beauvoir, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, et al.
A Joke
Free Speech Just today I came across three items forming a happy radiant trinity in my reverberating consciousness.
Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handy Handy Locutions.
Support Letter from Steven Pinker in support of Colin McGinn.
Kluge I've been reading Gary Marcus' book Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind.
Strictly Said A careful report of what I strictly said would limit itself to semantic content.
Enough I propose to say no more on the subject of recent allegations.
French Open
Genius Maxim: if you can be misunderstood you will be.
Mentoring Colin McGinn writes about mentoring.
Eparter les bourgeios Eparter les bourgeois
Support I have been pleased (but not surprised) to receive a lot of support from women.
Resignation Colin McGinn provides Reasons for Resignation.
Some basic facts Some basic facts.
The Genius Project Colin McGinn explains about The Genius Project and the accusations of sexual harassment.
Recent Events Colin McGinn replies to the allegations against him reported in CHE

September 2012

The Middle Finger
Clockwork Orange

August 2012

The Puzzle of Intelligence
Dear Usain
The Modesty of Usain Bolt
Hand Philosophy

July 2012

The Prehensionalist Manifesto The Prehensionalist Manifesto. Membership of the cult is open to all, as long as the above precepts are adhered to. No exceptions permitted.
text book

June 2012

The Grasshopper All I can do is recommend the book enthusiastically to anyone with a functioning brain and an open mind.
Bad Patches Link to my new novel.
Bad Patches

January 2010

The Last Entry
Why I am an Atheist What is the state of belief of an atheist? An atheist is often defined as someone who does not believe in God.

December 2009

This Blog

September 2009

Philosophy, Melanie and Me

May 2009


January 2009

Bush, Obama: sport, language Obama grasped and exploited the power of language; Bush seems to hate language, or at least not to be on its good side.
Who Rules America? Most Americans have no trouble believing that God exists, but they are uncertain about whether an American ruling class exists.
Sanitation (philosophy of) I've just finished reading Rose George's The Big Necessity, about toilets and human waste (euphemism alert!)--as part of my interest in the emotion of disgust.

December 2008

Exam Philosophy is difficult and the difficult thing is to make it look easy; fiction is easy and the easy thing is to make it look difficult (the difficult thing is to make it interesting without making it difficult).
Death Why is death bad? Not for the same reason life is--that it contains bad experiences; it contains no experiences.

November 2008

Black and White Is anyone else as irritated as I am by the constant description of Barack Obama as "black"?

October 2008

Don’t be Religulous My only serious objection to Maher is his insistence that we just don’t know the answers to the Big Questions, such as whether a god exists or where we go when we die.
Play I'm thinking seriously about play and games in preparation for my forthcoming seminar on sports and philosophy (which will include actual physical activity).

September 2008

Polytheism People don't just believe that there exists a god; they also believe that there is only one.

August 2008

Shock! Horror! Criteria! The writers and editors at the New York Times evidently need to feel a lot more linguistic insecurity than they do.
Linguistic Fears Speech carries various anxieties. Fear of asserting what is false should count as the most serious--inadvertent falsehood, as opposed to plain lying.
Terrorism There is something nauseatingly sinister about the terrorist intention: to remove peace of mind.

July 2008

Motion I sometimes wonder if any motion has really been explained.

June 2008

Irrationality I recall reading somewhere that Keynes criticized Russell for saying that the problem with the world is that people are irrational and that the solution is that they should become rational.
Old Dears The New York Times (as well as AOL) today ran a picture of a lesbian couple getting married in California: Del Martin, 87, Phyllis Lyon, 84.
Democracy: not so bad, after all Despite my many misgivings about our prized political system, it did manage to elect Barack Obama to be the Democratic nominee.

May 2008

Relativism and Democracy I am struck by this passage from Tocqueville: "I have previously stated that the principle of the sovereignty of the people hovers over the whole political system of the Anglo-Americans.
The Serve I watch how tennis players serve with great concentration. They all do it pretty much in the same way.
Enemies of thought Why are people so incapable of stepping outside the narrow world-view of their specific range of expertise--either the Bible or their particular scientific discipline? Is it fear, narcissism, laziness, bloody-mindedness?

April 2008

God disproved (yet again) Just when you think that, just conceivably, you might be overdoing the anti-religious diatribes, you read something like the article I came across last Saturday in the New York Times, about a chap called Specialist Jeremy Hall who was systematically persecuted by his army superiors and fellow soldiers for his atheist views.
Elections As the Obama/Clinton wars drag on, I think of the malign effects of elections.
Papal Tensions The pope came and went. Two aspects of his proclamations stood out: on the one hand, his call for more authority and obedience, especially when it comes to the demands of the Catholic church; on the other hand, his condemnation of the sexual abuse inflicted by his priests.
The Paradox of Democracy In order for democracy to be acceptable, it needs to be combined with legal protections for the rights of minorities (gays, atheists, et al), or else there will be a tyranny of majority rule.

