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4 - Intended Communities: MacIver, Macmurray and the Scottish Idealists

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2020

Cairns Craig
Affiliation:
University of Aberdeen
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Summary

I Personal Communities

Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden at Little Sparta is not only devoted to the memory of earlier gardens, but to the recollection of the Second World War: amidst the greenery lurk aircraft carriers, warships, panzer tanks, and memorials of the battle of Midway. Like many Scottish artists of his generation, Finlay's work is deeply marked by his experiences during the War, in which he served for three and a half years with the Royal Army Signals Corps. Betula Pendula– the Latin name for Scotland's silver birch tree – is the inscription beneath a picture of the raised gun of a tank disguised with foliage; and John Milton's ‘Of famous Arcady ye are’ is juxtaposed with the outline of a ghostly tank among trees. This is a garden with a modern war in it: what might be a slate-black standing stone by a lake is named ‘nuclear sail’, revealing itself to be the conning tower of a submarine thrusting up through the landscape of Scotland, a country which, through the Cold War, was home to one of the world's largest nuclear arsenals.

In the dark days at the beginning of the Second World War, an American philosopher, Ruth Nanda Anshen, brought together a collection of essays entitled Freedom: Its Meaning, which was published by Harcourt Brace in New York. ‘The passionate concern’ of the book, Anshen wrote in her introduction, was with ‘the freedom of Man, the autonomy of the rational being developing to ripe maturity and achieving self-fulfilment’. And its aim was ‘to bring about a correlation of those contemporary ideas which are concerned not with sense data and logical universals, but with the status of values and the bearing of these values on conduct’. To these ends Anshen had assembled a list of contributors that is a roll-call of the major figures of the arts and sciences in the first half of the twentieth century: Albert Einstein, Henri Bergson, Thomas Mann, Jacques Maritain, Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, to name but half a dozen. But amongst them were two Scottish contributors: Robert Morrison MacIver, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University in New York, and John Macmurray, Professor of Philosophy at University College London.

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Intending Scotland
Explorations in Scottish Culture since the Enlightenment
, pp. 179 - 202
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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