Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Seminar 2017

Macmurray’s vision for universal community

“Why do we simply watch our social system going to pieces before our eyes? … Because we are afraid, afraid of one another, afraid of ourselves, afraid of the consequences of any decisive action. … Our dilemma lies in the fact that the more we try to defend ourselves the more we destroy ourselves by isolating our selves more and more from one another. … There is only one way in which we can escape from the dilemma, and that is by destroying the fear that is at the root of it.” (from ‘A Faith For The Modern World’ from ‘The Modern Dilemma’, broadcast by the BBC January 1932, published in ‘Freedom In The Modern World’, 1932)

“No civilisation has ever been created or sustained except by a religion. Our own was created and sustained by the Christian religion. Because it was a limited and dogmatic form of Christianity, its strength is gone out of it and our civilisation is crumbling in war and revolution. A new civilisation has to be created—a world civilisation. The people of the world have to be united in one human fellowship. It cannot be done by political pacts or business contrivances. It cannot be done by science; because it is a religious task; and only religion, in the nature of things, can accomplish it.” (from ‘Search For A Faith’, ‘Retrospect and Prospect’, broadcast by the BBC 17th May 1945, a few days after the end of the Second World War in Europe)

Cost: £15 (£7.50 for unwaged).

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Seminar 2016

Macmurray, Fear and Reciprocity

Why are so many philosophers – even personalists – afraid of reciprocity?

How did Macmurray steer a path between individualism and collectivism, allowing for mutuality and friendship and openness?

Does Macmurray’s view of power and professional responsibility still allow for mutual care in unequal relationships?

What is the political role of Macmurray’s concern to overcome fear and build up reciprocity?

all personal consciousness is problematic; so that the consciousness of the common life is ipso facto a consciousness that it may or may not be realized in action. It is the consciousness that hostility may take the place of fellowship, and the unity be broken. This will happen if personal relations become negatively motived, if fear of the others replaces love for the others. Thus the problem of community is the problem of overcoming fear and subordinating the negative to the positive in the motivation of persons in relation. ‘Persons In Relation’, 1961 p161

we need other people to achieve individuality. For others to play this role for me, they have to be available to me in an unmediated way, not via a representation that is tailored to my psychic comfort. And conversely, I would have to make myself available to them in a way that puts myself at risk, not shying from a confrontation between evaluative outlooks. For it is through such confrontations that we are pulled out of our own heads and force to justify ourselves. Matthew Crawford ‘The World Beyond Your Head’ 2015 p180

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Cost: £30 (£14 for unwaged) includes: refreshments, lunch and conference pack.

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Seminar 2015

Condition of Equality

John Macmurray on Equality, Freedom and Common Humanity

To assert human equality is not to say that two or more people are equivalent for this purpose or for that, in one respect or in another. It is not to say that they are equally clever, or equally strong, or equally good. Personal equality does not ignore the natural differences between individuals, nor their functional differences of capacity. It overrides them. It means that any two human beings, whatever their individual differences, can recognize and treat one another as equal, and so be friends. The alternative is a relation between an inferior and a superior; and such a relation excludes friendship. It is a relation of master and servant. ‘Conditions of Freedom’, 1949

Pupils and Teachers Question and Answer session

Question 1 – 5.45m
Listen to Question 1 on is humanity innate or learned
At the beginning of your lecture you said that students have the right to be considered as humans by the teacher which implies that humanity is innate and not learned which conflicts with your later gloss where you said that the greatest topic of education is to set up a relationship whereby it could be learned. Do you think that humanity is innate or is it something we learn?

“Both, why not? ……. the nature of being human, of being a person, is not like qualities like being yellow or red or hard or soft, it is not that kind of thing at all, it is the capacity to learn. Don’t be tricked by language into thinking that because we can say we are human from birth that we have not got to learn to be human, since learning is the major part of human life, of being human.”

Question 2 – 5.45; 3.15m
Listen to Question 2 on Techniques
I am interested in your view on the importance of technique. You make a statement about freedom something like “there can be no technique for attaining freedom”, and even implied that there can be no technique for educating a child. Now are you saying that techniques are completely unimportant, or are you saying that we must pay far more attention to the spirit or the atmosphere in which techniques are applied?

“I am saying the second of these… you have got to be very careful of your techniques that they don’t, as it were, take the place of teaching; that you think you can turn the handle and get the product that you want… have you fallen into the trap of teaching your subject instead of teaching your pupils?”

Question 3 – 9.00; 6.22m (3a 12.00)
Listen to Question 3 on objectivity
Can the teacher really know what he is supposed to be doing without an objective appreciation of social difficulties in the pupils?

