We substituted the ‘I do’ for the ‘I think’
June 16, 2021 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Scottish philosopher John Macmurray (1891-1976) argued that many of the failings of human life, both individual and collective, result from dualist thinking that separates mind and body, with the self centred in the former. He proposed a new model in which the self is understood monistically as an agent, and thought as the negative aspect of action. Macmurray presented his views in the Gifford Lectures. posted by No Robots (3 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
From the conclusion of “The Self as Agent”, part one of the Gifford Lectures:
The long argument of modern philosophy we said has moved steadily in the direction of an atheistic conclusion; and with it the historical development of our civilization has moved towards irreligion. At the same time this has precipitated a revolutionary crisis in society and made a break in the philosophical tradition which compels us to start afresh from a revision of its fundamental assumption, the primacy of the theoretical. We have substituted the ‘I do’ for the ‘I think’ and made a first tentative effort to follow out the implications of this radical modification. Very much remains obscure; but there is one result which is sufficiently clear. The argument which starts from the primacy of the practical moves steadily in the direction of a belief in God. To think the world in practical terms is ultimately to think the unity of the world as one action and therefore as informed by a unifying intention. It may indeed prove possible to think the process of the world as intentional without thinking a supreme Agent whose act the world is. But prima facie at least it is not possible to do so. The conflict between religion and atheism turns in large part at least on the issue whether the process of the world is intentional or not. We noticed in our first chapter that contemporary existentialism in its division into theist and atheist wings poses the substantial problem of philosophy in our day in the alternatives ‘God or Nothing’. We may now add to this as a pointer to the direction of a verification that the theistic alternative issues in the hope of an ultimate unity of persons in fellowship which gives meaning to human effort; while atheist existentialism finds human relationship an insoluble problem and all human projects doomed to frustration and ultimate meaninglessness. As Sartre says in Huis clos,L'enfer, c'est les autres’.
posted by No Robots at 2:39 PM on June 16

Thank you for this. I had never heard of him before, but his writing looks super interesting. From his Wikipedia entry, this quote struck me as immensely compelling:

"The simplest expression that I can find for the thesis I have tried to maintain is this: All meaningful knowledge is for the sake of action, and all meaningful action for the sake of friendship"

That’s good
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 5:23 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]

The real justified true beliefs were the friends we made along the way.
posted by thelonius at 1:59 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]

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