Colin McGinn

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
Full name Colin McGinn
Born March 10, 1950 (1950-03-10) (age 61)
West Hartlepool, England
Era 21st-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic
Main interests Philosophy of mind · Logic
Philosophy of literature
Notable ideas New Mysterianism

Colin McGinn (born March 10, 1950) is a British philosopher currently working at the University of Miami. McGinn has also held major teaching positions at Oxford University and Rutgers University. He is best known for his work in the philosophy of mind, though he has written on topics across the breadth of modern philosophy. Chief among his works intended for a general audience is the intellectual memoir The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy (2002).



Colin McGinn was born in the town of West Hartlepool, England in 1950.[1] He enrolled in Manchester University to study psychology. However, by the time he received his degree in psychology from Manchester in 1971 (by writing a thesis focusing on the ideas of Noam Chomsky), he wanted to study philosophy as a postgraduate. By 1972, McGinn was admitted into Oxford University's Bachelor of Letters postgraduate programme, in hopes of eventually gaining entrance into Oxford's postgraduate Bachelor of Philosophy programme.

McGinn quickly made the transition from psychology to philosophy during his first term at Oxford. After working zealously to make the transition, he was soon admitted into the B.Phil. programme under the recommendation of his advisor, Michael R. Ayers. Shortly after entering the philosophy programme, he won the John Locke Prize in 1972. By 1974, McGinn received the B.Phil degree from Oxford, writing a thesis under the supervision of P.F. Strawson, which focused on the semantics of Donald Davidson.

In 1974, McGinn took his first philosophy position at University College London. In January 1980, he spent two semesters at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a visiting professor. Then, shortly after declining a job at University of Southern California, he succeeded Gareth Evans as Wilde Reader at Oxford University. In 1988, shortly after a visiting term at City University of New York (CUNY), McGinn received a job offer from Rutgers University. He accepted the offer from Rutgers, joining ranks with, among others, Jerry Fodor in the philosophy department. McGinn stayed at Rutgers until 2006, when he accepted a job offer from University of Miami as full time professor.


Although McGinn has written dozens of articles in philosophical logic, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language, he is best known for his work in the philosophy of mind. In his 1989 article "Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem?", McGinn speculates that the human mind is innately incapable of comprehending itself entirely, and that this incapacity spawns the puzzles of consciousness that have preoccupied Western philosophy since Descartes. Thus, McGinn's answer to the hard problem of consciousness is that humans cannot find the answer. This position has been nicknamed the "New Mysterianism". The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World (2000) is a non-technical exposition of McGinn's theory.

Outside of philosophy, McGinn has written a novel entitled The Space Trap (1992). He was also featured prominently as an interviewee in Jonathan Miller's Brief History of Disbelief, a documentary mini-series about atheism's history. He discussed the philosophy of belief as well as his own beliefs as an antitheist.

He is cited by Michio Kaku in "Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize The 21st Century" and in "Physics of the Impossible" regarding the subjective experience that arises from matter or the impossibility of building machines that can think: "is like slugs trying to do Freudian psychoanalysis, they just don't have the conceptual equipment."


A partial list of books by Colin McGinn:

  • Mindfucking (2008). Acumen, ISBN 1-84-465114-2.
  • Shakespeare's Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning Behind the Plays (2006). HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-085615-7.
  • The Power of Movies: How Screen and Mind Interact (2005). Pantheon, ISBN 0-37-542317-6.
  • Mindsight: Image, Dream, Meaning (2004). Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-67-401560-6.
  • Consciousness and Its Objects (2004). Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-926760-X.
  • The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy (2002). HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-019792-7 (first edition). (Reprint edition, 2003, Harper Perennial, ISBN 0-06-095760-3.)
  • Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Predication, Necessity, Truth (2001). Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-924181-3.
  • The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World (1999). Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-01422-4.
  • Knowledge and Reality: Selected Papers (1998). Oxford University Press.
  • Ethics, Evil and Fiction (1997). Oxford University Press.
  • Minds and Bodies: Philosophers and Their Ideas (1997). Oxford University Press.
  • Problems in Philosophy: the Limits of Inquiry (1993). Blackwell.
  • The Space Trap (1992). Duckworth.
  • Moral Literacy: Or How To Do The Right Thing (1992). Duckworth, 1992; Hackett, 1993.
  • The Problem of Consciousness (1991). Basil Blackwell.
  • Mental Content (1989). Basil Blackwell.
  • Wittgenstein on Meaning (1984). Basil Blackwell.
  • The Subjective View: Secondary Qualities and Indexical Thoughts (1983). Oxford University Press.
  • The Character of Mind (1982). Oxford University Press, 1982. (Second edition, 1997.)

Selected articles

A partial list of articles by Colin McGinn (emphasis on scholarly philosophical articles):

  • "Another Look at Colour" (1996). Journal of Philosophy.
  • "Consciousness and Space" (1995). Journal of Consciousness Studies.
  • "The Problem of Philosophy" (1994). Philosophical Studies.
  • "Must I Be Morally Perfect?" (1992). Analysis.
  • "Conceptual Causation: Some Elementary Reflections" (1991). Mind.
  • "Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem?" Mind, 1989.
  • "What is the Problem of Other Minds?" (1984). Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
  • "Two Notions of Realism?" (1983). Philosophical Topics.
  • "Realist Semantics and Content Ascription" (1982). Synthese.
  • "Rigid Designation and Semantic Value" (1982). Philosophical Quarterly.
  • "Philosophical Materialism" (1980). Synthese
  • "An A Priori Argument for Realism" (1979). The Journal of Philosophy.
  • "Single-case Probability and Logical Form" (1979). Mind.
  • "Charity, Interpretation and Belief" (1977). The Journal of Philosophy.
  • "Semantics for Nonindicative Sentences" (1977). Philosophical Studies.
  • "A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge" (1976). Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
  • "A Note on the Frege Argument" (1976). Mind.
  • "On the Necessity of Origin" (1976). The Journal of Philosophy.
  • "A Note on the Essence of Natural Kinds" (1975). Analysis.
  • "Mach and Husserl" (1972). Journal for the British Society of Phenomenology.

External links


  • McGinn, Colin. (2002). The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy. HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-019792-7 (first edition). (Reprint edition, 2003, Harper Perennial, ISBN 0-06-095760-3.)
  1. ^ McGinn, Colin. The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy. ISBN 9780060197926. "I WAS BORN IN 1950, FIVE YEARS AFTER THE END OF WORLD WAR II, in West Hartlepool, county Durham, a small mining town in the northeast of England [1]" 

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