March 2008

Stupidity Now that really is a taboo word. You must never call anyone stupid! But aren't some people just plain stupid?
Democracy I was surprised the other day to discover that the "Founding Fathers" (silly phrase), especially John Adams, were quite opposed to democratic government, deeming it mob rule.

February 2008

MF I have a new book (very short) coming out on it next month, called--wait for it--Mindfucking. In it I analyze this concept, just as we analytic philosophers are supposed to.
Coaches Another breath of fresh air emanates from my recent tennis life. I now have two coaches, David and Claudio.
Atheism Tapes I well remember that sunny morning a few years ago when Jonathan Miller came to my apartment in New York to discuss the non-existence of God.

January 2008

Gloom I just wrote a review of Against Happiness by Eric G. Wilson for the Wall Street Journal.
Two Types of EE Let "weak ethical egoism" be the doctrine that it is wrong to count other people's interests as having more weight than your own like interests, i.e. acting like a "martyr".
Lemons I'm teaching Kripke's "Naming and Necessity" as part of my Mind and Language class this semester.
Ted Honderich in the New York Times Perhaps this “dispute” between Honderich and me has gone on too long already—has any worthwhile philosophy emerged from it?
2008 Speaking of value, I've just finished my book about the value of sport. Instead of giving my view here, I invite others to submit their answers to this question.

December 2007

The paradox of infallibility It has been generally supposed that certain self-ascriptions, such as "I am in pain", are infallible.
Whence Value? Is something valuable because we value it or do we recognize value in something that it has independently of being valued?

November 2007

The Constitution of Value It is often held that something has value only in virtue of being valued by some evaluative being: value is conferred on something by the attitude of valuing.
Celestial Ethics Some superpowerful aliens arrive one day and offer to ship us off to their galaxy if we'd like. It's really nice there, they assure us, and they have the photographs to prove it.
Meta-Physics If physics needs an interpretation, in rather the way a formal language does, if it is to be meaningful, doesn't that show that metaphysics is indispensable?

October 2007

Climate Change I'm about to go to Chicago for a conference on global warming and like environmental issues (part of the Chicago Festival of the Humanities).
Deontological Pluralism I like W.D. Ross's mixed deontology of irreducible prima facie duties, like keeping promises and repaying debts and exercising beneficence.
Dispositions and Reality Dispositions don't tie down meaning and reference (Quine, Kripke). Dispositions don't tie down qualia (pace functionalism).
Forehand and Backhand Lately I've found that as my backhand has improved my forehand has deteriorated. Now my backhand is my best shot, while in the past I struggled with it (as most players do).
The Raccoon I'm putting a story about a raccoon and me on the site.
Kant I've just been teaching Kantian ethics. The idea is that a right action is one the guiding maxim of which can be universalized without contradiction, and a wrong action is one that cannot be so universalized.
Ball Machines Last weekend I for the first time played tennis against a ball machine. It was quite an experience.
Mastic Beach, Long Island The first thing that confronted us on our return to Long Island, after eleven months away, was a rat in the sofa.

September 2007

Alien Matter How alien is objective physical reality compared (a) to its perceptual appearance and (b) to our own consciousness?
U and I The odd thing about utilitarianism is that what makes it most attractive is also what makes it most implausible.
Lucky Jim I just finished re-reading Kingsley Amis's first novel. If you haven't read it, you should. It is the most anti-literary literary tour de force ever.
Possible Matter Consider the following thought experiment. You go to a possible world and encounter some space-occupying objects.
Utilitarianism For the last couple of classes we've been discussing utilitarianism (U). U is a consequentialist doctrine, like ethical egoism, though it evaluates actions by the general good, not merely that of the agent.
tennis Every shot has to be executed to perfection. There's no margin for error. In philosophy, too, there's no use in getting it a bit right. Any error, any sloppiness, and things go very wrong. Technique is all.
egoism The topic this week was ethical egoism. What a terrible theory it is! An action is right if and only if it's in your own self interest.
Inscrutability of Matter In my seminar we discussed a paper by Galen Strawson, "Real Materialism". It's a stimulating paper that contends that experiences should be declared "physical" just as such, without benefit of reduction.
Blog 3 My ontology seminar dealt with a paper by Chomsky about physics.
Blog 2 I just finished the first week of the new semester. I'm teaching a course on ethics that I've never taught before, starting with ethical relativism.

August 2007

Principia Metaphysica 1. Objects are composed of stuff (“matter”, “energy”, “ectoplasm”). This stuff gives the substance of the object. Is it a substratum? We can say that, though it need not be unknowable.
Blog 1 I'm beginning this blog with a big chunk of metaphysics, written in the high Wittgensteinian style-a series of linked aphorisms.