“No … this objective attitude must fall within the [personal]… [the teacher] is a human being whose job is to care for another human being. … he must never in [being objective] forget that he is dealing, as one human being, with another human being who needs his help. … even in the extreme case, where you cannot treat the human being just in the natural personal way for one reason or another, yet you must never forget that your job in that case is to restore the situation to normal and anything that you do must have that as it’s end.”

3a (2.53 minutes)

Are you not maligning the scientific attitude when you say that the scientific attitude makes him more particularly liable [not to be personal]?

“I am not libelling the scientist at all. I am not saying that the scientist ought not to be doing this. Objectivity is essential to science, and that is therefore the right attitude for a scientist…. What you want when talking about science is to understand science – what it is doing, and the means that it must employ and the attitudes that it must develop, in order to do the scientific job. But in that you must not make the entirely gratuitous assumption that therefore a scientist has a human right to do anything that will advance his science whatever happens to the victims in the process.”

“Techniques are all very well for technical purposes, but education is not a technical job because it is part of life and living a human life is not a technical job – there is no technique for it. The only ‘technique’ that you can have is to be yourself with other people.”

Question 4 – 15.30; 3.45m
Listen to Question 4 on exams
Can you see that the teacher can reconcile these two aims which appear in some way contradictory: of making his pupils more human while cramming them with enough facts to pass examinations?

“It is bad education, isn’t it, to cram anybody with facts? …. People who know what education is should be out on the streets telling the politicians what education is there for… You have got to teach children, not a lot of facts, but how to deal with facts, and where to get the facts that they need for the job in hand.”

Question 5 – 19.16; 5.45m
Listen to Question 5 on moral education
Do you distinguish between the moral training in teaching and the personal element in the relationship?

“Of course, the real trouble is that a lot of morality is humbug anyway and is not in fact a real attempt to understand what living a truly human life is – it is a lot of wise-cracks handed down from log ago.”

Question 6 – 25.05; 6.45m
Listen to Question 6 on equality of relationships
You said at the beginning of your lecture that human relationships are characterised by equality and freedom, and that the relationship between a teacher and his pupils was such a human relationship. During the last few days we have been having a closer look at schools and I have been reminded of an incident in The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence, where he describes how Ursula has great aspirations of being one of the greatest teachers of all times.

She describes how she goes to school hoping to attract the pupils interests and attention by offering them some form of human relationship, but in the end her hopes are dashed because she finds that nearly everyone in the class is incapable of responding or reciprocating this relationship.

Would you say then that the relationship between a teacher and his pupils is the same sort of human relationship as those between adults, and if not, how does it differ?

Question 7 – 31.48; 1.45m
Listen to Question 7 on theory
(The use of educational theory.)

“You are to be the teachers, and in the long run your success as a teacher depends on you being the kind of person you are, rather than on things you have learned out of books, though the books may help quite a lot.”

Question 8 – 34.15; 5.15m
Listen to Question 8 on education for success
What you said about human relationships it seems to me very important because of unifying certain terms, terms like equality and entering into inter relations between people. But when the children go out into the world what they are going to find is the dominant moral ideas are those of acquisitiveness and competitiveness, which is a different sort of morality, this is the morality of the moment.

“[acquisitiveness and competitiveness ] is not a morality at all, it is just greed really, if you reduce [acquisitiveness and competitiveness ] to moral terms.

Why shouldn’t we – greed is a moral concept and it is the dominant moral concept, it is a good one because it is going to fit people for getting on best in the world.

“I don’t think that is compatible with education. I don’t think teachers should worship what D.H Lawrence calls “The bitch goddess success”. We are not trying to make people successful – that is not your job as teachers – not even successful in examinations – that does not matter. How people get on in life – the kind of life that we live as individuals has nothing to do with success or failure within very wide limits”

This is what I would like to teach them too, this is how I feel myself. They are going to be unhappy and inferior. As things stand they are going to feel bad if they don’t compete on the world’s terms.

Question 9 – 39.32; 5.29m
Listen to Question 9 on perfection
the properly educated man in that once you have all the people so well educated that they understand everyone else, with a comprehension they are perfectly adapted…….. no more frustrations, no more unnatural urges, no more need to be ambitious, there is no more competition, you get perfection, a kind of paradise and then a …. society

Question 10 – 45.15; 3.14m
Listen to Question 10 on balancing priorities
When you talked a moment ago about this idea of balance can I understand that you mean here some harmonic principle by which we on the whole we can achieve this freedom of which you speak?

“No I don’t think I was thinking metaphysically at all but quite simply organising priorities.”

