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John MacMurray


A search for John Macmurray’s name in John
Passmore’s 100 Years of Philosophy is enough to
establish that he is neglected by the establishment
of academic philosophers. Macmurray rates one
mention, in a footnote only; a footnote which implicitly dismisses him as an eccentric Scot. The one
work of his referred to is incorrectly dated: The
Boundaries of Science was published in 1939, not
1931. Karl Popper praises Macmurray’s philosophy
of science, and rejects his views on history, in
The Open Society and its Enemies, but otherwise
there is an almost universal neglect of his writings
on the part of his fellow philosophers. Any recognition is rather from psychologists – Laing and
Esterson mention him as someone whose work represents a rare British link with existentialism; and
from theologians, notably J. A. T. Robinson in
Honest to God.

There are a number of reasons why Macmurray
should have been neglected by academic philosophers, and concern with existentialist themes is an
obvious one. His recognition of philosophy’s historical basis is another. Before looking at his work in
the light of his own personal history, let us take an
example of this. The student of Kant at a British
university will use as one of his staple textbooks
The Bounds of Sense, by P. F. Strawson. The
assumption running throughout this book is that
Kant was dealing with certain epistemological problems that are perennial, but which are being dealt
with rather more effectively by the contemporary
Oxbridge philosophers. Stra wson removes Kant’s
thought from its historical context. In chapters 2
and 3 of The Self as Agent, however, Macmurray
gives an analysis of Kant’s philosophy in relation
to the development of Romanticism, and shows how
the Critical philosophy was developed as a response
to a philosophical romanticism that Kant believed to
have dangerous implications – the Faith philosophy
of Hamann and Herder. He shows how Kant stands
at the watershed in the history of philosophy between
mechanistic and organic philosophies, and sees the
political risks of romanticism, despite his admiration for Rousseau, and belief in the justifiability of
the French Revolution. Such an approach to Kant is
of course very different from Strawson’s, and
comes closer to the significance of Kant’s thought.

Autobiographical Philosophy
Macmurray is, with Collingwood and Russell,
one of a small number of philosophers to have
written autobiographically. In his book Search for
Reality in Religion he tells of the way in which his
philosophical writings were inspired by his own experiences. That this should be so is another reason
for his difference from most philosophers.

Macmurray, who was born in 1891, was brought
up in a strict Scottish Calvinish family. He took
Classics at Glasgow University, but also had a keen
interest and strong ability in science. He was able
to persuade the authorities to include Geology in his
course, and, the only arts student among engineers,
he was the most successful in the group. He found
Geology particularly valuable because it necessit16

ated using knowledge of other sciences, and their
techniques. From Glasgow he went to Oxford but
after he had beeIl there one year the Great War
broke out and his Finals were postponed until 1919.

-As might be expected, the intervening years were
crucial. He fought in the-trenches, including on the
Somme, and won the Military Cross. The experiences of this terrible war affected his thought
chiefly in two ways, both of which in turn influenced
his philosophy. Where religion was concerned he
came to view the churches as ‘the various national
religions of Europe’, 1 disgusted by their attitudes,
although he did not cease to be a believer. Closeness to death and acceptance of it as a reality
removed his fear of it, at the same time making
life more precious and urgent. This is a recogniSably ‘existential’ experience, and Macmurray says
of it: ‘Without this knowledge of death, I came to
believe, there can be no real knowledge of life and
so no discovery of the reality of religion. ,2
As well as giving impetus to his religiOUS concerns, his experiences of the war and its. aftermath
developed his political awareness. He shared in the
general postwar diSillusion, losing faith in the
society he had fought for, and in its leaders, who
he believed either fools or knaves, and probably the
latter. He writes of the purpose of his philosophizing as being the eradication of war, and says: ‘To
this task I brought a mind that had become deeply
sceptical of the principles underlying the European
civilization in which I had been brought up and
which had issued in the savage destruction and
stupid waste in which I had played my part. Convinced that the source of the error must be deeply
hidden, I de.cided, as a rule to guide my search for
it, to distrust and question especially those principles of whose truth I should find my elders most
unshakeably convinced. ,3 Not long after the war,
Macmurray was invited to a conference the result
of which, for him, was to lead him to undertake a
thorough study of Ma:rx’s early writings to try to
discover the relation between Marxism and the
Christian tradition. He was convinced by Marx that
idealism must be rejected, and that an idealist
religion is unreal. But he did not believe all reli’gion to be idealist, particularly not Old Testament
Judaism, .and so could not accept Marx’s rejection
of religion in toto. Nonetheless, the influence of the
early Marx remains considerable in his philosophy,
particularly in his analysis of the relation between
theory and practice, thought and action.

