Rethinking the Military Paradigm | Prof John McMurtry | (1991)

The article begins with an overview of the historic moment of ‘the end of the Cold War’, and of the paradoxically deepening moral, social, and environmental problems posed by the military system. It demonstrates that historical and contemporary analyses of defence and war have dogmatically presupposed the military paradigm, and have therefore failed to recognize the self-reproducing structure of coven premisses and inferences upon which it rests. In laying bare this underlying system of unreason, the analysis demonstrates that the military paradigm’s ultimately self-contradictory concepts of ‘security’ and ‘defence’ repose on unstated interests of social and political rule. Proposing new distinctions between pathological and life-enabling forms of war, and between guilty and innocent combatants, the argument develops alternative, non-military principles of war to guide rational and moral agency

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

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

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

Life-Value Onto-Axiology and Life-Ground Ethics | Prof John McMurtry

The Primary Axiom of Value is the unifying solution to the open question ‘What is Good? What is Bad? The Value of All Values across Time, Place and Theories’ by John McMurtry, Philosophy and World Problems, Volume I, UNESCO in partnership with Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems: Oxford, 2004-11. It defines the ultimate first principle/s of Life-Ground Ethics, and more comprehensively, Life-Value Onto-Axiology.

In traditional terms and terrestrial parameters, the Primary Axiom provides the unifying criterion and measure of the Real, the True and the Good.

Read More

CAGING THE POOR | The Case Against the Prison System | Prof John McMurtry (2000)

We need to recognise from the outset that prisons are not there for the reasons they are said to be there. In truth, they do not morally reform lawbreakers. They do not protect society from violent criminals. They are not retributive institutions. All of these rationalizations of the prison system are myths. This paper will refute each in turn, and then explain the underlying function of the prison system which has not yet been recognised.

Read More


“Fascism,” the West European movement that achieved its greatest strength in Germany and Italy between 1922 and 1944 under the leadership of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and “neo-conservatism,” the dominantly American movement that has achieved its greatest strength in the United States and Britain in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s under the leadership of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, arise out of historical circumstances that are strikingly similar in nature. In each case, political power is won by a relatively sudden rightward swing of a minority of the eligible electorate towards a war-like leader, backed by a media-lavished bloc of fiercely ideological partisans of old-line values and national military glory. In both cases, the social context of this unusual and dramatic turn towards the political right is one of perceived and objective cultural crisis. Economically, the shape of this crisis in 1930’s Germany and 1980’s America is eerily similar. There is a precipitous decline in effective demand for industrial commodities; great and growing unemployment; a steep rise in family-farm indebtedness; an unprecedentedly large and increasing public debt; a long-term, “runaway,” postwar inflation; a series of severe balance of trade deficits; historic stock market plunges; and a jolting succession of nonproductive mergers of large corporations and failures of small businesses.

Read More

The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure | Prof John McMurtry (2013)

The Cancer Stage of Capitalism is a modern classic of critical philosophy and political economy, renowned for its depth and comprehensive research. It provides a step by step diagnosis of the continuing economic collapse in the US and Europe and has had an enormous influence on new visions of economic alternatives.

John McMurtry argues that our world disorder of unending crises is the predictable result of a cancerous economic system multiplying out of all control and destroying ecological, social and organic life – a process he describes as ‘global ecogenocide’. In this updated edition he explains the ‘social immune response’ required to fight the ‘macro cancer’, something which has already been shown in developments such as the Occupy movement and the democratic social transformation of Latin America.

In an official global culture increasingly destructive of life, this book shows the necessity and possibility of building a sustainable society based on a universal commitment to life and nature.

Read More