In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Fact Attack | Main | Weirdos and Culture »

April 29, 2005

Philosophers are People, Too

Fenster Moop writes:

Dear Blowhards,

Rutgers University has one of the top-ranked philosophy departments in the country--it's up there with Princeton as #1 or #2 in the estimation of some. So it came as a surprise that one of Rutgers' senior faculty members in the department announced he was leaving for the University of Miami, a school where the philosophy department is hardly top-ranked--probably not even in the top 40.

Surely the departing professor, Colin McGinn, had it in mind to devlelop the department's assets in the future under a long-term plan to bring national recognition to his new home. Not exactly.

According to McGinn, "I suppose the main factor is the weather. The weather has a particular significance because I like water sports. Miami is a year-round water sports place. You can be out on the water all the time. . . . [Miami] is definitely not as good as Rutgers is. But I have to weigh how much that matters to my daily life."

I find the honesty refreshing.



posted by Fenster at April 29, 2005


There's a top-ranked biologist at UO Eugene, which is maybe in the top 50, even with him aboard.

Can't remember the guy's name, don't want any lawsuits, but someone familiar with Eugene might suspect that the guy tended toward the Deadhead area of culture.

Posted by: John Emerson on April 29, 2005 5:36 PM

Not only was his honesty refreshing, it was so simple and clear. Not something I'd expect from a Philosophy prof, at least not publicly. Thanks for the tidbit.

Posted by: DarkoV on April 29, 2005 7:06 PM

That's also why they have such good football teams: the players (playas) are attracted to Miami's sunshine (and nightlife of course).

Posted by: jake on April 29, 2005 8:33 PM

Not only is his honesty refreshing, it suggests a philosophy I can respect: valuing not just just honesty, but good weather.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 29, 2005 11:47 PM

well, it's philosophy. not very important. and 99% of people won't be impressed by the name recognition of either institution. It's not like you can tell some babe you're hitting on that "oh yes, and the philosophy dept. at Rutgers is top notch". She has to know, or it's pointless. It's like - even though Harvard's CS dept is worse than UC Berkeley's, Harvard has across the board strength in other areas = more name recognition = much more impressive.

Leaving Princeton for Miami, on the other hand, would be a real hit in terms of public perception as well as professional perception. I doubt he would have done that.

Also, philosophy is useless anyway...and it's not like he needs facilities, or empirical evidence of any kind. He could sit in his room and crank out the same trash that philosophers have been putting out for centuries - "what is the mind, is it nature or nurture, blah blah blah"...while neuroscientists and geneticists actually get answers to these questions. A typically useless individual is someone like Jerry Fodor.

Posted by: academic on April 30, 2005 11:53 AM

Sounds to me like he arrived at a certain point in his life and realized that he just didn't care about the academic games anymore, and would rather teach a few classes to hot co-eds (I assuming that the co-eds at Miami are hotter than the ones at Rutgers - I mean, how could they not be?) and go waterskiing.

The only flaw I see in his philosophy is that both the weather and the surfing is better in Socal. He should have held out for UCSD.

Posted by: jimbo on April 30, 2005 2:40 PM

I remember Colin McGinn being the philosopher who was interviewed a couple years ago saying that, in practically these words, everyone who disagreed with him was stupid and almost every philosopher other than him was stupid. (citation?) Maybe he'll find it more comfortable as a big fish in a small pond.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned on April 30, 2005 5:05 PM

The Times [page 8]

January 13, 2004

'I have three main parts to my life: philosophy, surfing and rock 'n' roll
By Andrew Billen

Professor Colin McGinn has spent his career pondering the mystery of consciousness and other philosophical problems, but believes that the real meaning of life is to be found on the beach

[. . .]

“I won’t talk to my colleagues about philosophy. It is too boring to me,” [McGinn] says.

But why?

“They are too stupid.”

He can’t say that!

“No, they don’t get it. And I don’t want to have an hour’s conversation about it.”

But they have read the same texts?

“Oh, yes. This is where I get much more intolerant. I know exactly what they are going to say. They ought to know what I am going to say, but apparently they don’t.

“It is a fault. But I am not as bad as Bernard Williams. He apparently was horrible to people. He could not tolerate people being less clever than him. He was quicker than anybody else, and if they were not as quick as him, he would show his disdain for them.”

[. . .]

[found here:,,1-7-961052-7,00.html ]

Posted by: Dave Lull on April 30, 2005 8:22 PM

This is exactly the same thing that happens to our top schoolboy athletes in the state of Illinois. Instead of attending the University of Illinois and bringing glory to my alma mater, they migrate to Florida or Arizona so that they can play with girls in bikinis all year round.

We would have won the national championship in basketball if not for this. Check it out. The best players in the state of Illinois for the past five years have all gone to Arizona or Duke. Well, Duke is not in Florida, but at least they have hills.

Posted by: Stephen on May 1, 2005 8:16 AM

While it is nice to see a philosopher recognizing that good weather, while not THE Good is at least A Good, I begin to suspect that the good professor is more of an academic than a philosopher.

And the comment from our friend Academic leads me to believe that he has only encountered academic philosophy as practiced by folks like our Miami-bound professor. Summing up philosophy by saying "what is the mind, is it nature or nurture, blah blah blah" is to reduce philosophy to a second-rate science.

How odd, and interesting, I suppose, that a professor of philosophy should demonstrate his own lack of moral philosophy through his arrogant treatment of colleagues--there is, of course, no good argument for arrogance, and lots against--and that a critic of the professor should show a similar arrogance.

Posted by: Bryan on May 1, 2005 10:34 AM

This is fabulous. Good to know all academics (especially the deep thinkers) aren't made pompous elitists.

Posted by: Neha on May 2, 2005 11:07 AM

Philosophers are people, too? How do we know this?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on May 2, 2005 11:29 AM

hola como estas ha te manda tu fanm si enpre te a viesto y si muere por verte

Posted by: tavieso on May 2, 2005 2:47 PM

I sincerely doubt the Prof in question is going to have much luck with "hot babes." Or babes of any kind, since anyone who actually pays attention to him should probably be automatically considered "hot" by him.

Sorry to the U of I fan, but I don't think Illinois is losing basketball players to Duke for the hilly scenery. Maybe for the COACH...

"The girls must be hotter in Miami than at Rutgers---how could they not be?" Ah, but remember, so are the boys...Think this over the hill prof is going to have girls on the beach doing a lot of gazing and sighing? With all the teenage football studs around? Think again!

Posted by: annette on May 2, 2005 6:12 PM

Probably shouldn't say this, but...McGinn is rather, how shall I put it, off to the side at Rutgers and not that popular there, so it's not surprising that he would try to find a place where he could be the Big Cheese.

And a lot of Rutgers profs live in NY City, which has plenty of amenities, although not the surfing kind.

Posted by: anonymous on May 3, 2005 3:29 PM

Annette -

C'mon, you're telling me that there are no hot girls out there with daddy issues who are waiting to get swept up in crushes on know-it-all professors? Sure, maybe not a lot, but in a big school like Miami you play a percentage game...

Posted by: jimbo on May 4, 2005 10:35 AM

do you think Colin McGinn is related to Colin Quinn?

Posted by: doureallythinkanyonecares on May 28, 2005 12:09 AM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?