Living in the senses and learning with love - John MacMurray’s philosophy of embodied emotion

James MacAllister, Malcolm Thorburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In this article we analyse the central role that the body plays in John MacMurray’s account of learning to be human. As with Merleau-Ponty, MacMurray rejected mind-body dualisms and argued for the need to understand what it means to be a person. Through our analysis we highlight the key principles that characterize MacMurray’s philosophy in relation to personhood and the body, namely: 1) all human knowledge and action should be for the sake of friendship and 2) human persons exist first and foremost in their bodies as ‘knowing agents’ rather than in their minds as ‘knowing subjects’. We thereafter explain MacMurray’s views on education and how it must support people to live in personal rather than functional relation with each other by attending more to bodily experience and education of the emotions. Accordingly, MacMurray considered that persons can either ‘use’ their bodily senses as mere instruments for functional purposes or they can ‘live’ in their bodily senses by learning to love (not ‘using’ but rather apprehending the real value of) other persons. In conclusion, we suggest that MacMurray’s philosophy can open up a different way of thinking about the educational value of physical activity. For MacMurray shared physical pursuits are especially educational when carried out for their own sake and when all persons’ present experience moments of bodily joy and togetherness and a better understanding of each other.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143–160
JournalJournal of Pedagogy
Issue number2
Early online date25 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • senses
  • persons
  • agency
  • love


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