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Portraits: Colin McGinn
Martin Amis Margaret Atwood Mary Gordon Colin McGinn David Grossman Anne Provoost
Martin Amis Margaret Atwood Mary Gordon Colin McGinn David Grossman Anne Provoost
Richard Rodriguez Salman Rushdie Will Power Pema Chödrön Sir John Houghton Jeanette Winterson
Richard Rodriguez Salman Rushdie Will Power Pema Chödrön Sir John Houghton Jeanette Winterson
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Watch the full interview with Colin McGinn.

Colin McGinn is a British philosopher whose work focuses on philosophy of mind, ethics, and philosophical logic. He currently teaches at the University of Miami.

"Tolerating somebody else's beliefs is not failing to criticize them. It's not persecuting them for having those beliefs. That is absolutely important. You should not persecute people for their beliefs. It doesn't mean you can't criticize their beliefs."
--Colin McGinn

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McGinn is perhaps best known as a philosopher for championing the New Mysterianism, a theory that human consciousness can never be explained because the mind is fundamentally incapable of comprehending itself fully. In his groundbreaking book on the subject, THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME: CONSCIOUS MINDS IN A MATERIAL WORLD (2000), McGinn argues that humans can still take solace in this inexplicable mystery because, by acknowledging our limitations, we are then free to explore other areas of human intelligence that are open to our understanding.

In addition to his academic publications, McGinn has written widely on philosophy and philosophers for a lay audience in such publications as the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the New Republic, and the New York Times Book Review.

His best-known and perhaps most accessible book is his autobiography, THE MAKING OF A PHILOSPHER: MY JOURNEY THROUGH TWENTIETH-CENTURY PHILOSOPHY (2002). In it, he charts his intellectual evolution, from his boyhood in a poor mining family in northeast England to his studies at Oxford University and ultimately to his career in academia as a professional philosopher. Along the way, he offers portraits of some of the great philosophers of the 20th century, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russel and A.J. Ayer. McGinn is currently writing a book on Shakespeare that is due out in the fall of 2006.

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  • From philosophical proofs of God to evil in literature — matters under discussion in the interview

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  • Resources
  • Q & A with Colin McGinn, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

  • Colin McGinn's interview for Jonathan Miller's film ATHEISM: A ROUGH HISTORY OF DISBELIEF


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