|Born||10 March 1950
West Hartlepool, County Durham, England
|Education||B.A. (Hons), psychology, Manchester University (1971)
M.A., psychology, Manchester University (1972)
B.Phil., philosophy, University of Oxford (1974)
|Occupation||Professor of Philosophy, University of Miami|
|Known for||Philosophy of mind, New Mysterianism|
|Influenced by||Noam Chomsky, Donald Davidson, Bertrand Russell, Peter Singer, P. F. Strawson|
Colin McGinn (born 10 March 1950) is a British philosopher, currently Professor of Philosophy and Cooper Fellow at the University of Miami. He previously held teaching positions at the University of Oxford and Rutgers University.
McGinn is best known for his work in the philosophy of mind, and is the author of over 20 books on this and other areas of philosophy, including The Character of Mind (1982), The Problem of Consciousness (1991), Consciousness and Its Objects (2004), and The Meaning of Disgust (2011).
Early life and education 
McGinn was born in West Hartlepool, County Durham, England, the eldest of three sons, and was raised in Gillingham, Kent, and Blackpool, Lancashire. His father, Joseph, was a building manager, and several relatives, including both grandfathers, were miners. He attended secondary modern school in Blackpool, then a local grammar school for his A-levels. He went on to study psychology at Manchester University, obtaining a first-class honours degree in 1971 and his MA in 1972, also in psychology.
He was admitted in 1972 to Jesus College, Oxford, at first to study for a Bachelor of Letters postgraduate degree, but he switched to the Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) programme on the recommendation of his advisor, Michael R. Ayers. He won the John Locke Prize in 1973, a prestigious prize in philosophy. He received his B.Phil. in 1974, writing a thesis under the supervision of Ayers and P. F. Strawson on the semantics of Donald Davidson.
Positions held 
McGinn taught at University College London for 11 years, first as a lecturer in philosophy (1974–1984), then as reader (1984–1985). In 1979 he spent two semesters at the University of California, Los Angeles as a visiting professor. He succeeded Gareth Evans as Wilde Reader in Mental Philosophy at the University of Oxford in 1985, a position he held until 1990. That year, shortly after a visiting term at City University of New York, he joined the philosophy department at Rutgers University as a full professor, working alongside Jerry Fodor. He stayed there until 2005, before joining the University of Miami as professor in 2006.
Philosophy of mind 
McGinn has written extensively about philosophical logic, metaphysics and the philosophy of language, but is best known for his work in the philosophy of mind. In addition to his academic publications, he has written a popular introduction to the problem of consciousness, The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World (2000).
In "Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem?" (1989), McGinn argues in favour of epistemic irreducibility, namely that the human mind is incapable of comprehending itself entirely, and that this incapacity has spawned the problem of consciousness that preoccupies philosophy. Mark Rowlands writes that the 1989 article was largely responsible for reviving the philosophical debate about phenomenal consciousness, or the nature of experience.
McGinn argues in the article for the idea of cognitive closure: "A type of mind M is cognitively closed with respect to a property P (or a theory T), if and only if the concept-forming procedures at M's disposal cannot extend to a grasp of P (or an understanding of T). Conceiving minds come in different kinds, equipped with varying powers and limitations, biases and blindspots, so that properties (or theories) may be accessible to some minds but not to others." Just as nonhuman animal minds have their limitations, so do human minds, and although humans may grasp the concept of consciousness, they are unable to understand its causal basis. He argues that neither direct examination of consciousness nor the brain can identify the properties that cause or provide the mechanism for consciousness, or how "technicolour phenomenology [can] arise from soggy grey matter." Thus, his answer to the hard problem of consciousness is that humans cannot find the answer, a position known as epistemological mysterianism.
Owen Flanagan introduced the term "new mysterians" in 1991 (named after Question Mark & the Mysterians) to describe the position of McGinn and Thomas Nagel before him. Epistemological mysterianism is contrasted with ontological mysterianism: McGinn argues only that human minds are unable to understand consciousness, not that there is anything supernatural or unknowable about it. He is a naturalist: there is something in nature that gives rise to consciousness from matter, though we cannot know what it is.