We can form a picture of Macmurray, then, a~
he began his career as a professional philosopher:

a Classical scholar, yet with practical scientific
experience at university level which will give him
some entitlement to write on the philosophy of
science; concerned that his studies will have a purpose and help to change European society; interested
in the relation between ideas and historical events;
prepared to study philosophers outside the British
academic boundaries; with the experiences of trench
warfare in his memory, and with the religious and
existential awareness resulting from those experiences. Clearly, here is a man better equipped to

appears to have abandoned the traditional problems
think philosophically than the majority of academics
altogether, content with formal analysis; existentialat any time. He decided that he would allow himself
time to formulate his ideas, and would not publish
ism continues to deal with the problems but abandons
philosophical forms and methods in favour of literaa book until he was over forty.

ture and paradox. Macmurray himself can embrace
His career can be outlined fairly rapidl~: at
Manchester university (1919); Professor at
neither alternative, and seeks a new philosophical
Johannesburg (1919-1921); Fellow of Balliol College
form capable of dealing with the problems.


The dominant philosophical tradition since the
(1921-1928); Grote Professor at London until 1944;
Professor at Edinburgh until his retirement in 1958.

Renaissance has failed for a number of reasons, he
says. It has been egocentric, individualist and
During the thirties he was President of the Froebel
Society; he was involved in Left Book Club circles,
theoretical. The Self has been considered only asa
and during the Second World War was one of the
thinking, mental subject, isolated from the world
founders of the Common Wealth Party, which put up
and other people, an approach that has led to sceptindependent socialist candidates against Labour
icism and the absurdities of solipSism. In addition
Party coalition candidates. His first-book, Freedom
to this central error, two forms have been used
in the Modern World, was published in 1932, ~d
which have proved inadequate. The first, from
several others appeared during the thirties, dealing
Descartes to Hume, attempted to explain the world
with different areas of philosophy. His most compand the human individual, in mechanistic terms,
rehensive work is The Form of the Personal, pubwith ‘substance’ its key concept. Historically, this
lished in two volumes: The Self- as Agent (1957) and
dominated because of the rise of physical and mathPersons in Relation (1961). Any philosophical fame
ematical science. The rise of biological science
is likely to rest on this series of Gifford Lectures.

saw the dominance of the second form, the organic,
It appears that Macmurray had decided on the
with ‘organism’ its central concept. This philosophmain outline of his philosophical system by about
ical form has continued into our century
1930, and that he developed particular sections of it
(Whitehead’s work is an example), but, just as
in detail over the next twenty years or so. The
Hume demonstrated the inadequacies of the concept
Gifford Lectures were given in 1953-54, and alof substance, so the conc.ept of organism was
though they do not contain all Macmurray’s thought,
rejected in different ways by Comte and Kierkegaard
They found it useless for explaining either social or
they do reveal the form implicit in the earlier work,
personal life, Comte abandoning metaphysics for
and cover the widest spectrum.

empirical sociology because he found the content of
A Point of View
the organjc philosophy inadequate; and Kierkegaard
Macmurray’s desire to see things as a whole
abandoning metaphysics for religion, philosophy for
differentiates him from the piecemeal philosophers
faith. The latter spoke of the human being as a
whose analysis dominates the academic world. It is
‘dialectic without a synthesis’, a contradiction to be
not entirely accurate to speak of his work as a
resolved by choice.

‘system’. Although it is definitely systematic, he
The development of the sciences of sociology and
would not wish to claim any finality for it; it is a
psychology, dealing as they do with personal life,
‘pioneering venture’, in his own words – it ‘seeks
ought to be paralleled, Macmurray suggests, by a
to establish a point of view. ,4 If it has the appearphilosophical form of the personal, with ‘personalance of system-building (something he considers an
ity’ as its central concept. It is this form which in
his Gifford Lectures he outlines in its greatest
essential part of philosophy) it is because the new
detail. An earlier and shorter work, Interpreting
point of view must be tried in all the different
the Universe, however, gives a valuable summary
departments of human life.

of his ideas on the nature of philosophical thought,
All writing about philosophy is bedevilled by the
and analyses the difference between mechanistic,
way in which philosophical ideas are interconnected,
organic and personal modes of interpreting
and this is a major problem in writing about