“Success should happen, if it happens, as an offshoot of something that arises out of doing a job properly – if it comes, good – good luck, if it doesn’t come, you haven’t lost much – you’ve got your friends.”

If we organise priorities this way does this not seem to imply that we must recognise some principle underlying this.

“One doesn’t live by principles, and I don’t think that one ought to try. One lives with one’s whole self and the effort to turn oneself into a pure intellect is disastrous because it has the effect that you can’t do anything that is purely intellectual anyway.”

Abstracts from the Oxford Review of Education Special issue: Learning to be human: the educational legacy of John Macmurray

Oxford Review of Education

Volume 38, Issue 6, December 2012

Special issue: Learning to be human: the educational legacy of John Macmurray

The Oxford Review of Education is one of the UK’s leading international education journals. It aims to publish important new work in a form that is accessible to a broad educational readership and is committed to deploying the resources of a wide range of academic disciplines in the service of educational scholarship.


Education as if people matter: John Macmurray, community and the struggle for democracy
Michael Fielding
Institute of Education, University of London, UK

The educational writings of John Macmurray, one of the finest philosophers of his generation, have a special relevance for us today. In similar circumstances of international crisis he argues for the central importance of education addressing fundamental issues of human purpose—how we lead good lives together, the emphasis on wisdom rather than knowledge alone, the advancement of a truly democratic culture, and the overriding importance of community in human flourishing. A pioneering advocate of education of the emotions, he champions the development of imagination, spontaneity and authenticity as key to educating ‘the capacity for change itself’. For Macmurray, educators must place relationships and care at the heart of all they do. Overemphasis on technique and its typical separation from wider human purposes is emblematic of much of our contemporary malaise. An inclusive, caring community is the precondition of our human being and becoming. The paper concludes by taking some of Macmurray’s key philosophical insights and developing a framework which enables us to make judgments about whether or not contemporary approaches to education support or diminish our lives as creative, caring human beings within a context of social justice and democratic human fellowship.

John Macmurray’s Learning to Live and the new media, 1931–1949: learning for labour or leisure?
Peter Cunningham
Homerton College, Cambridge, UK

John Macmurray was a public intellectual and an early proponent of popular education through the new medium of radio. National broadcasting of the time was finding its role in the competing cultures of education and entertainment, and significantly one of Macmurray’s first radio projects in 1931–1932 concerned the issue of ‘Learning to Live’. Here he explored the tension between learning for labour and learning for leisure. Public understanding of education over the following two decades was fostered through the media of print and cinema. Three examples are identified here to explore how this ‘conceptual couple’ of ‘learning’ and ‘life’ were treated: a propaganda film (1941) that adopted Macmurray’s title, Learning to live; School and life, an official report published in 1947; and a commercial documentary production in 1949 entitled Education for living. Macmurray conveyed his ‘applied philosophy’ through public broadcasting even before his major academic publications and his use of radio itself demonstrated its potential for learning as leisure activity for a mass audience. As in radio, so in documentary film, and even in official reports new understandings of education had to be accessible and attractive. Appraisal of Macmurray’s work must include an historical examination of new media in the development of educational discourse.

Personal, relational and beautiful: education, technologies and John Macmurray’s philosophy
Keri Facer
University of Bristol, UK

Fifty years ago, the philosopher John Macmurray responded to calls for education to redesign itself around the exigencies of international competition with a robust rebuttal of such instrumentalism. He argued instead that the purpose of education was ‘learning to be human’. This paper explores how Macmurray’s ideas might be applied to contemporary use of technology in education. In so doing, it argues that the use of technologies in education should be guided by the aspiration to create socio-technical practices that are personal (located with the person), relational (a resource for friendship and collaboration) and beautiful (designed to promote reflection and contemplation).

The personal world of schooling: John Macmurray and schools as households
Julian Stern
York St John University, UK

Macmurray’s distinction between communities, which are positive and personal, and societies, which are negative and impersonal, along with his insistence that schools are necessarily communities, like families and friendship groups, provides the basis for his claim that we may act as though we were teaching arithmetic or history, but in fact we are teaching people. Macmurray’s philosophy can be used to reconceive schools as, or as like, households. Schools have an admixture of intimacy (supervised eating and toileting, for example) and professional standards and accountability, making them neither ‘public’ nor ‘private’. The people in schools—staff and students—are and should be treated as close and friendly, whilst schools are also open to the society and communities beyond the schools. Support for seeing schools as households is provided by recent empirical research on intergenerational ‘closeness’—underpinning a non-sexualised version of friendship, as described by Macmurray. Theorising schools as communities like households, this paper indicates some of the implications of Macmurray’s work for contemporary education policy and practice.