Other writing, radio and television 
Outside philosophy, McGinn has written two novels, The Space Trap (1992) and Bad Patches (2012). He has written regularly, including short stories, for the London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books, and occasionally for The Guardian, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, Nature, The Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere.
He has taken part in numerous radio and television interviews. This included debating animal rights with Sir Andrew Huxley in 1985, with Bernard Williams as the moderator. McGinn is a supporter of animal rights, writing in a review of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation that "our treatment of animals, in every department, is deeply and systematically immoral. Becoming a vegetarian is only the most minimal ethical response to the magnitude of the evil. What is needed is a complete revolution in the way we deal with other species."
He discussed John Searle's Reith lectures on BBC Radio Three with Searle, Richard Gregory and Colin Blakemore in 1986. He was interviewed at length for Jonathan Miller's Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief (2004), a documentary mini-series about the history of atheism, during which he discussed his position as an antitheist.
- (2012). Bad Patches (novel). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
- (2011). Truth by Analysis: Games, Names, and Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
- (2011). Basic Structures of Reality: Essays in Meta-Physics. Oxford University Press.
- (2011). The Meaning of Disgust. Oxford University Press.
- (2008). Sport: A Philosopher's Manual. Acumen.
- (2008). Mindfucking: A Critique of Mental Manipulation. Acumen.
- (2006). Shakespeare's Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning Behind the Plays. HarperCollins.
- (2005). The Power of Movies: How Screen and Mind Interact. Pantheon.
- (2004). Mindsight: Image, Dream, Meaning. Harvard University Press.
- (2004). Consciousness and Its Objects. Oxford University Press.
- (2002). The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy. HarperCollins.
- (2001). Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Predication, Necessity, Truth. Oxford University Press.
- (1999). The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World. Basic Books.
- (1999). Knowledge and Reality: Selected Papers. Oxford University Press.
- (1997). Ethics, Evil and Fiction. Oxford University Press.
- (1997). Minds and Bodies: Philosophers and Their Ideas. Oxford University Press.
- (1993). Problems in Philosophy: The Limits of Inquiry. Blackwell.
- (1992). The Space Trap (novel). Duckworth.
- (1992). Moral Literacy: Or How To Do The Right Thing. Hackett.
- (1991). The Problem of Consciousness. Basil Blackwell.
- (1989). Mental Content. Basil Blackwell.
- (1984). Wittgenstein on Meaning. Basil Blackwell.
- (1983). The Subjective View: Secondary Qualities and Indexical Thoughts. Oxford University Press.
- (1982). The Character of Mind. Oxford University Press (second edition, 1997).
- Selected articles
- (2004). "Inverted First-Person Authority". The Monist.
- (2001). "How Not To Solve the Mind-Body Problem". In Carl Gillett and Barry Loewer (eds.). Physicalism and Its Discontents. Cambridge University Press.
- (2001). "What is it Not Like to be a Brain?" In Philip Van Loocke (ed.). The Physical Nature of Consciousness. John Benjamins Pub Co.
- (1999). "Our Duties to Animals and the Poor". In Dale Jamieson (ed.). Singer and His Critics. Basil Blackwell.
- (1996). "Another Look at Colour". Journal of Philosophy.
- (1995). "Consciousness and Space". Journal of Consciousness Studies.
- (1994). "The Problem of Philosophy". Philosophical Studies.
- (1992). "Must I Be Morally Perfect?". Analysis.
- (1991). "Conceptual Causation: Some Elementary Reflections". Mind.
- (1989) ."Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem?" Mind.
- (1984). "What is the Problem of Other Minds?". Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
- (1983). "Two Notions of Realism?". Philosophical Topics.
- (1982). "Realist Semantics and Content Ascription". Synthese.
- (1982). "Rigid Designation and Semantic Value". Philosophical Quarterly.
- (1980). "Philosophical Materialism". Synthese
- (1979). "An A Priori Argument for Realism". The Journal of Philosophy.
- (1979). "Single-case Probability and Logical Form". Mind.
- (1977). "Charity, Interpretation and Belief". The Journal of Philosophy.
- (1977). "Semantics for Nonindicative Sentences". Philosophical Studies.
- (1976). "A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge". Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
- (1976). "A Note on the Frege Argument". Mind.
