The Making of a Philosopher
is an unusual book--and a welcome one. Well-known analytic philosopher Colin McGinn sets out, rather ambitiously, to write an introduction and explanation of philosophy. But instead of a dry volume bound for dusty shelves, McGinn has given us a book of philosophy, but it is philosophy as told through autobiography. By telling the story of his life--or, more precisely, his intellectual life--McGinn illuminates a number of the central topics in contemporary philosophy. He intentionally leaves out the portions of his life he deems irrelevant to his intellectual formation, but one can't help wondering how capably he can make this distinction about himself.
The book is enormously readable, or at least as readable as an introduction to analytic philosophy can hope to be. McGinn, who also writes fiction, has a gift for narrative, and the events in his life propel the reader along a clear, concise, and helpful overview of the main topics in today's philosophy departments. He is candid, occasionally self-deprecating, and funny, but above all, an able guide. Readers will discover not only the thoughts of Bertrand Russell, Saul Kripke, and Ludwig Wittgenstein but also a wonderfully honest examination of a philosopher's life worth living. --Eric de Place
From Publishers Weekly
"I had gone from underachieving jock-mod to pocket-sized intellectual in less than a year, and philosophy had to take a lot of the blame," writes Rutgers University philosophy professor Colin McGinn (The Mysterious Flame) in The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy. Hoping to explain contemporary analytical philosophy without having his book "remind the reader of school," McGinn, renowned for his work on consciousness, gives a personal account of his encounters with philosophy, including his discovery of Descartes as a teenager in Blackpool, the revelation of reading Chomsky as a psychology undergraduate and his preoccupation with Wittgenstein while teaching at UCLA. He also discusses the work of mentors and colleagues like Jerry Fodor and Thomas Nagel.