Putting persons back into education
Richard Pring
University of Oxford, UK

Both the language of performance management and the target-setting culture of our schools lead to a ‘depersonalisation’ of education—a failure to respect young learners as persons. They become a ‘means’ to some further non-educational ‘end’. John Macmurray challenged this depersonalisation in terms not only of its impoverished educational consequences but also of a fundamental philosophical error in giving primacy to persons as ‘thinkers’ rather than to them as ‘doers’. Not ‘I think, therefore I am’, but ‘I do, therefore I am’.

Love and teaching: renewing a common world
Raimond Gaita
University of Melbourne, Australia

This paper reflects on John Macmurray’s notions of human relations and of persons in relation to their community. It examines the idea that there cannot be other ways of seeking lucidity about what it means to live a human life than by entering into human relations. Learning about value and about what it can mean to live the life of the mind is inseparable from seeing such value and being moved by seeing it in the lives in which it is realised.

The caring relation in teaching
Nel Noddings
Stanford University, USA

According to John Macmurray, ‘teaching is one of the foremost of personal relations’. This paper describes that relation in some detail from the perspective of care ethics. This involves a discussion of the central elements in establishing and maintaining relations of care and trust which include listening, dialogue, critical thinking, reflective response, and making thoughtful connections among the disciplines and to life itself.

John Macmurray on Education

“Teachers and Pupils” was a lecture given by Macmurray to Professor John Pilley’s Diploma Class, at the University of Edinburgh, 1963. A recording was made of the lecture and the questions and answer session that followed.
Click on the links to listen:
Teachers and Pupils lecture (35.5 minutes)
Teachers and Pupils Question and Answer session full (49 minutes)
Click here for a review of the Question and Answer session with transcripts of the questions, separate recordings of each answer, and pertinent quotes from Macmurray’s answers.

The Oxford Review of Education Special issue: Learning to be human: the educational legacy of John Macmurray, Volume 38, Issue 6, December 2012 was edited by Micheal Fielding, Emeritus Professor of Education, Institute of Education University of London.
Click to read abstracts of the articles

Click to read Michael Fielding’s original manuscript for his article in the Review:
“Education as if people matter – John Macmurray, community and the struggle for democracy” With the kind permission of Michael Fielding and Taylor and Francis.

Conference 2013

Learning To Be Human

John Macmurray on Education

Here, I believe, is the greatest threat to education in our own society. We are becoming more and more technically minded: gradually we are falling victims to the illusion that all problems can be solved by proper organisation: that when we fail it is because we are doing the job in the wrong way, and that all that is needed is the ‘know-how’. To think thus in education is to pervert education. It is not an engineering job. It is personal and human.
‘Learning to be Human’, Moray House Education College public lecture, 1958

Click for notes and recordings

Saturday 5th October 2013

The Friends’ Meeting House
43 St Giles
Oxford OX1 3LW Click for directions

Main address:
‘John Macmurray and Schools as Households’
by Professor Julian Stern, Dean, Faculty of Education & Theology, York St John University.

Afternoon Session:
Three commentaries by members of the Fellowship on articles from the Special Issue of the Oxford Review of Education Vol. 38 Issue 6, ‘Learning to be human: the educational legacy of John Macmurray’

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Conference 2013 Programme

Learning To Be Human
John Macmurray on Education


10:30 Arrival and registration, with tea and coffee
11:00 Introduction to the day
11:05 Julian Stern ‘John Macmurray and Schools as Households”
12:00 Questions

1:00 Buffet LUNCH – hopefully in the garden

2:00 Announcements
2:05 Three commentaries on articles from the Oxford Review of Education Vol. 38 Issue 6 on John Macmurray by members of the Fellowship
2:45 Questions
3:15 Plenary Session

4:00 Tea
Disperse by 5:00


Conference 2012

What it Means to be a Person

The Religious Philosophy of John Macmurray

Macmurray’s focus on agency and relationality allows for a non-dogmatic and non idealistic understanding of religion as being about the fulfilment of positive person-to-person relationships.

Saturday 20th October 2012

The Friends’ Meeting House
43 St Giles
Oxford OX1 3LW Click for directions

Main address:
‘Religion in Public: Macmurray on Religion and Politics’
by Esther McIntosh, Research fellow at the Faculty of Education and Theology, York St. John University, and author of ‘John Macmurray’s Religious Philosophy – What it means to be a Person’.

Panel Discussion:
John Macmurray – a philosopher for the 21st Century
John Macmurray’s philosophy may have been neglected in the last century, but is finding increasing sway in psychology, mental health, sociology, emotional education, bioethics, politics and feminist theology.

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