Macmurray’s work. It is difficult to take anyone
idea out of context without thereby making it hard
Unity Patterns
to understand, or perceive its significance. But, as
Thought itself arises from problems in the world,
has been mentioned, Macmurray’s philosophy is
whether practical, personal, social or political.

rooted in awareness of- the discipline’s historical
‘Its function is to overcome the cessation of action
context, and this provides a starting point.

which has occasioned it, and so to enable us to
In his first book, Freedom in the Modern World,
resume the concrete activity of life which has been
he draws a distinction between academic philosophy
interrupted. ,7 It is a symbolic, mental activity,
and living philosophy. The former consists of
with ‘no causal efficacy in the real world. ,8 For it
‘scholarly acquaintance with the philosophy of other
to be effective its symbolic representation of the
people or of argument about traditional problems
real world must be adequate, so that the process of
for the sake of argument. full of very acute and
imaginative manipulation of ideas will not distort or
learned subtlety of thOUght. … But it has no vital
omit elements of that real world. Although ideas
significance whatever.’ Philosophy proper is ‘the
and’ images can be manipulated in any way the
attempt to understand the meaning of human experithinker pleases, his thought will not have any releence in the world’. 6 It is an essential exerCise,
vance to the world unless they relate to each other
because life presents problems to individuals and
in a ~y which is determined by the nature of the
societies, and philosophical thought tries to solve
world. Such an ar~angement Macmurray calls a
them. Here we can see the existential and political
‘unity pattern’. All thought is tentative and hypoconcern of Macmurray’s philosophy, and also an
thetical, and the results of thought must be tested
idea central to his work, that thought must refer
against the world of experience. Knowledge thereback to action and be tested against experience.

fore is not certainty, and is always knowledgePhilosophical problems, then, change as life,
whether individual or social, presents new problems. through-action.

But, says Macmurray, in our age the very nature of
A mechanistic unity-pattern is inadequate to cape
philosophy is problematic. Logical empiricism
with all aspects of the world. ‘It arises from the

necessity of manipulating physical objects and is,
therefore, adapted to the representation of reality
so far as reality is stuff to be used, or to put it
more technically, so far as reality is material. ,9
Hence its symbolism is the interchangeable unit,
because ‘any individual thing will be symbolised
not for its individuality but merely as a bearer of
general properties’. (Interpreting the Universe,
p87). If different objects are equally useful to our
purpose, their various individual qualities, other
than causal properties, will be of no significance.

All change in this unity pattern will be the result of
external, mechanical causes. It assumes everything to be passive and has a merely instrumental
value, effective only insof~r as the world is to be
treated as a means to an end.

An organic unity pattern can deal with different
aspects of the world from those dealt with by
mechanistic thought, for it is designed to apply to
processes of growth. A living thing will be represented as a unity of different but harmonious processes, each having a function to perform for the
whole. Explanations will be teleological, interpreting change by reference to a state to be reached at
the end of the process. But, says Macmurray,
while we can interpret teleologically the growth of
plants and animals, because we know what their
final state is, we cannot interpret the world as a
whole in this way. Neither can organic thought
represent objective human consciousness. Another
unity pattern is needed in order to explain the
nature of personality. In the Gifford Lectures
Macmurray defines this new unity pattern, or logical form, as follows: ‘The Self is constituted by its
capacity for self -negation. It must be represented
as a positive which necessarily contains its own
negative. ’10 Such a statement naturally sounds abstract, but Macmurray applies the form to all the
different aspects of human life, and the reader of
The Form of the Personal will be able to see for
himself its fertility. For example, it is only
persons who act. Action, as opposed to mere activity, necessarily involves thought. But to cease to
act, and only to think, is to cease to be in dynamic
relation with the world, and therefore is to cease to
be fully a person. Thought is justified only when its
aim is mOre effective action. On an individual level,
action is made possible by the existence of a hierarchy of skills and habits, which in themselves are
unconscious and impersonal. Another example is
the case of personal knowledge. We know other
people through relation with them, by their revelation of themselves ,to us and ours of ourselves to
them. Personal knowledge includes factual knowledge about the person, but no amount of factual
knowledge can give us personal knowledge. Or
again, human beings are necessarily involved in
economic relations, as the impersonal aspect of
communal life, but the economic framework can
only be justified insofar as it furthers a fully human
life for members of that community. (We might
give another example – self -negation is shown most
clearly by the act of suicide, in which the desire to
deny community is so great that the return to per ..

sonallife cannot be made. Only persons commit
suicide – lemmings do not, and we only talk of them
doing so by abstracting illegitimately from human
life and omitting the intentionality of the suicide
act. )
To each unity pattern there corresponds one of
what Macmurray calls the ‘reflective activities’ of
man. Science corresponds to the mechanistic
pattern. It is impersonal, dealing only with the ‘it’,




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opposed to knowledge, which is always somebody’s.

