Who is Prof John McMurtry?


In the University President’s Dialogue in 2006 describing the reason for the special distinction of University Professor Emeritus, the President said: “John McMurtry is an internationally recognized scholar and University professor emeritus-elect who has made outstanding contributions in the discipline of philosophy. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a President’s Distinguished Professor, McMurtry is known for being engaged both in the classroom and the community. He studies the philosophies of politics, economics, education, literature, history and the environment, and his work has been published in more than 150 books and journals. Most recently, he has focused his research on the value structure of economic theory and its consequences for global civil and environmental life. McMurtry was selected by the United Nations as organizing author and editor of Philosophy and World Problems, which will be included in the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems.”


B.A. / M.A.- University of Toronto.

Ph.D. University College London.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

FRSC Citation (2001)

John McMurtry is a pioneer of social philosophy. His research has specialized in leading academic as well as public understanding into unexamined normative infrastructures which oppress human and environmental life—decision-excluding education, violent sport as a social paradigm, sexuality as a property-structure, mechanistic Marxism, the denial of children’s personhood, left-right categorization, the military paradigm of war, zero-sum competition, the transcultural logic of censorship, and the global market as a life-blind value system. His work has been communicated across the world and has frequently let to others’ research projects and to public policy formation.


Since full-time research leave, I have responded to two main streams of requested research publication and communication. The first has been keynote lectures, conference papers, articles and chapters with a unifying concern – to lay bare the value syntax of the now ruling world system and its reflective realms of philosophy and theory as blind in principle to their common life-ground and its universal necessities at organic and ecological levels. Logic and scientific method, the nature of the mass media, 9-11 and the 9-11 wars, the corporatization of higher education, and social justice theory have been interconnected areas of this deep-structure analysis. My work in these and other areas is also featured in a full-length film (Zeitgeist), periodic public radio interviews from Chicago-New York (Progressive Radio Network) and other international venues.

My second and principal research and publication stream over the last seven years has followed from the invitation by the Secretariat of UNESCO/EOLSS (Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems, Paris-Oxford) to construct, author and edit Philosophy and World Problems as an online multi-volume study relating world philosophies East and West to the determining problems of life on earth from the past into the present global crisis. Three sub-volumes entitled Modes of Reason, Western Philosophy and the Life-Ground, and Philosophy, Human Nature and Society have been constructed and edited with distinguished philosophers contributing to five topic areas in each of these general fields. The longer title study by me is an encompassing step-by-step critical study of world philosophies across fields to explain the inner logic of each canon and school in relationship to universal world problems across cultures and times towards principled resolution in life-coherent terms (as spelled out at the end of this webpage). This research program under the auspices of UNESCO has deployed the new ground and method of life-value onto-axiology to excavate, explain and resolve life-blind presuppositions of the world’s major thought-systems from the ancients East and West to Modern and Contemporary Philosophy, including related theories of the social sciences. The underlying core assumptions and principles of each thinker and school have been critically explained and related to the world in light of three related meta questions:

(1) What are the ultimately regulating principles underlying the distinguishing concepts, arguments and theories of each?

(2) Where do they most deeply fail to take life-and-death issues into account and otherwise mislead us in how to think and live?

(3) How can reason, felt being and action – the ultimate fields of value – comprehend and enable individual, social and ecological life in more coherently inclusive ways across differences and distances?

By following these lines of question through humanity’s most influential theories of what is real, true and good, life-value onto-axiology moves underneath dominant specialty divisions which have increasingly lost their life bearings amidst planetary social and ecological collapse. Two further refereed works have been completed for the UNESCO Encyclopedia to explain the ultimately underlying principles of the major world religions from their primary sources East and West. For a summary outline of the collected works on this project now available under my name at the world’s most comprehensive research site, see the last section of this webpage.

