LETTERS: A clear thinker consigned to obscurity

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From Mr C. J. Moore Sir: May I suggest that John Rentoul does more research on the "obscure Scottish philosopher called John Macmurray" (18 January) before publishing his biography of Tony Blair, from which you have printed extracts. John Macmurray, professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh during the Fifties, was probably the best-known philosopher of his day, with an extraordinary gift for relating his subject to practical matters - a success for which academics never forgave him. His BBC ra dio lectures during the Thirties on "Freedom in the Modern World" earned him a national following, and his later works, in particular his Gifford lectures (The Form of the Personal), were to exercise a lasting influence and inspire practical revolutionar ies such as R. D. Laing.

While in academic terms Macmurray's preoccupations were very distinct from those of his British contemporaries, they resonated strongly with the continental Personalist school arising from a different tradition. Macmurray's critique of the false paths taken by so much Western philosophy remains perceptive and illuminating. His own philosophy was a basis for intelligent attitudes lived out fully in relationship with the real world of our experience. His appeal is therefore strongest for those engaged in real world tasks - ranging from psychotherapy to education and pastoral care - as opposed to sterile abstraction.

It is a scandalous reflection on our contemporary cultural values that Macmurray can be dismissed by a serious writer in the Nineties as "obscure".

Yours etc, C. J. MOORE Baronhill, Tayside

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