Here are few short quotes to give a flavour of Macmurray’s thinking.

We plan to extend this page with longer quotes from a wider range of his books.

Where given, links are to the review summary. Unless stated otherwise, page numbers refer to the Humanity Books editions.

If you have favourite quotes, please send them to us using the form on the contact page.


‘The field of religion is one where we grope in the dark and in which our civilization is perilously unskilled’

‘Most of what is now called Christianity has little enough to do with the teaching of Jesus’ (Freedom In The Modern World p146)

‘Friendship is the fundamental religious fact in human life’

‘Communion is the keyword of religion’

‘The truly religious man will talk little about God…’


‘Our freedom realizes itself in and through friendship.’ (Freedom In The Modern World p117)

‘It is in and through my consciousness of other persons alone that I can know myself as a person.’

‘There is no ‘I’ without a ‘You’…This mutuality of the personal is the basic fact of religion’


‘An association is, then, a ‘society’ when its members are united in the service of a common purpose; it is a ‘community’ when they are united in sharing a common life.’

‘The functional life is for the personal life: the personal life is through the functional life.’

‘the state is for the community; the community is through the state.’


‘Primarily each of us is afraid of himself; because of this we are afraid of others… and these secret fears in the mass are the root of the injustice and squalor of our civilization. ‘

‘Let us stop building defences round ourselves. It is not from other people that we need to be saved, but from our fear of other people.’ (Freedom In The Modern World p39)

‘All the things that we are afraid of …may happen to us, and there is no reason to fear them even if they do.’ (Freedom In The Modern World p35)

‘Until we are healed we cannot act healthily… what we have to do is… to cease our fruitless attempt to save ourselves… ‘ (Freedom In The Modern World p38)

‘Fear freezes the spontaneity of life. The more fear there is in us, the less alive we are.’ (Freedom In The Modern World p32)

‘Now there are two, and I think only two, emotional attitudes through which human life can be radically determined. They are love and fear. Love is the positive principle, fear the negative. Love is the principle of life, while fear is the death-principle in us. I mean that literally; and would go on to explain it by saying that you can divide men and women most fundamentally into two classes, those who are fear-determined and those who are love-determined.’ (Freedom In The Modern World, ch.4 A Faith For The Modern World p32)

Reason and Emotion

‘Reason is primarily an affair of emotion, and the rationality of thought is the derivative and secondary one.’

‘Feelings can be rational or irrational in precisely the same way as thought, through the correctness or incorrectness of their reference to reality.’

‘Emotional sincerity [is] a refusal to like anything or do anything that we don’t sincerely feel to be worth while; and with that, a refusal to be frightened out of doing what we feel to be worth doing, whoever and whatever disapproves of it. ‘

‘There is no way of discovering what is real …except by learning from our experience of disillusionment.’

‘In feeling love for anther person, I can either experience a pleasurable emotion which he stimulates in me, or I can love him….The difference between these two kinds of love …is the difference between rational and irrational emotion.’

Art, Science and Philosophy

‘Science has become as full of pride and prejudice as ever religion was…. ‘

‘Mature science is humble and tentative, convinced of the immensity of its ignorance, and sure only that patient research can gradually extend the field of knowledge.’

‘Nothing that is not inherently beautiful is really good’ (Freedom In The Modern World p149)

‘All of us, without exception because we are persons, are essentially artists.’

‘Academic philosophy, like academic art, is nearly always dead.’

‘All meaningful knowledge is for the sake of action, and all meaningful action for the sake of friendship’