To the organic pattern corresponds art, which is
concerned with the unity of different elements ip a
harmonious whole. There is also a ‘close and constant relation between art and the organic aspect of
our own experience,11 which is manifested in singing and dancing for example. Contrary to popular
prejudice, art is a more complete form of knowledge than science, since it involves the apprehension of the particular. Art is a spontaneous expression of the personality and involves the third
person – the ‘it’ – as science does, but also the
first person, the ‘I’. It holds no place for the second
person, since an artist’s vision is his alone. The
artist is isolated, at the mercy of society’s approval
or disapproval, and he gives to those who will take.

But he cannot take, or cooperate. As an artist, he
cannot give himself to the reciprocal give and take
of personal life. 12
The majority of Macmurray’s writing deals with
an analysis of the personal life, and since the reflective activity corresponding to the unity pattern
of the personal is religion, all his philosophy is in
a sense a philosophy of religion. His understanding
of religion is a humanistic one, based to a considerable extent on an anthropological analysis. It is one
of his criticisms of Marx that the latter did not do
research into the social nature of religion, making
the assumption that religion is necessarily idealist.

However, we shall return later to his ideas on religion. For him, all human life is personal, which
means social. He rejects the individualistic starting
point of Descartes, which has been so dominant in
Western philosophy. Human awareness is not just
of an ‘I’, but of a ‘You-and-I’. A child sees the
world in anthropomorphic terms at first and only
later learns to abstract the impersonal. Here we
see Macmurray’s logical form of the positive containing its own negative. Personal life is the positive mode, but includes the ‘Not-I’ or negative.

Without the ‘Not-I’ (the ‘You’) there would be no
personal life.

In Freedom in the Modern World Macmurray
examines ethics in the light of the three unity patterns. A ‘mechanical’ morality is of Roman type,
involving obedience to laws; a ‘social’ morality is
one of subordination to a higher purpose, as though
humans were only parts of an organism. Personal

is anthropological; that is, he looks at its function
freedom can only be obtained through relations with
other people in which there is no deception, domina- in human society. While accepting that religions in
practice can act as palliatives for social evils, and
tion or diffidence; each sees the other as he really
is. True morality is that which fosters self-realiza- frequently as conservative and nationalistic forces;
and accepting too the Marxist critique of idealism,
tion, but the self can only be realised in its relation
he still does not believe that religion is idealistic
with other selves. ‘Everything that prevents that in its essence. Indeed, when it is” so, it is betrayfear or pride or the passion for wealth or power or
. 10£ its true nature. Western civilization derives
position in men, the subordination of human beings
to organizations and institutions, an unjust distribufrom three cultures: Greek, Roman and Hebrew.

The first was chiefly an artistic civilization; the
tion of wealth or opportunity in the community …

second a technical, legalistic one; and the third a
is the enemy of morality. ’13
religious one. Hebrew society was penetrated by
Reason and Emol ion
religion in every aspect of life, and Jewish identity
In Reason and Emotion he deals with the education
was maintained after the dispersion by their reliof the emotional life, arguing that liberty” will not,
gion.” Macmurray draws the inference that religion
as some fear, lead to chaos, if only the hitherto
cannot be idealist because the H~brews were not
neglected emotions can be properly developed.

idealist. His book The Clue to History gives the evidence for this point of view and then proceeds to
There is no ground, he says, for assuming that the
analyse European history in terms of a struggle
emotions are necessarily irrational. ‘Reason’ is
our capacity for objectivity, and objectivity is
between realism and idealism. Idealism seeks to
achieved by the emotions just as much as by our
remove the possibility of a just society from this
intellect. If the emotional life is nourished, our
world. The Judaeo-Christian tradition, when it fails
to seek justice on earth, betrays itself, and of
emotional evaluations will be more trustworthy.

course it has done so continually. Macmurray sees
Here Macmurray has, I believe, solved the problem
Marxism as the reassertion of the social aspect of
of the nature of reason, and avoided both the
this tradition.

