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Como se faz um Filósofo acompanha o percurso de Colin McGinn filho e neto de mineiros originário de Blackpool; na infância o melhor ue poderia aspirar seria a uma carreira na construção civil ou como baterista num grupo de rock Porém durante a adolescência descobre Descartes e apaixona se pela Filosofia Sendo o primeiro da sua família a ingressar na universidade a escolha da Filosofia não era a mais óbvia ou a mais bem aceite e assim começa pela Psicologia Posteriormente decide se em definitivo por auela tendo de enfrentar a perplexidade dos pais e da família O ue faz um filósofo? Como vive? De ue se sustenta?Desde a infância em Inglaterra até à partida para a América McGinn guia nos de forma apaixonante pelo ue foi a evolução do seu pensamento e a sua maturação como filósofo Apresenta uma perspectiva contemporânea das grandes figuras da Filosofia do século XX incluindo Bertrand Russell Jean Paul Sartre Noam Chomsky entre outros conta as histórias dos professores ue o marcaram as suas aventuras com os jogos de vídeo o seu gosto pelo mar os seus breves encontros com Jennifer Anniston ou Spielberg sempre numa prosa elegante clara e acutilanteDos estudantes de Filosofia ao leitor comum todos se deixarão prender pela vivacidade das páginas escritas por McGinn“Escrito de forma brilhante profundamente honesto freuentemente divertido este livro revela a história pessoal de McGinn tão fascinante uanto a sua carreira do filósofo”Oliver Sacks


10 thoughts on “The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy

  1. says:

    You know any mate of Jonathan Miller’s is a mate of mine And it is worse than that the cover of this book has uotes with the highest praise from both Oliver Sacks and Stephen Pinker This bastard knows people I can only dream of knowing Worse they are even prepared to say incredibly nice things about him I’ve no idea if I should love him or hate himI couldn’t have come to a book with higher expectations Miller interviews McGinn in his utterly masterful The Atheist Tapes and A Brief History of Disbelief There are few people I would be prepared to prostrate myself before – but Miller is one of them I mean not only would this guy be one of my heroes just for his religious beliefs or lack there of but he directs plays of Shakespeare operas does documentaries on the human body and was one of the original members of Beyond the Fringe as someone once said “once you’re finished with your life do you mind if I have a go?”And McGinn was one of the highlights of Miller’s Atheism documentaries Their conversations were really remarkably interesting You know you are waiting for it – you want me to say this book is crap Well it sort of was but not totally I think it was a book that didn’t uite know what it wanted to be I would have said it was a complete waste of publication if it wasn’t for the last 50 or so pagesThis is a book that is trying to be an autobiography and a kind of introduction to the problems that have fascinated a particular philosopher Look I’ve an undergraduate degree in Philosophy so I’m going to find this sort of thing interesting even if other people would find it as dull as dish water but even I had troubles There was a time when I thought I would uite like to become a philosopher – admittedly before I first read Plato’s Gorgias and began to uestion the entire philosophical project – despite this being the opposite of the message of the Plato’s dialogue If only Plato had answered Callicles’s concerns as well as he had stated themI would have liked either detail on McGinn’s life or detail on his philosophy The whole thing left me oddly unsatisfied I think this is because I can say so little about either his life or his philosophy I know this doesn’t make much sense but all the same I came away really uite liking him as a person but so be itYou know I can’t even tell you if McGinn is straight or gay Now what sort of autobiography leaves that an open uestion? A pretty hopeless one I