John McMurtry

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John McMurtry, FRSC is University Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, Canada.[1] Most recently, he has focused his research on the value structure of economic theory and its consequences for global civil and environmental life.[1] McMurtry was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) in June 2001 by his peers for his outstanding contributions to the study of humanities and social sciences.[2][3]

McMurtry's principal research project in Philosophy spanning over 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[4] as a multi-volume study of world philosophy. Three sub-volumes entitled "Western Philosophy and the Life-Ground", "Modes of Reason", and "Philosophy, Human Nature and Society" have been written with internationally distinguished philosophers contributing to five topic areas in each of these general fields.

The central title study by McMurtry, entitled, "What is Good, What is Bad? The Value of All Values Across Time, Place and Theories", is an encompassing in-depth critical study of known world philosophies and fields to explain the inner logic of each canon and school in relationship to world problems across languages and eras including the method of life-value onto-axiology which is deployed 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.


John McMurtry received his doctorate from University College, London in the United Kingdom after completing his BA and MA at the University of Toronto, Canada where he also joined the Zeta Psi fraternity. Prior to doctoral studies, he was "a professional football player, print and television journalist, academic English teacher and world-traveller".[2] In his autobiographic article "The Human Vocation: An Autobiography of Higher Education" for the scholarly journal Nordicum-Mediterraneum,[5] McMurtry recounts the most salient moments of his formative years and states that he "came to philosophy as a last resort, because as someone naturally disposed to question unexamined assumptions and conventional beliefs, I could find no other profession which permitted this vocation at the appropriate level of research."

Value theory is his unifying field of research, as he has published and taught in as diverse fields of inquiry as social and political philosophy, Asian/Indian and Chinese philosophy, philosophy of economics, philosophy of education, philosophy and literature, philosophy of history, post-Kant continental philosophy, the logic of natural language, and philosophy of the environment.

He is also part of the peace movement and international law study bodies.[6] He served as Chair of Jurists, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Tribunal at the Alternative World Summit in Toronto, 1989.[6] His professional work has been published in over 150 books and journals, including Inquiry, the Monist, the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Praxis International, the Encyclopaedia of Ethics, Atlantic Monthly, Guardian Weekly, and the Norton Anthology of Prose.

Political, philosophical, and economic views

McMurtry's recent research has focused on the underlying value structure of economic theory, its consequences for global civil and environmental life, and the life ground and civil commons. McMurtry considers the global free market "inefficient and life-destructive" in proportion to how unregulated it is by life needs (that without which life capacity is reduced) and by life capital (human and ecological life wealth that reproduces more life wealth if not run down).[7] In general, four principles of analysis and development are applied: the life-ground (all the conditions required to take one’s next breath), life value (whatever enables life capacities), life capital (means of life that can produce more means of life without loss and cumulative gain), and civil commons (any social construct that enables universal access of community members to life goods through time).

In Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market As An Ethical System, 1998, he examines the underlying value system of the global market and claims that it constructs the opposite of the “free and democratic society” it claims to bring about.

In The Cancer Stage of Capitalism, 1999, he claims a propensity of human societies to assume the social order in which they live as good however life-destructive they may be, focusing on financial capitalism as displaying the hallmark characteristics of a cancer invasion at the social level of life organization. He conceives “the civil commons” as a social immune system.

In Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy, 2002, he criticizes capitalist scientific technology, transnational trade apparatuses, NATO wars, and an expanding prison regime as symptoms of a "new totalitarianism cumulatively occupying the world and propelling civil and ecological breakdowns", and proposes constitutional standards of a “life economy”.

McMurtry supports 9/11 conspiracy theories to explain the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He compares the event of the Reichstag fire and believes that what he calls the "9-11 Wars" (the Iraq War and War in Afghanistan (2001–present)) were lobbied for and exploited by multinational corporations and the Rockefellers.[8]

Notable works


  • The Dimensions Of English. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
  • The Structure of Marx's World-View. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978. ISBN 978-0691019987
  • Understanding War: A Philosophical Inquiry. Toronto: Science for Peace & Samuel Stevens, 1989.
  • Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market As An Ethical System, Toronto: Garamond & Westport, Conn., 1998.
  • The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. London, Pluto Books, 1999 (2nd ed. 2013, with subtitle "From Crisis to Cure"). ISBN 978-0745333137
  • Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy, London and Sterling: Pluto Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0745318899


  • "Monogamy: A Critique," The Monist 67(4): 588-600, 1972.
  • "How to Tell the Left From the Right," Canadian Journal of Philosophy 9(3): 387-412, 1979.
  • "The Case for Children's Liberation," Interchange 10(3): 387-412, 1979-80.
  • "Philosophical Method and Rise of Social Philosophy," Eidos, 11(2): 139-176, 1981.
  • "Fascism and Neo-Conservatism: Is There a Difference?," Praxis International 4(1): 86-102, 1983.
  • "The Unspeakable: Understanding the System of Fallacy of the Media," Informal Logic 10(3): 133-150, 1988.
  • "Rethinking the Military Paradigm," Inquiry (Europe) 34(4): 415-432, 1991.
  • "How Competition Goes Wrong," Journal of Applied Philosophy, 8(2): 200-210, 1991.
  • "Education and the Market Model," Journal of the Philosophy of Education 25(2): 209-218, 1991.
  • "Sex, Love and Friendship In Soble, Alan & Barbara Krishner, eds, Sex, Love and Friendship, Value Inquiry Book Series, Takoma: Rodopi, 1995.
  • "Life-Value Economics vs. the Neo-Classical Paradigm: Reply to Hodgson," Journal of Business Ethics, 33(1): pp 79-86, September 2001. Abstract.
  • "The Life-Blind Structure of the Neoclassical Paradigm: A Critique of Bernard Hodgson's 'Economics As a Moral Science'," Journal of Business Ethics 44(4): 377-389, June 2003. Abstract.
  • "Human rights versus Corporate Rights: Life Value, the Civil Commons and Social Justice," Studies in Social Justice 5(1): 10-61. Special Issue: Life Value and Social Justice, 2011. Retrieved 28.01.2015
  • "Behind Global System Collapse: The Life-Blind Structure of Economic Rationality," Journal of Business Ethics, 108(1): 49-60, 2012.
  • "The Moral Decoding of 9-11: Beyond the U.S. Criminal State," Journal of 9/11 Studies Volume 35: 1-67, 2013.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "University of Guelph - Department of Philosophy". John McMurtry Profile & CV. University of Guelph. Retrieved 29 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 U of G Professor named to Royal Society of Canada
  3. "The Royal Society of Canada". Complete List of Fellows. Retrieved 28 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. EOLSS - Philosophy and World Problems
  5. John McMurtry, "The Human Vocation: An Autobiography of Higher Education," Nordicum-Mediterraneum: Icelandic E-journal of Nordic and Mediterranean Studies, 3(2), December 2008. Retrieved 28.01.2015.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "IPRD Advisory Board". Dr. John McMurtry. Institute for Policy Research and Development. Retrieved 27 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. How the Free Market Destroys Life, by John McMurtry in The New Internationalist.
  8. John McMurtry, Why the Facts of 9/11 are Suppressed," Intl. Citizens Inquiry into 9-11, Toronto, May 30, 2004. (video, 51 min.). Retrieved 28.01.2015
  9. Chicago Media Watch Conference, "Empire at War: American Propaganda From a Political, Historic, and Religious Perspective", Chicago Media Watch Reporter, Fall, 2002

External links