John Macmurray as a Scottish Philosopher: The Role of the University and the Means to Live Well

In Gordon Graham (ed.), Scottish Philosophy in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 270-302 (2015)
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John Macmurray (1891-1976) was born in Scotland and began his philosophical education in a Scottish university. As an academic philosopher, following in the footsteps of Caird’s Scottish idealism - a reaction against the debate between Hume’s scepticism and Reid’s ‘commonsense’ – Macmurray holds that a university education in moral philosophy is essential for producing virtuous citizens. Consequently, Macmurray’s philosophy of human nature includes a ‘thick’ description of the person, which is more holistic that Cartesianism and emphasizes the relation of persons. Hence, Macmurray focuses on community, but, as this chapter reveals, he is not a communitarian in the contemporary sense; rather, he shares Caird’s focus on philosophy as the means to living well. Thus, he opposes increasing specialization in university education and highlights the limits of science, which, Davie notes, is representative of the Scottish metaphysic of Macmurray’s era. Macmuray is the last in this line of the Scottish philosophical tradition.

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