- (1976). "On the Necessity of Origin". The Journal of Philosophy.
- (1975). "A Note on the Essence of Natural Kinds". Analysis.
- (1972). "Mach and Husserl". Journal for the British Society of Phenomenology.
See also 
- "Curriculum vitae" and "Faculty", Department of Philosophy, University of Miami, accessed 3 November 2012.
- McGinn, Colin. The Making of a Philosopher. Harper Perennial, 2003, pp. 1–4, 44–45.
- McGinn 2003, pp. 64, 85.
- McGinn 2003, pp. 76–77.
- Strawson, Galen. "Little Gray Cells", The New York Times, 11 July 1999.
- Rowlands, Mark. "Mysterianism", in Max Velmans and Susan Schneider (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Wiley-Blackwell, 2007, p. 335ff.
- McGinn, Colin. "Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem?", Mind, New Series, Vol. 98, No. 391, July 1989 (pp. 349-366), p. 350.
- Reprinted in O'Connor, Timothy and Robb, David. "Colin McGinn, Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem?", Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings. Routledge, 2003, p. 438ff.
- McGinn 1989, p. 349 (also available here).
- Kriegel, Uriah. "Philosophical Theories of Consciousness: Contemporary Western Perspectives. Mysterianism", in Philip David Zelazo, Morris Moscovitch, and Evan Thompson (eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 36ff.
- Also see Rowlands 2007, p. 337.
- Flanagan, Owen J. Science of the Mind. MIT Press, 1991, p. 313.
- Also see Rowlands 2007, p. 335.
- Sorell, Tom. Descartes Reinvented. Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 97–98.
- McGinn, Colin. "Eating animals is wrong", London Review of Books, 24 January 1991.
- "Atheism Tapes: Colin McGinn", The Richard Dawkins Foundation, 12 May 2006.
Further reading 
- External links
- Philospot, Colin McGinn's blog.
- Colin McGinn, London Review of Books.
- Colin McGinn, The New York Review of Books.
- Colin McGinn, Opinionator, The New York Times.
- "Bill Moyers, Mary Gordon and Colin McGinn", Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason, PBS, 30 June 2006.
- "Colin McGinn - cognitive closure", consciousentities.com, undated.
- "To Be Or Not To Be: Colin McGinn Dissects The Philosophy of Shakespeare's Plays", simplycharly.com, undated.
- "Mysterianism lite", Nature Neuroscience, 3, 199, 2000.
- Blakeslee, Sandra. "The Conscious Mind Is Still Baffling to Experts of All Stripes", The New York Times, 16 April 1996.
- Cohen, Patricia. "The Nature of Reasons: Two Philosophers Feud Over a Book Review", The New York Times, 12 January 2008.
- Croke, Vicki; McGinn, Colin et al. "A Consideration of Policy Implications: A Panel Discussion", Social Research, Vol. 62, No. 3, In the Company of Animals (Fall 1995), pp. 801-838.
- Everitt, Nicholas. "Moral Literacy: or How To Do The Right Thing by Colin McGinn", Philosophy Now, Sep/Oct 2012.
- Fearn, Nicholas. "Proudly Ignorant", New Statesman, 9 June 2003 (review of McGinn's The Making of a Philosopher).
- Kriegel, Uriah. "Mysterianism", in Tim Bayne, Axel Cleeremans and Patrick Wilken. The Oxford Companion to Consciousness. Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 461–462
- Jeffries, Stuart. "Enemies of thought", The Guardian, 31 December 2007.
- McGinn, Colin. "The bookworm turned", The Guardian, 29 November 2003.
- McGinn, Colin. "All machine and no ghost?", New Statesman, 20 February 2012.
- McGinn, Colin. Principia Metaphysica, undated.
- McGinn, Colin. "Homunculism", The New York Review of Books, 21 March 2013 (review of How to Create a Mind by Ray Kurzweil).
- Mason, Wyatt. "Alone in the Dark", The New York Times, 22 January 2006 (review of McGinn's The Power of Movies).
- Flanagan, Owen J. Consciousness Reconsidered. The MIT Press, 1992.
- Horgan, John. The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation. Free Press, 1999.
- Sorell, Tom. Descartes Reinvented. Cambridge University Press, 2005.