2018-01Thematic Section
John Macmurray on the “Personal” as Involving a “Practical Contradiction” and Why It Matters


Macmurray replaces the traditional philosophical standpoint of subject-as-thinker with self-as-agent, and only persons are agents. The unit of the personal is “I-and-you”; I become “I” when I distinguish myself from “not-I”, namely, “you”. Awareness of the negative begins in babyhood, as I learns I am dependent on a relationship with an Other who can fail to fulfil my needs. The logic of the personal then differs from mathematical logic or Hegelian “logic”, since for it, “the positive is constituted and sustained by its own negative”. Persons are capable of intentional action, doing this (the positive), instead of that, while thinking is the negative (what I don’t do.) Action being primary, right and wrong come before true and false, and sustained thinking (a new philosophy) is needed for reflecting constructively on how to meet today’s challenges. Motivation for action can be either negative (fear) or positive, envisaging possible friendship.


Macmurray, person, positive/negative, self-as-agent, friendship

How to cite:

Godway, Eleanor. “John Macmurray on the “Personal” as Involving a “Practical Contradiction” and Why It Matters.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 2, no. 1(3) (2018): 67–73. https://doi.org/10.26319/3917.


Eleanor Godway (Professor Emerita)
Department of Philosophy, Central Connecticut State University
Willard-DiLoreto Hall, W 304, 1615 Stanley Street New Britain, CT 06050, USA


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