would have to sayI was very nearly going to give up on this book but towards the end there is a wonderful bit where he talks about his fight with Daniel Dennett of Consciousness Explained fame and I was totally fascinated But he doesn’t explain enough of the philosophy to let me understand or for this whole part to be really as interesting as it ought to be I know I’m not begin clear so let me explainMcGinn claims in this book that he has had a very original insight into the nature of the mind body problem and that that insight has upset a lot of philosophers The mind body problem comes from Descartes remember at high school you had to draw graphs on X and Y planes? Well they are called Cartesian planes and were named after my mate Descartes Descartes is famous for saying – I think therefore I am I don’t want to get too side tracked as I need to talk about Kant in a minute too but saying this most famous of uotes also contains his major ‘contribution’ to Western Philosophy – the mind body split Descartes held that what is mind is not body and what is body is not mind I think it is pretty close to Philosophy’s greatest mistake Oh if only there was space to explain and there could be an end to dualismKant is the first modern philosopher this is as close to a heresy as I’m capable of uttering as by saying this I have to ignore my dear incomparable Hume but Kant is a modern philosopher in a very odd sense – one who was trying to resurrect Aristotle rather him than JC although given Kant’s religious allegiances perhaps both Anyway Kant was fascinated with one uestion in particular Up until him philosophy was in a bit of a uandary – there were two sides Empiricism everything that comes into our minds is first in our senses and Rationalism oh I don’t know with our thoughts we make the world??? Anyway Kant wanted to end this increasingly pointless split in philosophy And he did so by asking if our brains were actually up to the task of understanding the world – thereby or less creating dualismHis greatest work is called A Critiue of Pure Reason – and it seeks to find out if the human brain is up to the task of understanding the world His answer is that we simply can’t understand the world as it is in itself This is referred to as the unknowability of the thing in itself We understand the world as ‘humans’ but we can’t understand the world as it really really is This is seen by many people as Kant’s major contribution to Philosophy It is the birth place of much of modern philosophy I would be unkind enough to say that Nietzsche Wittgenstein the whole of Existentialism and even James Dewey and the Instrumentalists can’t be understood at all without understanding Kant on this point You know that doesn’t leave a lot of modern philosophy I’m trying to stress that this is a pretty important pointI would go so far as to say that Hegel’s critiue of this point missed the point of how important it would later be Hegel thought he killed off 'the unknowability of the thing in itself' in his introduction to his Science of Logic – but that was not to beSo when McGinn says his greatest contribution to modern philosophy is that he uestioned whether our brains are up to the task of ever understanding the world – well you know Kant had already ‘settled’ that uestion three hundred years agoI can only assume that I’ve not understood what McGinn is saying here Look I’m pretty thick – I know I come across as a pretty articulate kind of guy – but really most of it is bluff I know I really know nothing about these things and that it is easy to know infinitely than I do – but it really annoys me when I’m trying to follow something and then someone claims something that is much than I know they ought toThis sounds like I disliked this book much than I did I actually really liked McGinn after reading this I thought he was really a nice sort of person and I thought his interaction with Anthony Hopkins was inspired – but he has left me wanting I guess I’ll need to read one of his ‘real’ books now


