Entries by Colin McGinn

Oliver Sacks on the Meaning of Life

Oliver Sacks on the Meaning of Life “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” I wish to make some comments on this passage from my late friend Oliver Sacks, which I think deserves expansion. He writes […]

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The Futility of Reduction

The Futility of Reduction The idea of reduction is rampant in contemporary philosophy, particularly in relation to the mind. Thus we hear talk of reductive materialism or reductive behaviorism, or of reductionism about the mental. Likewise, though less frequently, we have reductive views of the moral or even the physical (as with reductive phenomenalism). It is […]

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The Puzzle of Empiricism

The Puzzle of Empiricism Even the most ardent opponent of empiricist epistemology will concede that it is not wholly wrong. It may be that much knowledge is not based on experience, and it is no doubt true that knowledge requires more than mere experience, but surely it is undeniable that some knowledge comes from the senses. Not all knowledge […]

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Behavior

Behavior We are familiar with the doctrine of behaviorism and with the phrase “behavioral science”, but we are left in the dark about what exactly behavior is. What does it mean to say that the mind is reducible to behavior or that psychology is the study of behavior? One possible answer is that behavior is motion of […]

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American Idiot

Don’t wanna be an American Idiot Don’t want a nation under the new mania Hey can you hear the sound of hysteria The subliminal mind-fuck America (Green Day) If you think this doesn’t apply to American universities, you are not paying attention.

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An Argument for Nothing

An Argument for Nothing The philosopher with no name maintains, fittingly, that nothing is real. In pre-Socratic style, he proclaims, “All is nothing”. He is a total eliminativist (going by the code name TE). We could call him a “nothingist”: everything is nothing, according to the nothingist.[1] Not for him Being and Nothingness, but Nothing and Nothingness. TE […]

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Philosophical Philosophy

Philosophical Philosophy Philosophy takes place within a social, political, and intellectual context. There is a surrounding culture or environment. Religion, morality, the arts, the sciences, war, peace, a general optimism or pessimism—all these factors impinge on the way philosophy is practiced during a particular historical period. The factors can vary over time, causing philosophy to […]

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The Lure of Elimination

The Lure of Elimination I don’t despise eliminative positions in philosophy. I think they show something important about philosophical problems—that they can drive us to eliminative extremes. The term “eliminativist” is usually applied in the philosophy of mind and in psychology: it is the idea that the mind does not exist, that mental phenomena do […]

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