Colin McGinn - Secular Philosophy and Skepticism
Posted: 18 January 2008 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  174
Joined  2007-02-21

Colin McGinn, educated at Oxford University, is the author of sixteen previous books, including The Making of a Philosopher. He has written for the London Review of Books, The New Republic, the New York Times Book Review, and other publications. He has taught philosophy at University College of London, Oxford, and Rutgers University, and is a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Miami. He is best known for his work in the philosophy of mind, but has published across the subjects of modern philosophy. He was featured in Bill Moyers’ series Faith and Reason on PBS and also Jonathan Miller’s Atheism Tapes, a BBC documentary series.

In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Colin McGinn explores various kinds of skepticism, giving his concerns about radical fallibilism and certain post-modern critiques of knowledge. He explains how he is certain that ghosts and Gods don’t exist. He details how atheistic the profession of philosophy is, and how the tolerance shown while philosophers criticize each other serves as a model for good citizenship. He tells the reasons that led to his religious skepticism and atheism. He examines William Shakespeare as a philosopher, the problem of evil in Shakespeare’s plays, and other philosophical subjects found in Shakespeare such as epistemology, ethics, life after death, happiness and the meaning of life. He also explains how getting into Shakespeare as a professional philosopher impacted his philosophy.

Posted: 19 January 2008 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Sr. Member
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Joined  2007-09-21

Thank you so much DJ & Thomas.  This was a wonderful podcast and and Colin McGinn is an important voice that needs to be heard.

I appreciate Colin’s comments about philosophy being an excellent model for good citizenship.  I think that this notion should also be extended across the physical and social sciences, which all rely on such “civility” as part of their methods of they are to function successfully.

It was also quite a refreshing highlight to hear such a concise distinction made between respecting people and criticizing beliefs.  We ought not persecute or mistreat religious persons.  But we also mustn’t be misled, by the religious slight of hand, into believing that religious criticism is itself a form of intolerance.  It isn’t.  Religion should be criticized.  Religion must be criticized.

Posted: 19 January 2008 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Joined  2007-03-20

I have been a POI listener for over a year now.  Although you have had a lot of very interesting guests on the show lately,  I too thought Colin McGinn’s take on secularism was a very refreshing.
With the GOP caucus in the Carolinas.  A candidates position on same sex marrage and abortion is what makes him acceptable to run the country?

Mega Churchs full of people chanting “the bible is the word of god”

It is time to get active.  Yes “Religion must be criticized”

Posted: 19 January 2008 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Total Posts:  31
Joined  2007-04-29

This was a welcome addition. McGinn is a philosopher of note but speaks with a clarity that is often absent from philosophical discourse. As previously noted, I especially like his recognition that respect for believers need not translate into respect for the beliefs they hold dear.


George Ricker

“Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them.” Godless in America: conversations with an atheist

Posted: 21 January 2008 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Total Posts:  418
Joined  2007-07-19

I enjoyed this interview.  Colin McGinn was a refreshing new take on the importance of skepticism & secularism.  I may have to take another look at Shakespear.  If not to re-evaluate my personal evolution, then to find timeless universal concepts with which to model my memes. 

DJ, thanks for using the word “nincompoopery”.  I can’t get enough of that word.  :lol:

I especially enjoyed Colin’s take on the symbiotic role of pragmatism with skepticism early on in the interview.  That people generally don’t stay awake at night wondering if they are in the matrix because it just isn’t practical and that some people can get carried away with skepticism to the point that it is unhealthy.  It is import to find that balance between skepticism & practicality.

I wonder if Colin or others have done work on this with regard to religious outlooks.  For a majority of people it just isn’t practical to delve into philosophy and the in-depth language of reason to discern truth.  I think atheists and agnostics could make a broader appeal against the supernatural if their memes were designed with practical reasoning and not so much logical reasoning.


“It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.” ~ Carl Sagan

Posted: 22 January 2008 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Total Posts:  15755
Joined  2006-02-14

Very enjoyable discussion with Colin McGinn, thanks DJ. He’s one of the clearest and best philosophers out there, even if I disagree with his “new mysterianism” about the mind.




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