dangers of arid intellectualism and its counterpart”
In The Clue to History religion and politics
the excesses of irrationalism. We can see once
more his idea that thought ‘is of no value unless
>ecome inseparable. It was written in 1938, and
tested objectively – internal intellectual coherence
views Fascism as the latest and worst threat to the
is not the equivalent of truth.

possibility of a just human society, and to the
Personal life, then, to summarise Macmurray’s
Judaeo-Christian tradition. The attitude of Nazism
conclusions, is the life of objectivity, of relation to
to the Jews, argues Macmurray, was an attempt
the world of other people; of capacity to behave in
once and for all to destroy the idea of a communistic
terms of that which is other than ourself. Becau~e
society and to replace it by a society based on race
personal life is not based in our biological nature;
and blood. Fascism was the logical end of European
it cuts across all racial and sexual barriers. Any
civilization, rather than a strange aberration, for
restrictions on human relationships such as class
Europe had always tried to avoid putting into practdivision, sexual discrimination or apartheid, are
ice the justice required by its religious tradition.

obstacles to the personal life, and irrational, since
‘ … the form of our Western life has rested upon
they conflict with the social nature of human beings.

the acceptance in the “spiritual” field of the root
Thus the Self is constituted by its relation to”

principles of rationality – equality, freedom and
persons; indeed the Self is a person, not a subuniversal community – and their refusal in the
stance or organism. The Self is an agent, existing
practical field of material life. ,14
in dynamic relation to the world. It is not a ‘pure
Negal ive Democracy
subject’, and is only a subjeCt by negating its agency
Much of Macmurray’s writing on political matters
in thought, whose purpose should be to help the Self
was done in the thirties as a response to the rise of
act more effectively in its determination of the
Fascism, and as a result of his early study of
world. But the Self can only be agent by being subMarxism. During the war he published a short book
ject, for if it could not think, it could not act; it
called Constructive Democracy, which deals with a
could only react to stimulus. Thought must be a
component of action. The Self acts upon the world,
distinction of continuing importance for British
determining the future, and since action involves
politics, the difference between ‘negative’ and ‘conchoice, thought must work in terms of the distincstructive’ democracy. Our present democracy is
tion between right and wrong, to which the distincnegative, he says, because it excludes large parts
tion between true and false is secondary. ‘In other
of the country’s economic life from political authorwords, a theory of knowledge presupposes and must
ity. It is not an essential function of democracy to
be derived from, and included within a theory of
protect private property; rather, the essence of
action. ‘ (The Self as Agent, p89) If the Self is condemocracy is freedom of speech and worship.

ceived as thinker, action is inexplicable, but thought Therefor”e it is quite possible to have a socialist
can be accounted for if the Self is conceived as
democracy, with a planned economy. Indeed, it is
Agent. But the Self is only the Self by virtue of its essential to control economic life, since the means
or rather his or her – relations to other people. In
of life a”re also the means to the good life. ‘Whoever
the early -chapters of Persons in Relation
controls wealth controls the means of cultural
Macmurray shows how human life cannot ever
development and personal freedom. . .. – the control
possibly be individualist, tracing the growth of the
of culture” which democracy denies to political authhuman child to maturity and demonstrating its deority is exercised in fact by economic powers which
pendence on other humans at every staj;e. Personal
are themselves exempt from political control. ,15
life is not a matter of fact – it is a matter of intenThis little book of forty pages draws a distinction
tion and co-operation, and the Self only has freedom
that still needs to be made.

through co-operation which is free from fear. Hence
A theme to be found running through Macmurray’s
moral action is action intended to maintain and
work is his rejection of dualism, which expresses
extend full, free human relations.

itself in various ways: as the split between reason
Macmurray’s analysis of religion, we have said,
and emotion, or thought and action, or theory and

practice, or realism and idealism. Different forms
of it are attacked in different books. In The Clue to
History Macmurray looks at the split between the
theory and practice of religion; in Reason and
Emotion he argues that the real distinction should
be intellect and emotion, and that both are capable
of rationality or irrationality. And his whole philosophical position, in The Form of the Personal,
attempts to bring thought and action into a reciprocal
relationship, through ‘the rhythm of withdrawal and
return’ .

Christians, Marxists, eXistentialists, psychologists and anthropologists – Macmurray’ s thought
owes something to all these groups, but the system
he has produced is his own, argued in close detail’.

