By Colin Kirkwood (auth.), Colin Kirkwood (eds.)
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To put the matter positively, John Macmurray has by his passionate pursuit of the logic of the personal, discovered that God symbolises and represents nothing more and nothing less than our universal need for and love of the good other. 11 CHAPTER 1 SOCIETY AND THE DECLINE OF RELIGION How, then, does Macmurray view society? This, I believe, is where John Costello is right to argue that he is a philosophical voice for the 21st century. Macmurray developed his key ideas in the 1920s and 30s, the period of the rise of fascism and communism, although it was not until the late 1950s and early 60s that he gave them their fullest formulation in his two series of Gifford Lectures, jointly entitled The Form of the Personal, and published by Faber and Faber as The Self as Agent (1957) and Persons in Relation (1961).
He is giving an account of the meaning of communion, which he sees as a celebration of fellowship, involving a communal representation or reflection of the community to itself. Consistent with the centrality of the personal, what has to be represented is the relation to a personal other. Macmurray continues: how can a universal mutuality of intentional and active relationship be represented symbolically? Only through the idea of a personal Other who stands in the same mutual relation to every member of the community the universal Other must be represented as a universal Agent the idea of a universal personal Other is the idea of God.
More specifically, his psychic suit was made of Edinburgh cloth woven out of threads of intense Christian idealism and professional devotion, episcopalianism with an undertow of Calvinism, sharply contrasting gender roles, kindness and reserve, warmth and distance, science and service. It would be fascinating to know exactly what Ronald Fairbairn had in mind when he said to Harry Guntrip: Suttie really had something important to say. (Guntrip, 1971, p. 24) My hunch is that he was thinking not only of Sutties emphasis on interpersonal relationships and the role of emotions, but also specifically of his concept of the taboo on tenderness, a taboo which applied across much of Scottish society at least from the death of Robert Burns, through the Victorian period and the first two thirds of the 20th century, a taboo with which Macmurray, Suttie and Fairbairn all struggled in their different ways.