Colin McGinn | Closer to Truth


Colin McGinn 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.He 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).

He was admitted into Jesus College, Oxford, at first to study for a Bachelor of Letters postgraduate degree, but he switched to the Bachelor of Philosophy program on the recommendation of his advisor, Michael R. Ayers. He won the prestigious John Locke Prize. He received his BPhil, writing a thesis under the supervision of Ayers and P. F. Strawson on the semantics of Donald Davidson.

McGinn taught at University College London for 11 years, first as a lecturer in philosophy, then as reader. 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, a position he held for five year. 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.

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.

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.