It is his ability simultaneously to see human life as
a whole, and to analyse its different aspects in
depth, that makes him remarkable. And it is not
essential to accept the general outline of his philosophy to be able to appreciate the particular points
he makes: his analysis of the relation between
mother and Child, or of the nature of democracy, or
of scientific and artistic method. He is one of a tiny
number of British philosophers in this century to

have taken note of continental philosophy. The price
he has paid for believing that his subject is about
the world, not words, is neglect. I hope this article
may help to rectify matters.



1 Search for Reality in Religion, *FI”eedom in the Modern Wf)rld, Faber,
2 op. cit., p18
Interpreting Uw Universe, Faber, t933
3 op. cit., p22
The Philosophy of Communism, Fnber,
4 The Self as Agent. p13
5 Freedom in the Modern World, Creative Society, SCM,1935
*R£’ason :lIId Emotio’l, Faller, 1935
6 op. cit., p101
The Structurc of Reli~’!.Y~J}erien(‘c,
7 Inteill..!:.Qting the Universe, p38 Faber, 193G
8 op. cit., p40
The Clue to Histo!)” SCM, 1938
The Boundaries QI.::iI’i.t2!l££, Fa)er, 1939
9 op. cit., p85
10 The Self as Agent, p98
Challenge to the Churches, Kcgan
11 Eeheion Art and Sdence, p31 Paul, 1941
12 See Reason and Emotion,
Constructive D(‘morracy, Faber, 1950
Idealism Against Hcligion, Lindsey
13 Freedom in the Mo(e1’l1 World, Press, 1944
Conditions of Frt’edom,.Faber, 1950
14 The Clue to History, p235
*The Self as AI’C’nt, Faller, 1957
15 Constructive Democracy,
·Persons in l1e1:1lion, Fabcr, 19G1
*Religion Art and SCience, Livcrpool
University P rcss, 1961
*Search for R~aJity in HC’ligion, Allel~
and Unwin, 1965
*denotes still in print according tf)
Books in Print, 1975

Media and images
Brian Miller
‘Consciousness’ is not something other than
‘sensuous human activity’ or praxis. It is to
be understood as an aspect or moment of
praxis itself. Furthermore the forms that
‘consciousness’ takes in society are to be
understood within the context of the forms
of social praxis.

– Richard J. Bernstein, Praxis and Action
(London, 1972)
My general consciousness is only the
theoretical shape of that which the living
shape is the real community, the social
fabriC, although at the present day general
consciousness is an abstraction from real
life and as such confronts it with hostility.

– Marx, Economic and Philosophic
Manuscript of 1844
The key to the understanding of media lies in
this concept of consciousness as a moment in

Man is the social being. His’ self’ is relationship, which is him in relation to others.

Even when his life does not appear in the direct
form of communal life in association with
others, it is still, Marx says, ‘an expression
and confirmation of social life’. Our individual
consciousness is a moment in our interrelated
activity, and our relationships reconcile our
own consciousness to ourselves.

However, when the objective basis of material society is founded upon other than human
relationships, upon the relations of things in the
form of capital-movement, the resultant reified
social relations lead to the subjective condition
of social opacity. In the condition of social
opacity, human relations are pale reflections of
the relations of things, and cannot assume
primary place because this would be at odds
with society’s material basis in things.

As this process of opacity develops, a

development in relation to the growth of productive forces and extensions of capital into every
facet of human existence, images loom more
and more as the means by which a sense of
human relationship in praxis is restored.

These images enhance the individual personality by confirming perception, since perception
is decreasingly confirmed through close, living
relationship and identity with others. The
function of these images determines their
content: they are offered up as unambiguous,
familiar, loving, altruistic, enlightening and
dependable. Above all, they ‘confirm selfidentity by yielding to the viewer’s preferences,
even when this yielding incorporates any
necessary apparent abrasiveness. The function
of the image is to confirm individual selfidentity.

Image specificily
One cannot identify with a wooden totem.

Once upon a time an image of that kind would
have served to be the focal-point for common
activity, primitive social praxis. But the nature
of images alters with societies, which demand
different functions from them. In the modern
case, the image must of necessity be lifelike,
realistic, recognisably and empathically
human. This requires it to appear to us in
movement and in sound, in colour, in highlydefined tone and picture, and in a personable
manner. It must be very much like ourselves,
to all appearances, and must at the same time
be either very much what we would like to be,
what we desire in others, or what we believe to
be true about others, confirming both fondest
hopes and deepest suspicions.

Consciousness, previously identified as a
moment in social praxi~, becomes an activity,
but since it is one played out without the direct
participation of others, it must therefore seek

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