  2. says:

    An interesting intellectual journey with Colin McGinn as he recounts his love and pursuit of all things philosophical I learned some of the fundamentals of modern philosophical thought along the way; and found out that Daniel C Dennett and Colin McGinn differ greatly in their assessment of the conscious mind McGinn believes that the secret behind how the mind and body work together will forever remain a mystery Dennett believes in our ability to solve life’s great mysteries The book is a uick read as it follows McGinn’s teaching career and the various papers and books he wrote along the way


  3. says:

    My commencement into the world of philosophy came by way of a book my brother once gave to me leftover from one of his college freshman courses A book by the philosopher James Rachels The Elements of Moral PhilosophyRachels was an American philosopher who specialized in ethics and animal rights and who’s arguments persuaded me for a time at least to even adopt vegetarianism for myselfAs I pondered the uestions Rachels asked of his readers I became alive I believe intellectually for the first time I was absolutely on fire with philosophy from that point on And I’ve read innumerable books dedicated to the subject since then But I will always remember and cherish Rachels book as one of the first and certainly among the few books that has made a lifelong impactI first became aware of Colin Mcginn however back around 2004 when he was featured on the BBC documentary series The Atheism Tapes with Jonathan Miller Actually that’s also how I have been introduced to a number of great thinkers through one documentary series or anotherIn The Making of a Philosopher Mcginn touches upon some of the major strands of what is I have heard referred to rather crudely as analytical philosophy be it language the meaning of meaning the mind the body where one starts and the other finishes the Subject the Object Phenomena the Thing in Itself primary and secondary properties mathematics and logic ethical judgments and all that senselessness Which makes this is a good read for the non specialist interested in why a philosopher might want to become a philosopher and spend their years pondering why there is something rather than nothingAs McGinn makes it clear up front this autobiography focuses on his intellectual life rather than his personal life And as someone who once considered a career in academic philosophy themselves I found this book to offer a fascinating insider's perspective even if it mainly represents the perspective of one man McGinn also has an enviable ability to summarize and explain even the most obtuse of ideas Saul Kripke and Donald Davidson's work certainly falls under that category making the book fascinating as well as interesting But I did find Mcginn’s tone to be a little off putting at times; the isn't it amazing and me just an ordinary sort of chap inflections ad nauseam strike the ear as a bit self satisfied and pompous But you shouldn’t mistake my meaning here as Wittgenstein himself said language can be tricky especially when it comes to matters of tone and idiom I did very much enjoy McGinn's book But with that said and as my own working class Grandmother might have said he does come across as a bit full of himselfThe only other problem I had with the book and it’s one other reviewers have had as well is Mcginn’s strict avoidance of any personal information So much of our thinking is influenced by our emotional life and so I think details about Mcginn’s personal life would have added a much needed and important dimension But I respect his decision to devote the book exclusively to his evolution as a philosopher insteadWhat I did find most striking about the book was Mcginn’s conclusion fully discussed in some of his other books that the human mind is not euipped to understand the fundamental issues of philosophy such as the mind body problem the determinism free will riddle and the nature of consciousness As he puts it “in my bones I felt that there was some deep seated obstacle in our intellectual makeup that prevents us from discovering the missing clueWe are suffering from what I called “cognitive closure” with respect to the mind body problem Just as a dog cannot be expected to solve the problems about space and time and the speed of light that it took a brain like Einstein’s to solve so maybe the human species cannot be expected to understand how the universe contains mind and matter in combination Isn’t it really a preposterous overconfidence on our part to think that our species—so recent so contingent so limited in many ways—can nevertheless unlock every secret of the natural world?”Essentially what Mcginn is saying is that there are really two sorts of uestions problems and mysteries Problems are those uestions it is within our capacity to answer whereas a mystery is a uestion that falls outside our cognitive space The problem with McGinn’s theory what’s been labeled mysterianism or new mysterianism is that one can never know when it applies “If there are things we are constitutionally incapable of understanding” writes Daniel Dennett “then where to draw the line will clearly be one of them as this would seem to reuire our being able to stand on both sides of the problem A paradox would be involved where we would know enough about the issue to say that we can never comprehend it” Interestingly however the philosopher Thomas Nagel also reached a similar conclusion to Mcginn’s in a 2012 book which stated that there is in fact something very obviously missing in our understanding of our own evolutionThe term “mysterianism” is also actually incredibly misleading discussing inherent limits of the human mind is a legitimate and indeed much needed concern and I think Mcginn and others like him add an important dimension to the emerging study of “ignorance” and pose serious uestion marks to the “Singularity” expectations put forward by Kurzweil of humanity constructing a super intelligent AIMost philosophers today however can no longer genuinely tell us anything really meaningful about the world any And even though philosophy may very well be as Hegel once said “utterly useless and fruitless” It is for this very reason the sublimest of all pursuits the most deserving of our attention and the most worthy of our zeal A somewhat Coleridegy assertion to be sure with a rivulet of deep meaning in a meadow of words But nevertheless uit astute


  4. says:

    I raced through this fascinating introduction to philosophy written in the form of an intellectual biography of sorts McGinn has an enviable ability to summarise and explain even the most obtuse of ideas and Saul Kripke and Donald Davidson's work certainly comes under that category making it fascinating and interesting I also loved the little anecdotes and bits of self reflection


  5. says:

    McGinn a philosopher at Rutgers explains what it's like to be a philosopher and how one ends up becoming a philosopher instead of say an accountant Along the way we find out a thing or two about the philosophical enterprise itselfThe author is actually an Englishman who starts at Oxford A dull teen from a working class family he holds out little academic promise Then one day something seizes him – in the form of a uestion – and off he goes into the world of the mind Before you know it he has made it into Britain’s most prestigious philosophy department The book is a biography of that journeyMcGinn pursues analytic philosophy so he writes about subjects that a philosopher of the mind might want to investigate Interestingly we hear not just his description of topics like intentionality sense and reference and idealism versus realism; we find out what philosophers themselves are trying to do with these concepts right now The author does an especially good job explaining Sartre’s fascinating philosophy of consciousness in a way ordinary readers can understandBut with so many topics to cover the discussion is often shallow He mentions the “brains in a vat” thought experiment and he’s delighted by The Matrix Hmmm I was put out by it the reason being that it sells audiences the impression that they’ve become party to a hugely significant and esoteric philosophical discovery So McGinn while describing BIV for us offers no resolution to it; it just hangs there He handles too many of the uestions he takes up the same way outlining a controversy and then walking away from it A general reader needs much guidance than that on philosophy For a book aimed at a general readership this is a weaknessLater on we learn about some of the current trends One is philosophy’s interest in cognitive science the point of view that treats the brain like a computer I found this discussion lacking because it's too trendy Why for example don’t we instead start thinking about computers along the lines of the way the brain works? That’s likely the new new thing anyhowAnd in ethics McGinn wonders why philosophy has contributed so little to the actual moral development of the world despite having the best thinking on the subject My take on it? Like brains in a vat philosophers and the public see the same thing from a vastly different perspective It's this difference in perspective that philosophers including McGinn can't account for After all they're philosophers not members of the public and their perspective greatly constrains the ability to apply philosophy to real problems McGinn is content to throw uestions out there for the sake of the uestion like many philosophers As a result he cannot actually apply say a principle of ethics to a real world situationAlong with ethics the author concludes with a discussion of metaphilosophy and aesthetics This was a much enjoyable part of the book Did you know for example that most readers may have completely misconstrued the moral in Nabakov’s Lolita? What an idea – and now I seriously have to read the book This book is a resource for people looking for new authors and new lines of thought to pursue At its best The Making of a Philosopher is a tour guide into the subject that suggests a number of paths to pursue further that points us toward other books The book reads easily and no great depth of previous training in philosophy is reuired to understand it All in all I liked it and recommend it to general readers of the subject


  6. says:

    I read this book because I am taking a Moral Philosophy course this fall and I have never been exposed to much philosophy fist hand before It was really enjoyable aside from personal tangents the author tended to go of on because it is a personal story that offers a lot of insight into fundamental philosophical concepts It follows one man's experiences through childhood to the present as he uestions the world and eventually comes to learn that perhaps we may never know the answers to all of our uestions and maybe that's OK


  7. says:

    I really wanted to give this a 35 I found aspects of it dry but when he really got talking about his philosophy and not his life I found myself uite fascinated I may venture to try one of his less memoir y books


  8. says:

    this book is pretty damn mind blowinga lot of these concepts i've encountered at one point or another but for some reason meeting them at this point in my life is much impacting


  9. says:

    35 stars maybe; with fiction I've been trying to withhold five star ratings saving them for the truly life altering affecting or momentous experiencesI'm a bit laxidasical with non fiction ratingsEven so three stars seems a bit harsh this book is a clever engaging read although the writing can get stiff at times Blame it on the dry subject of the 'linguistic turn' in philosophy But when McGinn turns to the nature of consciousness he really shinesI still feel I'm missing an insight just out of reach when it comes to McGinn's position much like his point about the limitations of what we can possibly know?From what little I've absorbed about the dualistfunctionalist debates I cannot accept anything other than our consciousnessmind being nothing but the brain neurons firing chemical reactions physics and I'm puzzled as to why people expect in that case to be able to then 'see' the mind in the brain as though it could be mechanically pictured as a bunch of gears whirring cams turning sensors and outputsSo too the idea that the mind is a type of extremely advanced computer just another laughable example of how technologicalmaterial contingency conditions thoughtAnyway I look forward to reading McGinn's The Mysterious Flame recently recommended by the Partially Examined Life dudes sitting on my to read shelf for about fifteen years now


  10. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this read and ended up buying another of McGinn's books on the back of it The philosophy parts are clearly and concisely explained and are well grounded in the writer's life experiences making it far accessible than a text book to lay people like meI loved McGinn's habit of uestioning everything and freuently upsetting others who he perceives as entrenched in their positions It made me believe that some grounding in philosophy would be useful for children in order to aid critical thoughtI agreed with him on the importance of literature when learning to see the world philosophically I didn't give the book a full five stars because as an autobiography we learned little about the man and as a book about philosophy we raced through some pretty massive concepts However as a way to whet one's appetite and encourage future delving andor an introduction that explains the relevance of philosophy to every aspect of our lives and every other subject we can or will study it was very good indeed