Read More

Forms of Consciousness – Prof John McMurtry | Encyclopedia of ethics

Forms of consciousness have been a central object of philosophical investigation from the doctrine of Forms or Eidos proposed by PLATO (427–347 B.C.E.) to the “forms of consciousness” or Bewusstseimformen excavated by Immanuel KANT (1724-1804). In both cases, they are construed as transcendental, a priori structures of thought. Plato’s Forms are directly apprehended by the intellect in an eternal, supersensible realm of Ideas. Kant’s forms of consciousness constitute an internally regulating framework processing experiential inputs as conditions of their intelligibility. What is remarkable is that in neither of these defining cases of philosophy’s inquiry into forms of consciousness, nor in the subsequent philosophical tradition, has there been recognition of underlying structures of consciousness which organize mental life in accordance with socially presupposed principles of what is good and bad.

Read More

Competition – Prof John McMurtry | Encyclopedia of ethics

As the sea is to the fish, so competition is to life. It is the formative medium through which life moves, reproduces, and dies. If we ask what form or bearer of life is not the result of competition, we are hard pressed to find an exception. Competition is like time: we seem unable to exist outside of it.

Read More

Understanding Market Theology | Prof John McMurtry (2004)

A standard critical view of the relationship between capitalism and religion is that religion is an ideological cover story for capitalism. Capitalism, it is contended, structures the real world. Religion conceals and sanctifies it in justifying illusions. Marx most famously pressed this view with an enlightenment epigram derived from Voltaire: “Religion is the opiate of the people.” He sought, in contrast, to scientifically lay bare the “real relations of society” underneath.

This paper will explore a deeper possibility – that the classical and neo­-classical market doctrine is itself a religion, and that its “invisible hand” prescriptions regulate society’s economic relations themselves. Beneath the notice of the social sciences, I will argue, market theory and practice together depend on a core structure of presuppositions of a necessary and benevolent design which constitutes an unacknowledged religious metaphysic.

Read More

MONOGAMY: A CRITIQUE | John McMurtry (1972)

“Monogamy” means, literally, “one marriage.” But it would be wrong to suppose that this phrase tells us much about our particular species of official wedlock. The greatest obstacle to the adequate understanding of our monogamy institution has been the failure to identify clearly and systematically the full complex of principles it involves. There are four such principles, each carrying enormous restrictive force and together constituting a massive social control mechanism that has never, so far as I know, been fully schematized.

Read More

‘The Overpopulation Argument’ by Professor John McMurtry

The following are excerpts extracted from McMurtry, John. The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure. Pluto Press. Kindle Edition that addresses ‘The Overpopulation Argument’. “The most established general argument for our parlous condition is that the global crisis is led by ‘overpopulation’ – or more precisely, ‘seven billion human beings overloading the carrying capacities of… Read More

‘Overpopulation’: A Cover Story for the Money Cancer System | Prof John McMurtry

It is not “the rising tide of human numbers” simpliciter that loots, pollutes and destroys the life carrying capacities of the planet. It is what all over-populationists conveniently ignore:

(1) the much still exponentially self-multiplying tides of private money demand on the earth’s resources that drives every degenerate trend in the planet’s life carrying capacities, and

(2) its ultimate driver of limitlessly self-maximizing private profit to the top which now puts more demand on the earth’s resources by a few plutocrats than by 90% of the population .

Read More

Understanding the U.S. War State | Prof John McMurtry (2003)

This incisive article by Professor John McMurtry was first published by Science for Peace and Global Research fifteen years ago in May 2003


“It is easy. All you have to do is tell the people they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” –Hermann Goering

Genocide used to be a crime without a name. Although the most heinous of all crimes, the concept was not introduced into international language until after World War 2. Until then, military invasion and destruction of other peoples and cultures masqueraded under such slogans as progress and spreading civilisation.

Read More

Why is there a War in Afghanistan? | Prof John McMurtry (2001) | scienceforpeace.ca

The following article was part of a Science for Peace Forum and Teach-In, about How Should Canada Respond to Terrorism and War on Sunday December 9, 2001. A speech was made there by Professor of Philosophy, John McMurtry. It looks at a wider and deeper issue of totalitarianism that is creeping in, or, as McMurtry suggests, continuing in more earnest.

Read More