The Making of a Philosopher follows Colin McGinn from his early years in England reading Descartes and Anselm, to his years in the states, first in Los Angeles, then New York. McGinn presents a contemporary academic take on the great philosophical figures of the twentieth century, including Bertrand Russell, Jean–Paul Sartre, and Noam Chomsky, alongside stories of the teachers who informed his ideas and often became friends and mentors, especially the colorful A.J. Ayer at Oxford.
McGinn's prose is always elegant and probing; students of contemporary philosophy and the general reader alike will absorb every page.
Colin McGinn was educated at Oxford University. 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.
The guiding thread of this book is the distinction Colin McGinn draws between perception and imagination. Clearly, seeing an object is similar in certain respects to forming a mental image of it, but it is also different. McGinn shows what the differences are, arguing that imagination is a sui generis mental faculty. He goes on to discuss the nature of dreaming and madness, contending that these are primarily imaginative phenomena. In the second half of the book McGinn focuses on what he calls cognitive (as opposed to sensory) imagination, and investigates the role of imagination in logical reasoning, belief formation, the understanding of negation and possibility, and the comprehension of meaning. His overall claim is that imagination pervades our mental life, obeys its own distinctive principles, and merits much more attention.
“Schopenhauer’s philosophy has had a special attraction for those who wonder about life’s meaning, along with those engaged in music, literature, and the visual arts.” —Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Essential Schopenhauer delivers the first comprehensive English anthology of the seminal philosopher’s writings. Edited by Wolfgang Schirmacher, president of the International Schopenhauer Association, this indispensible collection affords readers a uniquely accessible gateway into the monolithic thinker’s prodigious body of work. Just as the Harper Perennial Basic Writings series renders the work of Heidegger and Nietzsche accessible for English readers, The Essential Schopenhauer gives us unprecedented access to the complex ideas of this profound and influential thinker.
In his brilliant commentary, McGinn explores Shakespeare's philosophy of life and illustrates how he was influenced, for example, by the essays of Montaigne that were translated into English while Shakespeare was writing. In addition to chapters on the great plays, there are also essays on Shakespeare and gender and his plays from the aspects of psychology, ethics, and tragedy.
As McGinn says about Shakespeare, "There is not a sentimental bone in his body. He has the curiosity of a scientist, the judgement of a philosopher, and the soul of a poet." McGinn relates the ideas in the plays to the later philosophers such as David Hume and the modern commentaries of critics such as Harold Bloom. The book is an exhilarating reading experience, especially at a time when a new audience has opened up for the greatest writer in English.